Notre Dame's Texas Plan Is Paying Huge Dividends On The Recruiting Trail

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman made his first impactful hire a year before becoming the program’s leading man. That was when Freeman convinced then head coach Brian Kelly to hire Chad Bowden to be the Director of Recruiting for the Irish defense. When Freeman was promoted to the head job, Bowden becoming the Director of Recruiting for the entire program was one of his first decisions.

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Freeman has a vision for how he wants to build the Notre Dame roster, and it involves improving the team’s length, athleticism and adding more high ceiling talent to the roster. That is the task he gave Bowden and the Irish assistants, and one of the biggest changes that Freeman and Bowden have made from a recruiting standpoint is making the state of Texas a much, much bigger part of the base.

While states like Florida and Georgia get much of the attention for producing elite talent, over the last five NFL Drafts it was actually Texas that produced the most draft picks. Texas had to become a priority state for Notre Dame, and it is quickly becoming just that. 

Why Texas? 

The Longhorn State is obviously loaded with talented players, especially at the skill positions. Notre Dame needs to be able to find more base regions that can give it the kind of explosive athletes at premium positions like running back, wide receiver, defensive end and in the secondary, and Texas could be that. 

Look at what Ohio State did in the state. Since 2017, the Buckeyes landed star wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, big time running back JK Dobbins, All-American cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, linebacker Baron Browning and current standout offensive lineman Donovan Jackson from the state of Texas.

That’s what Texas can provide a Northern school like Notre Dame that can’t always find those kinds of athletes in their backyard, at least not consistently.

Freeman and Bowden quickly realized this and began emphasizing the state.

In the three classes before Freeman became the head coach the Irish landed just one player from the state of Texas, and they landed just three recruits in the five years before he arrived. 

In the two classes that are entirely made up of Freeman recruits, Notre Dame has now landed a commitment from seven different players. That’s more players from Texas than Notre Dame landed in the previous eight classes combined. 

The success began with the arrival of wide receivers coach Chansi Stuckey, who Freeman hired away from Baylor. Stuckey was able to use his time in the state to land Austin (Texas) Westlake star Jaden Greathouse, Round Rock (Texas) Stony Point speedster Braylon James, and Frisco (Texas) Reedy athlete Kaleb Smith.

Cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens also dipped into Texas in the class when he landed Houston (Texas) Kinkaid speedster Micah Bell.

It was a tremendous level of success in Freeman’s first full class, but there was some hesitation to completely buy into the notion that Notre Dame could thrive in Texas on a consistent basis. The first class was great, but it was driven by Stuckey’s previous relationships at Baylor. Could Notre Dame replicate that level of success on a consistent basis?

Question answered.

Notre Dame has once again dipped into the state of Texas for talented prospects, and talented prospects at premium skill and big skill positions.

Mickens went back into the state to steal Round Rock (Texas) High School cornerback Leonard Moore, one of my favorite players in the class. He’s yet another long, smart and athletic cornerback to commit to Notre Dame and Mickens.

Defensive line coach Al Washington made a splash in the state recently when he was able to land one of the most talented defensive linemen in the state. That is Katy (Texas) Paetow defensive end Loghan Thomas, a long and twitchy edge rusher that oozes potential.

The latest pickup was Lufkin (Texas) High School running back Kedren Young, who committed to Deland McCullough and the Irish class on Monday night. Young is a Top 100 talent that adds big time production and talent to the Irish backfield. He is the second big time back from Texas to sign with Notre Dame in three classes, joining 2022 signee Jadarian Price.

That’s seven commitments in two years, and the Irish staff is trying to add more. Notre Dame needs two more safeties in the class, and two top targets are El Campo (Texas) High School athlete Oliver Miles and Cibolo (Texas) Samuel Clemens safety Paul Mencke Jr.

When you look at the seven signees we aren’t talking about Notre Dame landing tight ends, offensive linemen or linebackers. They are landing premium skill players. Notre Dame has landed a running back, three wide receivers, two cornerbacks and an explosive edge rusher to the class.

It’s hard to imagine how the staff could have done better in the first two years, and if they can continue this moving forward you’ll see Notre Dame give their roster a huge boost in talent and athleticism.

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