Florida defensive end Keon Keeley becomes Notre Dame's first 2023 commitment
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the recruiting cycle for college football prospects in the 2023 class.
So much so that none of the 100-plus recruits who have reported scholarship offers from Notre Dame were verbally committed to a school entering Monday.
That changed at noon EDT when Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep defensive end Keon Keeley announced his pledge to Notre Dame on Twitter.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Keeley spent parts of four days on Notre Dame's campus earlier this month. He received his scholarship offer from the Irish on St. Patrick's Day earlier this year as part of a coordinated “Pot of Gold” recruiting event orchestrated by Notre Dame's staff.
Keeley made getting up to Notre Dame in June — when the nearly 15-month, pandemic-influenced dead period ended —a priority. He was able to spend time with defensive line coach Mike Elston, defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and head coach Brian Kelly during his visit.
247Sports slates Keeley as a four-star recruit, the No. 40 defensive lineman and No. 216 overall in the 2023 class. Keeley has not been given a grade by Rivals, which has only assigned star ratings to 190 recruits in the 2023 class and numerically ranked 100 of them.
The three major programs in the Sunshine State — Florida, Florida State and Miami — all offered Keeley following his sophomore season at Berkeley Prep.
“He’s a typical Notre Dame defensive end,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He has the length, long arms, quick feet and has growth potential. He’s going to put on a lot of weight and strength.
“He’s Mike Elston’s type of guy. He’s a big catch. Tampa is really good area next year for talent, and he’s a guy that’s one of the best players down there.”
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In addition to hosting 22 targets in the 2022 class for official visits in June, the Irish brought in several 2023 targets for unofficial visits like Keeley. Four-star wide receiver Carnell Tate, who made three unofficial visits to Notre Dame this month, shared Keeley’s commitment on Twitter. Tate is originally from the Chicago area but attends IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., which is about an hour drive from Tampa.
The Irish could start to build some early momentum in the 2023 class following Keeley’s decision. Only 12 programs in the country have a 2023 commitment. Georgia leads the nation with four of them.
Some of the next steps for Notre Dame’s 2022 class, which contains 16 commitments and is ranked second in the country by Rivals and 247Sports, should become clear this week as well. Four-star offensive lineman Joe Brunner of Whitefish Bay, Wisc., will announce his commitment decision Tuesday afternoon. Brunner made an official visit to Notre Dame the weekend of June 19, but he’s expected to choose Wisconsin.
Three-star cornerback Jayden Bellamy, a teammate of Notre Dame quarterback commit Steve Angeli at Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic, will make his commitment announcement Friday. Notre Dame hosted Bellamy for an official visit the weekend of June 19 as well. His recruiting focus has been given to six schools: Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State and Rutgers.
With the calendar shifting back into a dead period, which prohibits campus visits through July 24, more recruits will likely be compelled to make decisions soon after trekking across the country throughout June. Monday’s announcement from Keeley showed that Notre Dame’s progress wasn’t limited to the 2022 class.
“Everything is working out perfectly,” Lemming said. “I even think the ‘23 class can be better than the ‘22 class. This kid’s a good start. He’s a legit four-star player.”
Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.