Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment
Listed measurements: 6-foot-4, 190 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A freshman, Merriweather has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: A strong preseason could push Merriweather into Notre Dame’s two-deep, especially if sixth-year Avery Davis is not yet full-go when the Irish face Ohio State in 44 days. Davis should be, but if not, then Notre Dame will have only six scholarship receivers available, including fifth-year former walk-on Matt Salerno.
Most likely, sophomore Lorenzo Styles, Davis and fifth-year Braden Lenzy will start. In that alignment, Merriweather could find a role backing up any of them, but particularly the field (wide) or slot receivers, leaving the boundary reserve duty to sophomore Deion Colzie.Recruiting: The No. 22 receiver and No. 135 overall prospect in the class, per rivals.com, Merriweather was the only receiver the Irish signed in the class of 2022, despite long being one of three well-respected committed prospects. Staying firm in his commitment despite pursuits from Oregon, Washington and UCLA could have been the long-term memory of the Washington product’s recruitment. But instead …
Merriweather’s house was the last stop for Brian Kelly as Notre Dame’s head coach. Kelly infamously stepped outside early in the visit to take a phone call before returning to eat a few platefuls of burnt ends. As the Irish coaches left the Merriweather’s house, Kelly denied the rumors of his impending departure to LSU, not only to the Merriweathers but also to his assistant coaches.
Merriweather’s next notable recruitment moment came almost immediately after Marcus Freeman was named the Irish head coach. Following his introductory press conference, Freeman boarded a flight ultimately bound for Washington to see Merrriweather after a brief stop in Wisconsin to woo offensive guard Billy Schrauth.
“I know the minute we got done with the press conference, obviously, we had to go see Tobias,” Freeman said in December. “That’s the first place we got to go. … To get him a part of this class is huge. It’s huge. We were in his house I think 9:30 West Coast time at night, so it was almost midnight here or after midnight. That was a very important get for us.”
Those two at-home visits were quite literally just a week apart, yet they could not have had more disparate tones.
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Merriweather’s father, Dom, is apparently quite the expert with barbeque, including those burnt ends. Most NIL deals do not include a tie-in to a player’s parents, but perhaps some local restaurant in South Bend should make an exception.
WHAT WAS PROJECTED WHEN MERRIWEATHER SIGNED IN DECEMBER
“If Merriweather remains this lean, the Irish will want to play him on the field (wide) side of the formation, typically a less physical position. If he bulks up in a collegiate strength and conditioning program, then Merriweather’s height and length could make him an ideal fit along the boundary, a la Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool and Kevin Austin.”
A touch of curiosity can be disappointed Kelly will not coach Merriweather this season. For most of his 12 years at Notre Dame, Kelly failed to incorporate freshmen receivers. Though not an exhaustive list, the most notable contributions came from three freshmen in those 12 seasons:
TJ Jones in 2010: 23 catches for 306 yards and three touchdowns.Kevin Stepherson in 2016: 25 catches for 462 yards and five touchdowns.Lorenzo Styles in 2021: 24 catches for 344 yards and one touchdown.
It is not that it would have been a shock to see Merriweather match those lines, it is that Kelly turning to a freshman in two consecutive seasons would have been a mild shock.
But, of course, he would not have had a choice. The Irish are so thin at receiver, a freshman like Merriweather is practically assured two dozen catches for 300 yards. He may be a bit slighter than would be preferred, but he has enough physical assets to handle a modest workload, especially against lesser opponents. (Looking at you Marshall, Cal, Stanford and UNLV.)
Merriweather won the state championship in the 200-meter dash in 21.8 seconds and finished second in the 100-meter dash in 10.94 seconds. Those may not be the kind of times that will lead him onto the track in college, but they are impressive marks regardless, especially when remembering Merriweather is 6-foot-4.
More may be possible. Maybe Kelly would have played Merriweather even on a deep team. Perhaps he will shine against Notre Dame’s top opponents, as well. Those are hypotheticals.
The stark reality is Merriweather will play this season out of necessity, and he will play a good amount.
DOWN THE ROAD
The receiver situation in South Bend will take time to rectify. If Merriweather had bailed out of the signing class, the depth chart would have begun to look untenable. When the margin of error is one recruit, clearly the solution will be a multi-year process.
In the interim, Merriweather will work with the current sophomore trio — Styles, Colzie and Jayden Thomas — to provide the bulk of Irish catches through 2023 and 2024.
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end
No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL