Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

Lacing up for 2022: Key freshmen to watch 

Thanks to the relentless recruiting efforts of the revamped and revitalized Notre Dame coaching staff, the 2022 Notre Dame football recruiting class promises a bright future for the Fighting Irish. Spearheaded by Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame’s hard recruiting work paid off with the No. 6 ranked class in the nation. This freshman class places the program significantly ahead of almost every class from the Brian Kelly era within the past decade. Not only that, but this is Notre Dame's third highest ranked class ever in program history. Freeman has certainly been able to find players that are the true “Notre Dame fit,” even if they may not have initially realized it themselves.

“There are certain players out there that fit Notre Dame and they might not know it,” Freeman said. “So our job as a coaching staff is to be able to communicate with these young people what Notre Dame can do for your life, and that's what I plan on doing.”

This refreshing mentality has applied to 2023 recruits as well. The 2023 class is looking to be even stronger than 2022's, showing the effectiveness of Freeman’s methods. Looking ahead to the Blue and Gold game as well as fall season, some of these 2022 recruits have the potential to stand out early on in the season. Here are my top four picks, two defensively and two offensively, for those with the biggest impact potential that will be playing in this Saturday’s Blue and Gold Game.

Linebacker (LB) Jaylen Sneed

Landing “Mr. South Carolina” Jaylen Sneed was certainly a win for the Irish defense. A four star recruit, Sneed turned down offers from 31 schools, such as Alabama and Oregon, to rep the Irish. Clocking in at 198 pounds, the 6’2’’ Hilton Head native stands at 6-2 will certainly bring length to the lineup. Who knows what a little more weight on him could do to his power? Nevertheless, Sneed’s athleticism and upside has made him a top prospect.

I believe he can certainly bring an element of speed and explosion to the team. There have been rumors from Freeman that Sneed will play Rover come fall due to his similarities with former LB and current Cleveland Brown Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. However, his performance at the Blue-Gold game as well as in practice and summer training will be the true test. Sneed is definitely someone to look out for, and will be playing for the Gold team on Saturday.

Cornerback (CB) Jaden Mickey

A fellow defensive four star recruit, Jaden Mickey’s quick footedness and fluidity will prove to be an asset for the Irish. The 5’11 1/2’’ 176 pound Californian brings both smooth athletic skills and a high football IQ to the table. Film highlights show that Mickey plays an aggressive game but is able to execute it at a high level. That's a perfect combination for a CB. He shows impressive coverage instincts and gets his hands on a lot of throws. In a position like cornerback that requires both high physicality and mental discipline, I think Mickey is capable of creating some big turnovers this season. Catch him in action on the Gold team this Saturday.

Quarterback (QB) Steve Angeli 

This pick seems particularly fitting with Tyler Buchner out for the spring game following his ankle injury. Steve Angeli, a New Jersey native hailing from Group A state championship-winning Bergen Catholic HS, has loads of potential. The 6’2’’ 210 pounder has shown accuracy on short throws as well as good touch on deep throws. His good size, coupled with his quick release, can provide decent depth behind Buchner and Drew Pyne.

With continued work alongside his fellow QBs and under the guidance of offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, Angeli could greatly improve. The possibility of another QB injury always looming. And that means it is certainly possible that Angeli could have to step in at some point. Who knows what waves he could make if this was the case? Though Pyne is taking the lead and playing on both teams this weekend, Angeli will join him in the QB position on the Gold team.

Running back (RB) Jadarian Price

Texas standout and four star recruit Jadarian Price is one of the most instinctual and explosive running backs in the country. Few running backs can reach maximum speed as fast as the 5’10’’, 190 pound Price. And there's only room for him to grow – both physically and with his technique. Price possesses both speed and the ability to ensure a catch. And his patience as a runner allows his blockers to open holes for him. I believe this will allow Price to provide depth in the Irish running back room gain solid yardage. Some time in the weight room and continued practice reps could turn Price into a force in the fall. As for now, he will be playing on the Gold team this Saturday. 

In Summary

Though each of the incoming freshmen will have several opportunities to prove themselves and hold their own, these are the top four that I recommend keeping an eye on at the game this weekend, as well as next fall. Sneed and Mickey’s contributions on defense will provide depth now and build for the future. Angeli’s potential as quarterback provides a strong bench under Buchner and Pyne, with the ability to step up at a moment’s notice. Finally, Price’s speed and patience will contribute to the Irish rushing attack.

These players are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the skill and sheer strength that exists in the 2022 class. The Irish will welcome other top-tier freshmen in the fall, such as WR and Washington native Tobias Merriweather, as well as tight ends Eli Raridon and Holden States. There is certainly lots to look forward to as Irish fans prepare for the “Freeman Era” to enter full swing.