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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Roster management is trickier than ever

Bracing for a wild future

California v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

If the past week has taught us anything, it’s that roster management in college football is well past just the typical recruiting cycle. The transfer portal and NIL has changed everything — especially when there is little to no oversight from the NCAA. It’s basically the wild west out there, and for a school like Notre Dame, it makes everything harder and more pressing.

Through it all, Notre Dame will try to have the best 85 man roster possible come fall camp. For Marcus Freeman, it’s been a highly successful recruiting cycle so far — even with a few major losses on the board. His recruiting prowess has been well documented over the last few years, and he has used relationship-building to his success — and that should only get better says the first year head coach.

“With this year, you have relationships with these guys. You’ve been recruiting them for a year and you’re getting to the homes of guys you have relationships with.

You know their families. Last year, I was trying to get to know all those offensive guys. I knew a lot of the defensive guys but to get to the homes of the offensive guys, it was the first time meeting a lot of them. And so, completely different visit this year than last year. But the craziness, the busyness of this schedule, that won’t change.

Those relationships, even if they don’t work out during this recruiting cycle, could become a great advantage down the road with the transfer portal. There’s a much quicker turnaround with the transfer portal process, but at a place like Notre Dame, that process isn’t nearly as quick as most other schools across the country.

The transfer portal is something Notre Dame absolutely has to get better at as a roster enhancement to make the most out of the 85 man limit rather than backfilling recruiting classes with lower ranked 3-Star player that may never contribute much to the program on the field.

It’s the new part of college football. I don’t know the exact numbers, but, obviously, starting Monday, the numbers continue to increase on people entering the portal. We’ve had guys on our team enter the portal. And so, that’s going to be a part of roster enhancement, right? It’s the ability to look into the portal and really investigate, not just say, ‘Okay, this guy is coming from this school, you know, let’s go after him.’

It’s really trying to make those calls and research. You know, you do a lot of research on these high school kids. You recruit them, you evaluate them, you talk to people for a lengthy period of time. These guys getting into the portal, it’s a quick turnaround in terms of, ‘Are they the right fit for this program or not?’ And so, a lot of time has been spent on just looking (at) is there a person in the portal that’s going to enhance our roster in the right way?

We can’t just take anybody. We have to get the right fit for our program and for our roster. And so, that takes time to really investigate, and then you got to recruit. That’s to identify if that’s the guy. Then you’ve got to recruit them and try to get them to believe that this is the best place for them. So, it’s not a quick process. But the reality is decisions have to be made pretty quickly. And with Early Signing Day coming up here in less than two weeks.

Freeman’s warning about Notre Dame not being able to take just anybody shouldn’t come as any type of surprise to Irish fans. It’s been a part of how things have gone with the Notre Dame standard. That standard, however, could have some changes on the way to help with the football program — maybe.

There’s been very clear transparency between myself, our admissions, our coaches. Yeah, it’s difficult. But we understand that. This university is difficult for anybody to get in. And that’s what makes it so unique. And we can’t dilute that. We can’t take that for granted as a football program.

The things we sell in terms of not just playing national championship caliber football, but being a part of a university that offers you so much, we have to embrace that and understand not every recruit or not every football player is going to be the right fit for this university. This is what we chose. This is what I chose. This is what these coaches chose.

And so, we can’t pick and choose when we want to embrace that. We want to embrace it when we sell Notre Dame, right? You can play top notch caliber football, the best, be developed, but you’re also get an education that is top notch. We can’t want to sell that to high school kids and then all of a sudden the transfer portal comes, ‘Who cares about that education? We just want the best football player.’ We can’t do that. We can’t pick and choose.

We have to embrace what makes this place special and the opportunity to play at Notre Dame special. Listen, we understand it takes certain individuals academically to be able to transfer in here. But if they’re good students and their credits transfer over, then it’s the right fit for us and for them, we’ll be able to get them in.

I think they look at every individual specifically. There is no just, ‘Here’s exactly the line and either it’s yes or no.’ They looked at every individual transcript. And they look at every syllabus from the previous school. That’s the thing about Notre Dame is when kids come on official visits, each person meets with somebody in our admissions office. And so, they look at every individual on an individual basis in terms of making a determination if they’re going to admit them or not.

With early signing day just about a week away, the script is mostly written in terms of what the Irish will bring in as a recruiting class. Of course things can change quite a bit in just a week, and after the bowl game with more players transferring out, the situation is still fluid.

While there are players in the portal that are already being gobbled up, Notre Dame has to be a little more precise about what players they target and at what position — and then they get to the business of forming the 85 over the next 6 months.

It’s a wild time for roster management, and nothing like we’ve ever seen before. Notre Dame’s entire future as a program will likely depend upon how they handle the new normal of the transfer portal merged with recruiting merged with NIL.