Marcus Freeman has been the Defensive Coordinator at Notre Dame for less than two weeks, and the Fighting Irish have already landed their highest-rated defensive end recruit since Issac Rochell in 2013.
Earlier today, four-star defensive end Tyson Ford out of John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri, announced he would be committing to the fighting Irish.
Tyson Ford is the 64th overall prospect for the 2022 class and Notre Dame’s most significant catch in the class thus far. He is the fifth commitment in the 2022 cycle for Notre Dame and the first defensive specific player.
Tyson Ford’s recruitment
It would be easy to see this as a momentum pickup from Marcus Freeman’s hiring, but that would be discrediting the work Defensive Line coach Mike Elston put in here.
The Irish offered Ford and were a top contender for the prospect along with Oklahoma, Georgia, and Missouri.
Ford cited that he and Elston talk almost every day and built a strong relationship, which helped when Elston went to make the final push for Ford this weekend when many believed he would pick Oklahoma.
No question that Marcus Freeman helped with the final push, but Mike Elston once again delivers big for the Irish.
2021 signee Gabriel Rubio, also of St. Louis, was also a factor in the recruitment, being that he and Ford are childhood friends who played grade school ball together.
Missouri and, more specifically, St. Louis has been a place the Irish have had a lot of luck recruiting in recent years. Both Kyren Williams and Jordan Johnson, as well as Rubio all come from the St. Louis area.
Impact on Recruiting
The commitment of Ford makes a few things clear about the future of Notre Dame football. The first is that the Irish stay true to their word that they are not growing complacent with where the program is.
Brian Kelly mentioned a few years ago that he believes that Notre Dame can recruit top-5 classes, and although they haven’t hit that mark yet, there has been a notable improvement.
Notre Dame has undoubtedly had some good classes under Kelly, but the issue has been consistency. The Irish haven’t put together back-to-back top 10 recruiting classes since Lou Holtz. Notre Dame’s 2021 class is widely considered a top 10 class, so the Irish could take the program up a notch with another strong class.
Signing elite prospects like Ford is how you do that. No question that ND has seen invaluable contributions from lower-end prospects like Ian Book and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. But the teams that keep winning playoff games and titles are the ones at the top of recruiting rankings.
This recruitment would also seem to suggest that Mike Elston will remain in South Bend. The longest-tenured assistant at Notre Dame was a top candidate to become the defensive coordinator at Purdue.
Rumors had people believing that the job was offered to Elston, and he was highly considering it after the Irish hired Marcus Freeman to replace Clark Lea.
Ford seemed to suggest that Elston indicated to him that he wasn’t going anywhere. Purdue also appeared to hire a different candidate today.
Notre Dame has had a lot of roster turnover since the season ended with a barrage of players entering the portal, others unexpectedly declaring for the draft, and coach’s leaving for other opportunities. Losing Elston might’ve been a more significant blow than any of it.
Since Elston took over the defensive line in 2017, It’s been one of the strongest and most consistent units on the team. Elston has played a pivotal role in making stars out of Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem and with the early development of guys like Isaiah Foskey and Jordan Botelho.
Elston has also been one of the better, if not the best, recruiters for Kelly, going back to his time as the linebackers coach. He helped land Jaylon Smith before consistently landing players like Ford and Foskey along the Fighting Irish defensive line.
The defensive line coach is often credited for his ability to build connections with recruits and consistently makes Brian Kelly look like a genius with the decision to keep him on staff following the mass exodus of Irish assistants in 2016.
Notre Dame has been on a rollercoaster that seems to be only going down at times in the short offseason, but the bright spots of hiring Freeman and landing a top-100 DE finally have given the program some positive momentum.