Without the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe Deion Colzie does not land at Notre Dame again.
The four-star wide receiver from Athens (Ga.) Academy announced his verbal commitment to the Irish on Monday. He initially pledged to Notre Dame last October before decommitting on March 20 — near the beginning of the pandemic in the United States.
The ongoing circumstances — no official or unofficial recruiting visits until at least Jan. 1 — have often largely encumbered the Irish from a recruiting perspective. Colzie’s situation benefited them.
Soon after Colzie rescinded his pledge from Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class, he garnered attention from various programs. Oregon, Michigan and Minnesota offered him a scholarship on the day he announced his decommitment. Penn State, Florida State and Auburn were among other schools that followed.
But Colzie never had the opportunity to take an official or unofficial recruiting visit to any campus. The NCAA has continued to extend its recruiting dead period since March. The current mandate is set to expire on Jan. 1 but could be extended — again.
The new attention from other schools only lasted so long. While Colzie took his time, programs that started pursuing him began to fill their recruiting classes. So he eventually decided to return to Notre Dame.
At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Colzie reminds CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of former Irish standouts Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin. Rivals ranks Colzie as its No. 17 wide receiver and No. 107 overall player in the class, while 247Sports pegs him No. 13 at the position and No. 110 overall.
Through three games this season, Colzie has caught 10 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
“Colzie fits the mold of the Notre Dame-type receiver that they’ve been going after all these years,” Lemming said. “The big, strong kid who can catch.”
The Irish being familiar helped. Colzie had already established a relationship with the coaching staff. They initially offered Colzie after he performed at one of Notre Dame’s recruiting camps in June 2019. He committed while on campus for the Oct. 12 home game against USC.
Former offensive coordinator Chip Long parting ways with the Irish last December initially hurt their chances with Colzie. Long served as his primary recruiter. By the time he left, Colzie had been committed for approximately two months.
Lemming visited Colzie’s school on Jan. 20. He said that when asked about Notre Dame, Colzie either did not know or could not remember the name of wide receivers coach, DelVaughn Alexander. That shouldn't be a problem anymore.
Colzie’s decommitment shocked the coaching staff. They responded by making him feel more like a priority. They saved a spot for Colzie and never stopped pursuing him in the months that followed. Alexander also became more involved in his recruitment.
“When I saw him, I was very impressed with him,” Lemming said of Colzie. “He’s a Notre Dame-type kid. He’s the kind of guy Notre Dame looks for —student-athlete and he’s a good athlete, too. I was impressed with him as a person when sitting down and talking to him, but also as an athlete.”
Another part of what prompted Colzie’s decommitment was his desire to stay closer to home. He felt he rushed his decision, too. But Yolanda Jackson, Colzie’s mother, considers herself to be a lifelong Notre Dame fan and continued to push him toward the Irish. Jackson and Colzie ultimately felt no school brought a combination of football and academics like Notre Dame.
Georgia had emerged as Colzie’s favorite earlier in the spring. The mutual interest lost steam because of how loaded the Bulldogs are at receiver. Tennessee made a run at Colzie, too. The Volunteers never hosting Colzie for a visit kept them from becoming his pick, though.
By pledging to Notre Dame again, Colzie entered unchartered territory. Under head coach Brian Kelly, 34 recruits have decommitted from the Irish. Defensive ends Stephon Tuitt (2011) and Aaron Lynch (2011), receiver Braden Lenzy (2018) and Colzie are the only four among those 34 to pledge to Notre Dame a second time. Colzie is the only one among those four to not spend time committed to another class.
Offensive lineman Greg Crippen (March 4), who committed to Michigan, and cornerback Philip Riley (Sept. 25) also decommitted from Notre Dame’s 2021 class.
Colzie is the rare case from the pandemic that helped the Irish. They otherwise struggled to recruit for a long stretch, particularly on offense. From Oct. 14, 2019 until July 6, Notre Dame secured a verbal commitment from just one 2021 recruit on offense: three-star offensive lineman Pat Coogan.
The following 2021 targets on offense pledged elsewhere after their plans to visit Notre Dame in the spring were canceled by the pandemic: running back Will Shipley (Clemson), tight end Thomas Fidone Jr. (Nebraska) and offensive linemen Landon Tengwall (Penn State), Nolan Rucci (Wisconsin) and Garrett Dellinger (LSU).
At 18 verbal commitments, the Irish have room for at least a few more recruits this class. Wide receivers Jayden Thomas and Dont’e Thornton Jr., running back Donovan Edwards, cornerbacks Ceyair Wright and Theran Johnson, linebacker Kahanu Kia and safety Titus Mokiao-Atimilala are their remaining uncommitted targets.
Rivals and 247Sports rank Notre Dame’s 2021 class No. 11 and 13 nationally, respectively.
Home is where your heart is 🖤! Committed ✌🏾! pic.twitter.com/ENmBYr2Hzh— Deion Colzie (@almightydeion_) September 28, 2020
I’m feeling good!! My brotha is back baby!! Love family. @almightydeion_ ☘️❤️— Blake Fisher☘️ (@bfisher54_) September 28, 2020