Why Four-Star LB Sebastian Cheeks Is A Big Notre Dame Target
Notre Dame has not been shy in its pursuit of 2022 Evanston (Ill.) High linebacker Sebastian Cheeks. The 6-2, 210-pounder has shown major interest in Notre Dame since being offered last July.
There is limited film of Cheeks due to Illinois not having a 2020 football season and a season-ending injury he suffered the year before. However, there is plenty to like in his game and there is going to be much more to see in the coming weeks as Illinois begins its football season this month.
Cheeks has not played a snap for Evanston in nearly two years and now will be taking on a role larger than he could’ve ever imagined. The versatile linebacker will be playing on offense as well for the Wildkits, featuring as the lead running back.
“Sebastian has shown how great he can be on defense as a linebacker for us, but he is just scratching the surface of what he can do at running back,” Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa said. “He can do a lot of different things for us as a two-way player and it should be exciting to see what he can do.”
Cheeks is listed as an outside linebacker by Rivals and the schools recruiting him are taking that approach, but it could be interesting to see how he fares at running back this upcoming season.
There was no hesitation from Cheeks in playing both sides of the ball, as his coach describes him as a team player and a leader for his squad, even though he is just entering his junior season.
“I have been coaching for over 25 years now and I can count on one hand how many captains I have had that are juniors,” Burzawa explained. “Sebastian is one of them and he deserves it. He is a true leader on and off the field and in the community as well.”
People talk about how a recruit can be a ‘Notre Dame kid,’ usually referring to their academic prowess or priorities in their recruitment. Cheeks fits the mold perfectly. His grades are outstanding, he is a tremendous football player, a leader on and off the field and cares deeply about his family and the people around him.
“I’ve told Notre Dame a handful of times that he really embodies the modern-day student-athlete,” Burzawa said. “He takes care of his business in the classroom and is exceptional on the field for football and he’s great for our track team here as well.”
It was clear from the way that Burzawa spoke about Cheeks that the two of them are very close. The Evanston head coach has been a mentor for Cheeks throughout his time at Evanston and will continue to be as their football season begins momentarily.
Burzawa is also involved in Cheeks’ recruitment, speaking multiple times to the Notre Dame staff and others. It is not uncommon for him to join zoom calls with his player to hear the pitches being thrown at Cheeks from some of the top college programs in the country.
“Every sport is a little bit different in terms of recruiting,” Burzawa said. “When it comes to football, coaches come to the school quite a bit in normal times. It can be overwhelming these days with all of the Zoom calls and stuff like that. I have had the chance to be on a lot of Zoom calls with Sebastian, including one with Notre Dame a while back.”
Burzawa wants the best for his players and being able to hear how the coaches talk to his players, Cheeks especially, gives him a good read of their values and how Cheeks would fare at that school.
“Academics are a huge priority for Sebastian and his family and it has always been that way,” Burzawa said. “We instill that in our guys here and I know that will play a big role in his recruitment. Notre Dame has strong academics, on top of being an outstanding football program and I know both of those things are important to him.”
It has appeared that Cheeks may be a Notre Dame lean for a while now but do not expect a decision soon. He has plans to finish this upcoming football season before getting more into his recruitment in the summer offseason.
He may not have much time though, with Illinois kicking off another season of football in the fall. It will be a strenuous seven months for Cheeks but expect Notre Dame to continue to make him a priority and potentially make a real push for him this summer.
Rivals ranks Cheeks as the No. 109 player in the country, the No. 12 outside linebacker in the country and the fourth-best player from his home state.
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