Friday Five: Why Notre Dame Football Taking A Second 2022 Quarterback Recruit Isn’t A Completely Crazy Idea
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Friday Five: Why Taking A Second 2022 QB Isn’t A Completely Crazy Idea

In committing to Penn State Monday, former Notre Dame quarterback recruiting target Drew Allar was apparently comfortable being the second player in the class at that position. The Medina (Ohio) High product joins four-star Beau Pribula to form the Nittany Lions’ 2022 quarterback duo.

My reaction was to wonder if Notre Dame should consider a second quarterback to join Steve Angeli, the four-star recruit from Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic who chose the Irish on March 4.

The answer is almost assuredly going to be no, because the Irish just took a pair in 2021. Signing four quarterbacks in a two-year period rarely happens. That’s even more likely to usher in attrition at a position where you already expect it. Notre Dame appears comfortable with Angeli.

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Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic quarterback and Notre Dame Fighting Irish football commit Steven Angeli
Four-star 2022 quarterback Steve Angeli committed to Notre Dame on March 4. (Rivals.com)

But it ought to be worth asking.

Quarterback recruiting was already a gamble before COVID-19 clamped down on evaluation methods. It’s a hard position to project. The 2016 class had 32 four- or five-star quarterbacks, and only 11 of them started at least a full season for their original teams. (That’s not including Kyler Murray and Jarrett Stidham, who are two of the six draft picks from that group of 32).

Then the dead period eliminated in-person viewings, a critical part of evaluating the game’s most important position.

How confident can any team be in a guy they have never seen throw live? Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees detailed all the ways to try and make up for the absence of in-person evaluations — which Angeli provided him. But he was clear in communicating they’re not possible to replicate.

In that context, it’s easy to understand if a coaching staff views this cycle as more of a crapshoot than normal.

Some might not think taking a second quarterback is worth the potential for angering their first commit or adding to the scholarship numbers. That’s understandable.

Others, though, might want to increase the odds it gets a long-term piece from this cycle. The best way to do that is to sign more than one. Quarterback is already a transient position, and even if it’s likely one half of a two-QB class transfers, the class needs only one viable starter to be considered a success.

2. Cam Hart

I’ll dive into more detail later this month on the players I’m most curious to see this spring (figuratively, that is, since we probably won’t get to watch), but junior-to-be cornerback Cam Hart is worth discussing now.

I’d expect he gets the first crack at the starting boundary corner job. Corner is an uncomfortable unknown, but Hart is an intriguing one who I think gives that spot its highest ceiling. He’s a 6-3 converted receiver with ball skills and can match the big frames he’d see most weeks.

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Corner length is increasingly demanded in the NFL, too. Seven of nine cornerbacks picked in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft are at least 6-0. Six of eight from the first two rounds of the 2019 draft meet that criterion. Both starting corners for the Super Bowl LV champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 6-0 or taller.

We haven’t seen a lot of Hart, who played receiver as a redshirt in 2019 and didn’t have much of a chance in 2020 with Nick McCloud rarely leaving the field in non-garbage time. As an ex-receiver, though, I imagine there’s a baseline level of hip movement and fluidity to make him useful. I’ll probably have to wait until summer to find out with my own two eyes. The (hopeful) Hart vs. Kevin Austin Jr. battles in August at Culver Academy will be must-watch.

3. Redshirt To Impact

With a productive spring, rising sophomore Jordan Johnson can shift the conversation from “when will he play?” to “how much will he play?” Notre Dame will be better off if the former five-star recruit is in the receiver rotation. But what can be expected for the first season after a lost freshman year?

The example that first comes up is Kyren Williams, who rode the bench in 2019 and then burst out as a 1,125-yard rusher last year. That kind of jump is the anomaly, though.

Really, no one else has made that kind of redshirt to high-impact jump in the Kelly era. Will Fuller had six catches in 13 games (three starts) as a freshman before his 2014 outburst, but that’s still weekly involvement in the game plan and practice with the starters. Johnson had neither of those.

A lot of the breakouts at the skill positions since 2010 came after a year spent as a complementary piece and/or as an upperclassman. A few examples: Chase Claypool had 50 catches in 2018 before his 1,066-yard 2019. Dexter Williams had 99 carries in three years before his 995-yard 2018 and played as a freshman. Miles Boykin only had 15 catches through three years, but he was around for three years.

Equanimeous St. Brown is the only comparable receiver example. He had one catch in two games as a freshman in 2015 and jumped to 58 catches for 961 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016. I’d wager everyone would be pleased with that output from Johnson. It feels like the best-case outlook, though.

None of this is to say Johnson can’t have a season that compares with the best individual receiver performances of the Kelly era. It just might not happen this year.

4. Prentiss Hubb

Notre Dame point guard Prentiss Hubb’s third-team All-ACC selection is an interesting case to study.

He clearly has a major hand in his team’s play. He takes 25.1 percent of his team’s shots when on the floor, the highest rate for an Irish guard since Ben Hansbrough in 2010-11. And he’s on the floor a lot — only 13 Division I players are in the game for a higher percentage of their team’s minutes than Hubb.

He did, though, shooting just 39.2 percent overall and 33.9 percent from three-point range. His turnover rate of 19.7 percent is lower than Rex Pflueger’s last season and Jerian Grant’s in 2012-13. It’s just 0.6 percent higher than Matt Farrell’s in 2016-17. But it’s still elevated relative to the Division I average and to prior Mike Brey point guards. And at his usage, it equates to 3.2 turnovers per game.

That’s a lot of volume and usage at unremarkable efficiency levels, and one reason of several a top-20 KenPom offense is prone to extended ruts.

“At times, he has had to force some plays that maybe don’t look pretty for us, but I give him the benefit of the doubt because he’s unafraid,” Brey said Saturday.

It’s also only fair to point out that just one Notre Dame guard since 2006-07 has posted a higher assist rate than Hubb’s 30.9 this season: Grant in 2014-15. Hubb had at least eight assists in eight ACC games this year. Despite the shot volume’s insinuation, he recognizes when to make an extra pass and can generate shots for teammates.

5. The Selection Committee

With Selection Sunday in two days, this is a good time to talk brackets.

A story from the Kansas City Star’s Jesse Newell about replacing the NCAA Tournament selection committee with a metric called “Wins Above Bubble” (WAB) made the rounds on college basketball Twitter last month. WAB — a stat known to all basketball dorks but to few fans — measures how an average bubble team would be expected to perform in a given game. There’s not something like it currently used in team selection.

(Here’s this year’s WAB standings).

The crux of Newell’s argument for using it: “Every team will know, in the moment, where they are and what they potentially need to do to get into the field as an at-large.”

I like the idea of a bracket that comes out daily and tells teams exactly where they are and what they need to do to make the tournament field.

I’m also a proponent of WAB. I think it should absolutely be added to the list of the committee’s metrics. It would be a boon for mid-major teams that should have at-large cases, which I think aren’t fairly judged in the current model. It helps when trying to compare a mid-major résumé that rates poorly in strength of schedule (a metric I don’t like) to a high-major one that has power but also a lot of losses.

Making selections entirely based off it, though, doesn’t make sense. It’d be akin to making baseball Hall of Fame selection based solely on WAR.

I’m opposed to those because — just like picking tournament teams or College Football Playoff teams — filling a bracket is an inherently subjective exercise. And it should have some sort of subjectivity, because these are complex issues with a lot of factors that need to be weighed and can’t possibly be baked into a single number.

Furthermore, résumé matters. Because the games matter. Wins and losses matter. Remember the metrics that would’ve placed two-loss Georgia in the 2018 CFP over unbeaten Notre Dame? Maybe they had a point in identifying the better team. But not in the more deserving. Putting the deserving teams in the tournament and playoff fields is the goal, too.

A wins proxy metric like WAB should absolutely be part of the selection equation, but it shouldn’t be the whole thing.

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