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A look at Notre Dame's 11 offensive signees in the class of 2024 through Marcus Freeman's words

2024 All-American CJ Carr from Saline High School in Michigan has verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
2024 All-American CJ Carr from Saline High School in Michigan has verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Of the 23 recruits Notre Dame signed last month, 11 of them will begin their careers on the offensive side of the ball, led by a quartet of offensive linemen. Irish head coach Marcus Freeman did not discuss those linemen much on National Signing Day the week before Christmas, but he did once again tap his most-common refrain since becoming Notre Dame’s head coach in December of 2021.

“I’ve always said we’re O-line and D-line driven,” Freeman said. “And to have four offensive linemen committed and have four defensive linemen committed in this class, it was important.”

Freeman did go in-depth on five of the offensive signees, most notably early-enrolled quarterback CJ Carr, who was already on campus and practicing with the team for a few days before the Sun Bowl.

Freeman on consensus four-star quarterback CJ Carr, the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the class, per rivals.com: “With a quarterback, I think it’s unique to get here early to learn the playbook. It’s different, especially for the quarterback. It’s great to have him here. … To have CJ here in this bowl practice time has been great for him in terms of the adjustment to the expectations for football.”

Carr was the first Notre Dame commit in the class of 2024, a notable fact on its own but doubly so when realizing he was also the only top-tier quarterback to commit that early in the recruiting cycle, 18 months before he could sign, and keep that commitment.

“The first commit, CJ Carr, sitting on our balcony, what a unique situation with his family, his grandfather,” Freeman said, referencing national championship-winning former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. “Both grandfathers, one coached and one playing, his father playing at Michigan, and I remember [CJ] saying, this is where I want to be.

“When he left my office, I said, that’s the leader you want for your program. A guy that says I want to create my own road.

“As a quarterback, that’s what you need, you need a leader. That’s what he was and what he is. I’m excited to see the growth of him. That’s the first story I remember, the first example I remember when I think of the ‘24 class, was CJ Carr saying this is where I want to be, I want to lead this football program and lead this ‘24 class. That’s what he’s done.”

Bringing in Carr is part of how Freeman intends to avoid relying on the transfer portal for a starting quarterback beyond Riley Leonard in 2024.

“I don’t know how high [Carr’s ceiling] will be, but it’s extremely high,” Freeman said. “I watch him throw the ball in practice these last couple days, he’s got a great arm. His decision-making, he processes information, he makes decisions at a high level.

“He’s gotta, the one thing you can’t take into consideration when you talk about hard work, you have a goal, and you know it’s going to be hard work. But you never know how much time has to be put in to reach those goals. We’ll see how much time it will take him, but I truly believe he has such a high ceiling in terms of where he’ll be as a football player. He’s so competitive.

“That’s the thing about CJ. He’ smart, athletic, talented, but he’s competitive. Those are things that are hard to measure. We get him around, he’d come to some junior days, he’s around some of his teammates. He’s one of the most competitive guys there is.”

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The only offensive recruit that warranted more notice than Carr may be receiver Cam Williams.

“The thing that attracted us to Cam was his speed,” Freeman said. “We needed, we’ve said hey, we need to address speed. … We want to continue to enhance our speed on the outside on both sides of hte ball. That was a thing with Cam, we saw him multiple times run 4.4-[second 40-yard dashes].

“We had him in camp, we had him live. He is a tremendous player that’s from Chicago. We have to make sure the best players in Chicago that fit this place continue to come to Notre Dame. That was the case with Cam.”

Notre Dame also signed a pair of four-star running backs last month in Aneyas Williams and Kedren Young, furthering what may be the deepest position group on the Irish roster.

“I remember when Ayenas came here for camp, we had not offered him,” Freeman said. “He was here with a lot of great prospects, and he was the best one. We offered him at that camp, and then he went on to get a whole bunch of offers. He committed probably shortly after that in the summer sometime.

“He is a very unique player that again believedin Notre Dame but also in the development that [running backs coach] Deland McCullough would do for him. We have a history of producing great running backs, and Deland McCullough has a history of continuing to develop great running backs.

“There was a lot of people pulling at Ayenas, but he stayed he strong, he continued to come over here, he continued to be a part of this thing.”

Williams committed to Notre Dame a full year before he could sign his National Letter of Intent. Young only did so six months beforehand, a top-20 running back out of Texas and chased by eight FBS programs in his homestate.

“Kedren was the second-to-last home visit that I went to,” Freeman said. “I remember sitting in his home with his mother, coach McCullough, a couple of us there, his three brothers and sisters, what a unique family. What a strong mother he has.

“You talk about being close to a lot of schools in Texas that I know wanted him, for him to be committed to us for such a long time, he came on his official visit, he wasn’t committed then. Then right after the official visit, he said this is where I want to be and this is who I believe in. …

“I believe both of those guys are going to do tremendous things here. Both of them understand Notre Dame and want to be a part of it.”

Of those four offensive linemen, consensus four-star Guerby Lambert stood above the rest, ranked the No. 3 offensive tackle in the class and the No. 42 overall prospect by rivals.com.

“It came down to us and Harvard,” Freeman said of the Massachusetts product. “... We call him the dancing bear, that was his nickname. He was a soccer player, his whole family was big into soccer. He played soccer up through his freshman year. He’s only played football for four years, starting his freshman year.

“When we were recruiting [current freshman defensive end Boubacar Traore from the same high school], I remember his coach telling me, there’s a kid in the next class, he’s going to be one of the best offensive linemen in the country. From that point, we started recruiting him.

“For him to commit to this place, because to him education is important, not just football, especially for his mother, education is so important in his decision.

“To get him here, he fits everything this program looks for.”

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