Early Signing Day: What you need to know about Notre Dame's 2023 class
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish closed the Early Signing Day period with the 8th-ranked recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports. This wasn’t the No. 1 class the Fighting Irish had entering the season, but it was a good haul for Marcus Freeman in his 1st full recruiting class as coach at Notre Dame. Most impressive? Notre Dame’s average recruit rating of 92.10 ranked 7th nationally, the best haul for the Fighting Irish in a decade from a “quality of recruit” standpoint.
The bad news? The late flip of 5-star recruit Peyton Bowen to Oklahoma, which deprived the Fighting Irish of the jewel of their recruiting class. After losing Keon Keeley this autumn, the loss of Bowen stings even more. Still, there’s nothing “wrong” with a top-10 class, and if Freeman makes them the norm in South Bend, Ind., things will be looking up.
Here’s a look at the signing class, along with a look ahead to the final session during January.
Highest Rated Player: Charles Jagusah, OT, 4-star
The top-50 recruit adds size and talent at the most important non-quarterback position. Charles Jagusah projects as a starting left tackle in college, and he’ll join a position group that improved dramatically down the stretch in 2022. Jagusah chose the Fighting Irish over LSU and Michigan, and with the departure of Bowen and Keeley, the big man becomes the highest-rated recruit in the Notre Dame class. Expect him to compete for snaps immediately, even if they come at right tackle as a freshman.
Did they bolster the Quarterback room? Yes.
Kenny Minchey, a 4-star, top-200 recruit from Tennessee, signed Wednesday with Notre Dame. That immediately makes a quarterback room that lost starter Drew Pyne to the transfer portal better. Only 6-foot-1, Minchey is a bit undersized for the modern quarterback position, but he makes up for it mechanically with a quick release and good accuracy. He also is savvy in the pocket, able to extend plays with his legs and run if necessary. He missed time his senior season because of an injury but is expected to be healthy and ready to practice when he arrives at Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish won’t need to play Minchey right away, which gives him time to add bulk and learn Tommy Rees’ complicated offense. Tyler Buchner, or a transfer-portal addition, appear set to take the reins during 2023, and the Fighting Irish will bring Minchey along slowly, a nice luxury these days.
Best Position Group: Wide Receiver
Talk about going out and addressing need. Notre Dame needed perimeter playmakers desperately and it went out and landed them in the 2023 class.
The headliners are a pair of top-150 recruits out of Texas in Jaden Greathouse and Braylon James. Greathouse, a monster of a man at 6-2 and 220 pounds, will play all over the field, and he’s a fluid route runner who should be ready immediately. His 250-plus catches in high school are a Texas state record at the AAA classification level he played at in Austin. Greathouse also was among the top 40 receivers nationally in the 247 rankings, a testament to the fact the most reliable recruiting service believes he is a 5-star talent based on incredible production alone.
James is a classic red-zone target with a big catch radius, elite jumping athleticism (he is a championship-caliber hurdler), and a big, physical frame. He’ll give Notre Dame a guy who can win 50-50s or make catches in traffic in tight coverage.
The Fighting Irish also added top-300 4-star Rico Flores out of California, along with another Texan, 3-star Kaleb Smith, to give outstanding depth to this group.
Biggest Flip: Peyton Bowen, S, 5-star (Flipped to Oklahoma)
Denton, Texas, native Peyton Bowen spurned Notre Dame on signing day for Oklahoma. It goes without saying this was a massive loss for the Fighting Irish. Not only did Notre Dame lose its top recruit in its 2023 class for the 2nd time within 4 months, but it was a warning salvo regarding the ways Notre Dame will have to galvanize the alumni base to deal with the new world of NIL. Bowen insisted this week that he wasn’t wavering on his commitment to Notre Dame on account of NIL, but it’s hard to believe it didn’t play a factor.
Notre Dame had pressing needs at safety as well, issues that were exposed despite outstanding cornerback play throughout the 2022 season. Losing Bowen so late, with no chance to replace him, means Notre Dame will need to go portal shopping — for a less-talented, short-term rental — instead of landing the nation’s top safety.
Final Takeaways from Notre Dame’s early 2023 signing day class
This is a good group for Notre Dame, but it obviously could have been much better but for a late cycle fade.
Notre Dame lost out on at least 2 5-star recruits within the final 4 months of recruiting, and the Fighting Irish need to be able to hold on to players of Keeley and Bowen’s ilk if they want to take the next step under Freeman.
Former coach Brian Kelly could coach anyone. He just couldn’t land the best talent. Freeman was hired largely because the administration felt he could. After a full cycle, the jury still is out on whether Freeman, who did well enough but left plenty on the table, truly can land the nation’s elite.