Marcus Freeman Has Elevated Notre Dame’s Quarterback Recruiting

Marcus Freeman's recruiting boosts Notre Dame's quarterback prospects, addressing a key shortcoming under Brian Kelly. Top recruits like Noah Grubbs signal a promising shift.

The primary factor that prevented Brian Kelly from securing a national championship at Notre Dame was not a lack of resources or inherent competitive disadvantages. Instead, it was his inability to attract and develop elite quarterbacks. Despite arriving at Notre Dame with a reputation as a quarterback guru, Kelly’s tenure was marked by an ongoing struggle to achieve elite quarterback play.

Marcus Freeman has not yet achieved elite production at the quarterback position, but Saturday’s commitment from 2026 recruit Noah Grubbs signals a significant shift. Freeman has unequivocally elevated the program’s recruiting efforts, enhancing Notre Dame’s prospects of finally securing the elite quarterback play that has eluded the team for decades.

To put this into perspective, let’s compare the rankings of the last four quarterback commitments under Brian Kelly to the first four under Marcus Freeman, with the important caveat that there is still a considerable way to go until Knight and Grubbs officially sign.

Kelly’s Last 4 QBsOverall RankFreeman’s First 4 QBsOverall Rank
Steve Angelli (22)365Noah Grubbs118
Tyler Buchner (21)91Deuce Knight (25)51
Drew Pyne (20)230Cj Carr (24)68
Brendon Clark (19)517Kenny Minchey (23)168

Is there even a comparison here? Kelly’s last 4 quarterbacks that he signed were largely poorly ranked by the 247 Composite other than Tyler Buchner. The three who ranked outside the top-200 overall have yet to have a major impact on the college level even though Steve Angeli has shown some promise in limited action. Buchner, meanwhile, just rejoined the football team but as a walkon wide receiver, not a quarterback.

It’s still too early to determine what Notre Dame has in Kenny Minchey or CJ Carr, but both have shown promising signs—particularly Carr, who looked sharp in the 2024 Blue & Gold game. While recruiting rankings aren’t the ultimate measure of success, it’s hard to ignore the connection between Brian Kelly’s final four quarterback recruits and Notre Dame’s need to rely on transfer quarterbacks in three of the last four seasons.

Learning from the Dante Moore Experience with Kenny Minchey

During Marcus Freeman’s first full recruiting cycle as head coach, he and then-offensive coordinator Tommy Rees went all in on 5-star quarterback Dante Moore. Initially, it seemed promising as Moore was rumored to be a silent commit before ultimately choosing UCLA. Similar to the pursuit of Will Shipley, which ended with Notre Dame landing Logan Diggs and Audric Estime, the Irish pivoted successfully after missing out on Moore. They discreetly pursued Kenny Minchey, who was committed to Pitt at the time. Minchey, a consensus 4-star recruit ranked 165 overall, surpassed all but Tyler Buchner among Kelly’s final quarterback recruits. Though Minchey saw limited action as a true freshman in 2023, playing in three games, he shows potential.

Landing Michigan Legacy CJ Carr

A year after their effort with Moore, Freeman and Rees targeted Michigan legacy CJ Carr. Unlike with Moore, they secured an early public commitment from Carr, who quickly became the face of his class. Carr, ranked 66th in the 247 Composite, was the highest-rated Notre Dame quarterback signee in years. He lived up to his rankings with an impressive performance in his first spring, culminating in the Blue & Gold game.

Adding Back-to-Back Elite QBs with Deuce Knight

Freeman’s most impressive recruiting feat to date might be securing a commitment from Deuce Knight, following Carr. Landing consecutive elite quarterbacks is challenging, as top recruits generally avoid waiting for playing time. Nonetheless, Freeman succeeded in securing Knight’s commitment, fending off Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Oregon. Despite a strong pursuit from in-state Ole Miss, Knight has become the face of the 2025 class, frequently visiting campus.

Making It Four in a Row with Noah Grubbs

Most recently, Freeman and his staff landed their preferred 2026 quarterback, Noah Grubbs, over notable programs such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, and Texas A&M. Although there’s a long way to go before Grubbs officially signs, he would rank higher than all but Buchner among Kelly’s last four quarterback recruits.

Securing consecutive elite quarterbacks is tough; achieving it three times is even tougher. Freeman, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, and quarterback coach Gino Guidugli have accomplished this with Grubbs’ commitment. While recruiting success doesn’t guarantee on-field results, Freeman’s staff has positioned itself far better than its predecessors. Relying on quarterbacks ranked in the 300s, 400s, and 500s offers slim chances of success. However, targeting top 100 recruits or those just outside greatly increases the odds. Freeman and his team have set a solid foundation for success at the most critical position on the field. Now comes the hard part: turning potential into production.

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