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Young Blood: Immediate Impact Candidates in 2022/2023

Written by Liam Gaudet, Senior Editor - Twitter: @LiamGaudetIT

Notre Dame wrapped up one the single greatest recruiting classes in program history at the beginning of 2023, albeit with a somewhat underwhelming conclusion. Nevertheless, the cumulative talent from the newest enrollees hasn’t been this high under the dome in quite some time, and will ideally translate into some of the younger talent seeing the field sooner rather than later. From a rankings standpoint, Notre Dame finished with the tenth best class according to the 247 composite rankings which gather data from all major recruiting sources. Now, these rankings are great and all, but not the be all and end all. We have seen many players surpass expectations based solely on their star ranking (see Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Ian Book and Kyren Williams), and these were welcoming results for a Brian Kelly recruiting philosophy. But with more talent density arises a greater chance for this caliber of talent to fill out the roster, and the 2023 signees are no exception. Let’s have a look at who I think will break the Irish depth chart early, and be a force for years to come.

Photo by 247 Sports

Drayk Bowen - Linebacker (105 National Rank 247 Sports)

A bona fide 5 star talent at the start of the cycle, Drayk Bowen was a force in the Indiana circuit this past high school season. Taking snaps on both sides of the ball, Bowen proved time and time again that his physical approach to the game knew no bounds. Bowen intends to play both football and baseball at Notre Dame, showing shades of great multi-sport athletes in Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. The hype around Bowen died down as the cycle drew to a close, which was a surprise to many, as he managed to garner some of the highest awards in Indiana high school football such as the Gatorade player of the year award for his state, as well as being named Mr. Football in Indiana. Regardless of these accolades, Bowen remained grounded and committed to the University of Notre Dame, serving as one of the lead recruiters for the 2023 cycle, and did his best to keep the class together toward early signing day. With the linebacker play being inconsistent at best last season, it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone for Bowen to earn some playing time early on. He is a college ready athlete with the size and speed to rival the best in his class.

Brandyn Hillman - Athlete (214 National Rank 247 Sports)

Hillman reminds me of Boobie Miles, in a sense that there isn’t a single thing he can’t do on the football field. Playing both ways in high school, Hillman was a late riser and only had one college offer after his junior season. This didn’t stop him from developing into a human highlight reel, tearing up Virginia at almost every position you can name. The coaching staff nicknamed him “WiFi”, and deservingly so, because he’s universal and everywhere. Possessing one of the most impressive and underrated highlight tapes I’ve seen in a while, Hillman doesn’t shy away from contact and even possesses arm strength that would make Uncle Rico raise an eyebrow. Ideally, Hillman would plug into the safety position and develop under Chris O’Leary, but with the departure of Brandon Joseph and the uncertainty at the position, Hillman might earn some meaningful reps sooner rather than later. With that said, I don’t think Hillman can be confined to one position just yet, and may end up having a career similar to that of standout Irish unicorns such as Avery Davis and C.J. Prosise. The only thing that is certain is his ability to play ball at an extremely high level.

Jaden Greathouse - Wide Receiver (138 National Rank 247 Sports)

Greathouse possesses a resume that speaks for itself, playing (and winning) at the highest level that high school has to offer in the Texas 6A division. A state championship winning season in 2021 (the third of his high school career) is one of his crowning achievements, but that’s without even mentioning his individual accolades. Greathouse ranks top-20 all time in Texas high school receiving yardage, with 4,035 yards to his name after his senior season while simultaneously setting the record for receiving yards in a state championship game (236). Outside of his production, Greathouse’s frame jumps off the page. At 6’2, he possesses a broad build with a plethora of strength. This makes him a prime candidate for a physical outside receiver that Notre Dame has missed since the days of Claypool and Boykin. Wide receiver was one of the largest gaps on the roster heading into the cycle, and coach Stuckey did a tremendous job addressing that need, picking up studs like Greathouse, Flores, James and Smith. Any of these receivers have a chance to see the field early realistically, but I believe Greathouse to be the most physically gifted heading into camp.

Christian Gray - Cornerback (103 National Rank 247 Sports)

Notre Dame has enjoyed incredible freshman production at the cornerback position courtesy of Benjamin Morrison this past season, so why not keep the trend going heading into the next season. Gray was a must-get for the Irish this cycle after the departure of Justyn Rhett early on, and Marcus Freeman was able to pull the talented corner from the clutches of Brian Kelly, while simultaneously keeping the St. Louis pipeline alive and well. Christian Gray possesses above average athleticism and instinct, intercepting passes without effort throughout his high school career. Outside of Morrison, there is plenty of opportunity for the highest rated corner in Notre Dame's class to earn some time at the nickel spot, or wherever Mike Mickens sees fit. Regardless, I don’t want to underrate Gray’s natural athleticism at all, as his speed and agility produced meaningful results as a kick returner in high school, adding another polarizing dimension to his skillset. He plays extremely well in press, while consistently showing his ability to come off blocks and tackle downhill with speed, something rangier corners often struggle with. Gray is a blue-chip that Irish fans are hoping to see developed quickly under Mickens, and produce game-breaking results early and often.


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