What We Learned About Notre Dame Football Recruiting In July
July was a very busy month for Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish coaching staff. BlueandGold.com gives you five things it learned from the busy month.
1. Notre Dame Goes On Defensive Back Commitment Run
Corona (Calif.) Centennial cornerback Jaden Mickey became the Irish’s first defensive back pledge in the 2022 class when he picked Notre Dame over Cal, Northwestern and Oregon in March. Notre Dame continued to recruit other defensive backs but went a few months without landing a new pledge.
The Irish’s top targets at defensive back waited until June visits before making a decision. Once June came, Mike Mickens, Chris O’Leary and Co. got rolling. Notre Dame hosted five uncommitted defensive backs for official visits in June, and three of them announced pledges to the Irish in July.
Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic’s Jayden Bellamy, a versatile player who could play multiple spots in the secondary, picked Notre Dame over Penn State and Rutgers. He is teammates with Irish quarterback pledge Steve Angeli.
Notre Dame beat out Alabama, Florida and many others for Naples (Fla.) High’s Devin Moore, a four-star player per Rivals. Moore has the chance to be a lockdown boundary cornerback or could play safety.
Phoenix Brophy Prep’s Benjamin Morrison, who could play boundary or field cornerback, was considered a Notre Dame lean for most of the spring and into the summer before Washington surged. He had thoughts of committing to the Huskies, but the Notre Dame staff swung things back into their favor early in July before announcing his pledge a couple weeks later.
Notre Dame could still add Pleasant Hill (Iowa) Southeast Polk safety Xavier Nwankpa, who officially visited in June. The Irish are battling the likes of Iowa, Ohio State and Texas A&M for the hard-hitting four-star recruit.
2. Irish Win The Jaylen Sneed Sweepstakes
One of the first few recruits Marcus Freeman offered after getting started as Notre Dame’s new defensive coordinator was Jaylen Sneed.
The Rivals100 four-star recruit from Hilton Head (S.C.) High seemed like a long shot from the outset for Notre Dame, but Freeman got in the door because of his longstanding connection with Sneed’s head coach, BJ Payne. Notre Dame fended off North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee when it landed Sneed’s pledge July 12.
The commitment date had meaning.
“Sneed chose July 12th as the commitment date because Notre Dame is in search of their 12th national championship,” Payne tweeted after Sneed announced his decision.
Notre Dame has four linebacker commits and all rank as four-star players per Rivals. The Irish have Sneed, Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany’s Niuafe Tuihalamaka, Traverse City (Mich.) Central’s Joshua Burnham and Grand Rapids (Mich.) Catholic Central’s Nolan Ziegler committed. It would be a surprise if Notre Dame recruited any additional linebackers.
3. Darren Agu Decommits, Elston Targets New Defensive Line Recruit
Notre Dame lost a commitment on July 11 when Rabun Gap (Ga.) Nacoochee defensive end Darren Agu backed off his Irish pledge.
He originally committed to Notre Dame April 9, just a week after receiving an offer from the Irish, but he hadn’t been to campus before making his decision and wasn’t able to take an official visit in June. Agu flipped to Vanderbilt three days after decommitting from the Irish.
Notre Dame extended an offer to Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic defensive tackle Hero Kanu with the extra spot opened up. The 6-5, 293-pounder took a visit to Notre Dame 18 days after receiving the offer, and the Irish are now a big contender in the recruitment.
“That was the first time I visited Notre Dame, and the campus is unbelievable,” Kanu said. “Beautiful. It is unbelievable.”
Rivals ranks Kanu as the nation’s No. 8 defensive tackle and No. 80 overall player in the country.
Across five games of his spring junior season, Kanu recorded 28 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries and one pass deflection. He was named to the MaxPreps California All-State second-team defense.
4. Movement At Wide Receiver
Notre Dame lost out on Katy (Texas) High’s Nicholas Anderson, who sources felt was trending towards the Irish, but he committed to Oregon. Notre Dame seems in strong position to land another top of the board receiver target, though.
Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei’s CJ Williams tweeted on July 28 that he would be announcing his commitment on August 8. His final five group includes Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas and USC. All four of the Rivals FutureCast picks in for the nation’s No. 29 player and No. 3 receiver are for him to land with the Fighting Irish.
During his six-game spring junior season at Mater Dei, Williams caught 16 passes for 239 yards and five touchdowns. He was named to the 2021 All-Trinity League first-team offense and the 2021 MaxPreps California all-state second-team offense.
Notre Dame extended an offer to Amarillo (Texas) Tascosa all-purprose back Major Everhart; the Irish staff sees his skills translating as a slot receiver who could be used all over the field and on special teams. Everhart looked to be deciding between Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech before an offer from Notre Dame made a big impact.
“I was getting closer and closer [to making a decision], but that offer [from Notre Dame] came out of nowhere,” Everhart told BlueandGold.com. “Notre Dame wants me to come up during the season, and I’ll have one more official after that.”
Notre Dame is still after Vancouver (Wash.) Union’s Tobias Merriweather, the No. 155 overall prospect and No. 21 wide receiver in America. The Irish have Ponchatoula (La.) High’s Amorion Walker, a three-star recruit, as their lone receiver commitment thus far.
5. 2023 Quarterback Recruiting Update
Notre Dame has four quarterback scholarship offers out in the 2023 class. One of those players, Malachi Nelson, has come off the board as he committed to Oklahoma in July.
The Fighting Irish staff continues to pursue five-star passer Arch Manning from New Orleans Isidore Newman School, but that will be an uphill battle.
On July 27 for the Irish’s “grill and chill” recruiting event, Notre Dame hosted two notable quarterbacks. Detroit Martin Luther King’s Dante Moore, who the Irish offered back in March, took his second visit to Notre Dame over the summer. Tommy Rees and Co. seem to have put themselves near the top of Moore’s recruitment.
Notre Dame offered Maize (Kan.) High’s Avery Johnson after seeing him throw in-person earlier in the day. Johnson, who is listed at 6-3, 170 pounds, is a three-sport athlete who is a true dual-threat passer. Notre Dame should be a top contender in his recruitment moving forward.
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
• Sign up for Blue & Gold's news alerts and daily newsletter.
• Subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.
• Like us on Facebook.