Notre Dame picked up one of their most significant commitments for the class of 2023 on Tuesday when top-100 wide receiver Braylon James selected the Irish over Stanford, TCU, and LSU. The addition of James is an impressive first win for one of Notre Dame’s youngest coaches on one of the country’s youngest staffs.
When Notre Dame decided to hire Marcus Freeman as its next Head Football Coach, one of the immediate questions was what would a coaching staff look like under the young coach.
Freeman’s personal touch on recruiting has already had a ginormous impact, as it’s hard to scroll on social media for more than an hour without seeing something about Notre Dame being involved with a high-level prospect.
The challenge would be finding coaches with the same relentless effort that the Head Coach seems to bring every day.
It became clear early that the coaches Freeman brought in would be elite recruiters. Not good recruiters, but recruiters who will be able to help Notre Dame close the talent gap.
Some of those hires have already been able to prove their worth as RB Coach Deland McCullough was able to add 4-star RB Gi’Bran Payne as a late addition to Notre Dame’s 2022 class.
New Wide Receiver Coach Chansi Stuckey decided to get in on the mix by securing a commitment from 4-star wide receiver Braylon James out of Round Rock, TX.
James is a unanimous 4-star in the class of 2023 and will be a welcome addition to a Notre Dame receiving core that has been through the wringer the last few years.
The commitment of James was much needed after a disastrous early signing day when Notre Dame lost both the commitment of CJ Williams and Amorion Walker, signing only one WR in the class of 2022.
Anyone that follows the Notre Dame football team even at a distance knows WR has been a problem in recruiting and development.
The top dogs in College Football like Ohio State and Alabama, are churning out high-end NFL talent at the position every year. It has become evident that Notre Dame has fallen behind when the Irish play these teams and simply do not have the firepower to keep up.
Notre Dame has been able to close the talent gap at almost every position, but WR has undoubtedly been an exception. The Irish usually land one elite WR talent per cycle, but they need to start landing 2 or 3 to compete at the highest level.
One thing to note is where the Irish were able to pull James from. Notre Dame has had players from Texas but has struggled to pull out some of the elite-level talents from the state in recent years.
It’s no secret that Texas is certainly one of the best hubs for high school football talent. Notre Dame has been able to dip into Florida, Georgia, and even California, but being able to build a pipeline out of texas could be a game-changer.
Indiana simply doesn’t offer the talent Notre Dame needs to compete, and that’s why Marcus Freeman’s willingness to bring in someone like Stuckey, who has ties to Texas from his time at Baylor, can only help Notre Dame secure the national recruiting footprint it needs.
Lincoln Riley’s hire at USC will make it hard for Notre Dame to take talent out of California. Georgia winning the national title will make it tougher to dip into that state, so Notre Dame should be looking for talent wherever they can.
Development Is Key
Notre Dame has landed some higher-level recruits at the position like Jordan Johnson and Kevin Austin, who were both unanimous top 100 players. But unfortunately, the development at the position has been another story.
Jordan Johnson didn’t work out at all, and that might have been over evaluation by many people, but Notre Dame’s receivers are simply taking too long to make an impact.
Kevin Austin finally showed what he could do this season, but he ultimately took until his senior year to do it. Of course, some of that can be chalked up to injury, but not all.
Javon McKinley was a great story in the 2020 season, but he ultimately was another guy that shouldn’t have taken as long to work.
You can chalk it up to bad luck/bad evaluations, but at some point, if every 4-star receiver you’re landing is flopping, then the development plan needs to be reassessed.
Luckily signs of impact are already showing as all reports are that Braden Lenzy, a receiver Stuckey has only been coaching a few months, looks the best he ever has.
If Stuckey can start working some magic with the young talent Notre Dame has at receiver currently on the roster and continue to bring in high-upside guys, Notre Dame will close the gap at the position.
The Irish have to keep their foot on the gas. Their current 2023 class is promising, but all too often over the last few years, what seemed to be a truly elite haul early on ended up being a good but not special recruiting class.
Notre Dame doesn’t struggle to get Offensive Lineman, and there’s no question that Marcus Freeman alone will bring in formidable defensive talent at all levels.
But they need a difference-maker at QB and a bunch of freak athletes for him to throw to.
Dante Moore and Carnell Tate will be the ones to look out for.
Notre Dame is rumored to be the front runner for Moore, but the Carnell Tate situation seems to be slipping away quickly.
Braylon James is a good start, but expect the Irish to start zoning in on some high-level receiver targets if Carnell Tate doesn’t work out.