When Marcus Freeman was introduced as the head football coach at Notre Dame a week ago, he emphatically said he better be the number one recruiter for every prospect Notre Dame was recruiting. He put his miles where his mouth was in that regard on his first week on the recruiting trail as the Irish head coach with visits all over the country, locking down a class of 2022 that at one time looked like it could finish in the top-5, although that might take more than the luck of the Irish.
After concluding his introductory presser last Monday, Freeman met offensive coordinator Tommy Rees at South Bend International and boarded a plane for Wisconsin. The two met with offensive lineman Billy Schrauth. The visit helped the Irish secure a commitment from the elite guard in one of the most prolonged back and forth recruiting battles in recent Irish memory. Freeman and Rees finally pulling the elite lineman out of Wisconsin was significant since elite OL from that state rarely, if ever, go anywhere but Madison.
From there, Freeman and Rees trekked across the country to Washington for an in-home with Tobias Merriweather. By now, most know that the old head coach at Notre Dame was in the Merriweather’s house gorging himself with home-cooked BBQ when news broke that he was leaving for LSU. So this visit was intended to atone for the sins of that other guy and reassure the Merriweather’s that the Freeman Era was all about family. Mission accomplished: Merriweather was in South Bend this past weekend for an official visit instead of visiting elsewhere.
On Tuesday, Freeman stayed on the west coast to hit up three important California recruits and make one last-ditch Hail Mary for an elite defensive lineman. The most vital of the visits was with elite wide receiver CJ Williams. Even before USC hired Lincoln Riley, the home-state Trojans were making a hard push to flip Williams. Kelly’s departure didn’t help matters, but unsurprisingly, it didn’t hurt much either. Freeman and Rees would have convinced Williams to recommit to Notre Dame and not visit USC on Sunday in a perfect world. But, unfortunately, Williams did visit USC and was subsequently decommitted from Notre Dame on Monday night.
The Freeman west coast swing included two more stops in California to check in on two elite defenders – cornerback Jaden Mickey and linebacker Junior Tuihalamaka. Reports were that USC was making a big run at Junior, but Freeman’s visit put that to rest, and he was in South Bend this weekend as part of the mega official visit weekend.
There weren’t any reports of Mickey wavering, but when you have struggled to land elite CBs in recent years, you do everything you can to make sure you hold on to the ones you have committed. Mike Mickens also checked in on Benjamin Morrison last week, and both were at Notre Dame this weekend.
Freeman’s last west coast stop was a swing for the fences with elite DT Anthony Lucas. Over the summer, it looked like Lucas was trending to Notre Dame, but that was a long time ago. Freeman wanted to make one last run at Lucas and fit in a stop in Arizona on his busy itinerary. Freeman would have convinced Lucas to come to South Bend this weekend for the official visit bonanza in a perfect world, but unfortunately, he could not. Lucas hasn’t eliminated Notre Dame yet, but it would be a big upset if the Irish gained his signature at this point.
On Wednesday, Freeman and staff darted across the country for a trio of visits, including one to Notre Dame’s top commit for 2022 – Jaylen Sneed. As soon as it was announced that Marcus Freeman would be the next head coach, Sneed’s commitment was considered secure, but as the top-ranked player in the class, Freeman still made time to visit him and his coach in South Carolina.
☘️☘️☘️ pic.twitter.com/NOCei3x7gT— Coach BJ Payne (@Americanfbcamp) December 8, 2021
Freeman’s other two visits on Wednesday were not with prospects who were considered secure for the Irish. Devin Moore decommitted to Notre Dame on the heels of Brian Kelly leaving for LSU, though he was wavering before Kelly left. Freeman made the trip to Florida to convince Moore to recommit and visit this past weekend. Unfortunately, he could not get Moore on campus with Moore instead of using an official visit to Florida. On a positive, Moore did not commit to Florida on the visit, and the Irish are still alive.
While in the southeast, Freeman also made his way to Louisiana to visit wide receiver Amorion Walker. Michigan has been making a hard charge for Walker for months, but the immediate threat was Alabama attempting to get Walker on campus for a visit this weekend. Walker has been a priority for the Irish even before the decommitment from Willimas. With Williams gone, Walker is even more important now. This is one of those recruitments where you’ll finally feel safe once the letter of intent is in, but things at least look much better for the Irish here than with Moore and Williams.
Another day, another set of visits for Freeman. Keon Keeley isn’t a 2022 recruit, but he is one of the most important 2023 commits, and he’s been getting a lot of new offers and attention recently. So before hitting up the northeast, Freeman made time to check in on Keeley in Florida.
Freeman hit up New Jersey, checking in with quarterback Steve Angeli and defensive back Jayden Bellamy from Bergan Catholic. Freeman was planning on also traveling to Massachusetts to see Ty Chan, but travel issues prevented that visit from happening.
In four days, Freeman was all over the country as he led the charge for Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts as the Irish attempt to save what once was a top-5 class though will likely finish closer to 10th because of the decommitment of Williams even if they win back Moore and keep Walker. Still, the effort Freeman put in on the road last week proved that he wasn’t just talking big about being the lead recruiter for Notre Dame. That might not have given Notre Dame the perfect ending they hoped for in 2022, but it will pay dividends in 2023 and beyond.