Tight end Holden Staes' commitment keeps Georgia on Notre Dame's mind

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Georgia is definitely on their minds.

And the reverse is true when it comes to Notre Dame football recruiting.

When four-star tight end Holden Staes announced his verbal commitment to the Irish on Saturday afternoon via Instagram, he became the 12th Georgia high school product in the last five recruiting cycles to commit or sign with ND.

That nudges the Peach State into a tie with California for the state contributing the most high school players to the Irish roster since 2018. New Jersey is next, with nine, followed by Indiana and Florida, with six each.

In the first eight cycles of the Brian Kelly Era (2010-17), ND signed a total of four prospects from Georgia high schools, though all impactful — defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Isaac Rochell, punter Tyler Newsome and wide receiver T.J. Jones.

That’s the same number ND signed in its freshman class (2021) alone — wide receivers Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas, tight end Cane Berrong and safety Khari Gee.

Safety Jake Pope, a 2022 prospect from Buford, Ga., has an official visit scheduled for June. The Irish coaching staff has extended scholarship offers to eight Georgia high school standouts so far in the 2023 class already.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Staes joins 6-6, 230-pound West Des Moines, Iowa, standout Eli Raridon as the two takes at tight end for the Irish in the 2022 class. Raridon verbal committed six days before Staes.

Three-star tight Jack Nickel, from Milton, Ga., was committed to Notre Dame's class for nearly nine months, but he exited in April when the Irish were clearly still pursuing Staes and Raridon.

Staes’ offer sheet was impressive and included Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas and USC. He’s ranked as the nation’s No. 14 tight end prospect by Rivals and No. 15 by 247Sports.

He was verbally committed to Penn State for roughly six months but decommitted on Feb. 5 after Nittany Lions tight end coach/co-offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen was hired away by Urban Meyer to join his staff with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Irish offered Staes a scholarship five days after he re-opened his recruitment.

“Holden is a solid-looking kid,” CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming assessed. “Good athlete. Runs well. Good hands. Certainly has four-star potential. If Notre Dame offers a tight end, you know he’s good. And again, it’s another good ball player from Atlanta.”

Holden will be a senior in the fall at the Winchester School in Atlanta. Departing tight end Tommy Tremble is from Johns Creek, Ga., about 35 miles northeast of Atlanta.

The NFL Draft early entry was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round on April 30, becoming the 10th straight ND starting tight end to eventually be drafted since 2004. (The last one not to was 2003 starter Billy Palmer.)

“(Tight ends coach) John McNulty has done an excellent job of recruiting tight ends and (former offensive coordinator) Chip Long did too before him,” Lemming said. “Notre Dame’s a school that can bring in top offensive linemen and tight ends every year.”

The Irish, No. 4 in the national team recruiting rankings per both Rivals and 247Sports, have a lot of momentum this cycle with other position groups as well.

Close to 30 uncommitted prospects in the 2022 class have scheduled official visits to Notre Dame in June, when the NCAA finally lifts the 14th-month, pandemic-elongated dead period.

Nine of them are ranked in the Rivals Top 100.

At least seven top 2023 prospects have scheduled unofficial visits for that month, all seven of whom are ranked in the Rivals Top 100 nationally.

Notre Dame in May is setting the table for a possible seismic June with its billboard campaign — featuring current players and incoming freshmen — and a Zoom blitz with high school coaches when normally assistant coaches would be allowed to visit schools in person and perform player evaluations during non-pandemic times.

“I think it’s important that we, as a staff, are felt in the month of May in our geographical recruiting areas,” ND head coach Brian Kelly said. “Touching base with all those recruits, those high school coaches, counselors.

“That allows those evaluations to take place. Then preparing for June, we’ve already established our camp dates. The ability to evaluate when they come on your campus is crucial in this process.”

Tight end Holden Staes of Atlanta on Saturday became the 13th verbal commitment of Notre Dame football's 2022 recruiting class.