Notre Dame’s Modern Recruiting Method: 3 Key Changes
Notre Dame’s 2023 recruiting class features a “blue chip rate” of 83%. This percentage is higher than any of Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame classes and is almost double the hit rate on top-end talent in some years. The 2024 class is setting up similarly with the Irish in the mix for lots of highly talented 4-5 star athletes.
Sure, there are still challenges to recruiting to Notre Dame. Things such as blank-check NIL deals and stringent academic requirements make it harder than ever to land top-notch players. Notre Dame is a unique sell. A unique vibe. A unique mystique. It takes a unique effort and approach to recruit to it effectively.
Let’s take a look at 3 key changes I’ve noticed in Notre Dame’s modern recruiting efforts that will pay big dividends for the Irish in the future.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) talks with head coach Marcus Freeman after the game of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl of an NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 30, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish held off the South Carolina Gamecocks 45-38. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]
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One of the first things I was alerted to behind the scenes shortly after Marcus Freeman was hired as Kelly’s DC was the fact that he was bombarding the recruiting office with more paperwork than they’d ever seen before. This was music to my ears. Exactly what the Irish needed. Someone to be this aggressive in recruiting. Not only does Freeman recruit aggressively, but he also requires the rest of the staff to.
The second part of this equation has to do with how fast the staff reacts to the needs on the roster. Last year QB and WR were clear areas of weakness. The staff has addressed these areas very quickly and it shows. Now it feels like Notre Dame is a bit light on the Defensive Line currently. The 2024 recruit target list is littered with high-end athletes at these positions. This staff knows its needs and wastes no time. It’s impressive.
Sept. 10, 2022; South Bend, Indiana;Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman greets his players during warmups before the game against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame isn’t the easiest place to sell. Tough academics, cold weather, small-town feel. It’s not for everybody. Marcus Freeman is doing a terrific job of making Notre Dame feel hip again. Cool again. More fun. Less stuffy. All while maintaining Notre Dame’s values. These things matter when engaging with recruits.
Also wrapped into this dynamic is how creative the staff has gotten in their recruiting effort. From top-notch modern social media graphics to gold thrones to Vans shoes. You name it, the staff is on it. Their willingness to branch out from the historical way Notre Dame has been recruited is a must if the Irish hope to truly contend in the modern playoff era.
Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman watches his team take on Ohio State Buckeyes in the first quarter of the NCAA football game between Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports
Recruiting is first and foremost about relationships. Freeman’s genuine personality and relatability is a huge asset. One massive shift in how Notre Dame now recruits is the timeframes in which relationships are being built.
Unlike Kelly, Freeman does not wait until a high school player is an upperclassman and their grades are clear for admittance to Notre Dame to start building a bond. Freeman goes after all the best players he can, as hard as he can and as early as he can so that if the grades clear, the relationship is already established. This matters more than most realize when it comes to winning heated recruiting battles.
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