WR Tobias Merriweather's verbal commitment ties in well to Notre Dame's big picture
It’s not that Tobias Merriweather’s dreams are irrelevant or that his back story isn’t charming enough alone to carry the day on a day when the four-star wide receiver prospect became the 20th verbal commitment in Notre Dame football’s 2022 recruiting class, Wednesday afternoon.
It’s just that there are so many salient threads that tie into the addition of the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Camas, Wash., product — what he represents in ND’s big picture, who he may become and who might yet join him in the newest wave of Irish receivers.
All of which converge at a recruiting litmus test that never seems to get old or irrelevant for a fan base eager to see where two playoff appearances in three years and head coach Brian Kelly’s emboldened ambition will push the program.
In short, is Merriweather a prospect who will help the Irish take the next significant stride forward?
“Yeah, I think he and C.J. Williams both are, provided that’s also where C.J. ends up,” said Greg Biggins, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, based on the West Coast.
The 6-2, 190-pound Williams — another four-star prospect and reported Irish lean — is set to announce his college decision on Sunday.
When Biggins and others dish on the potential of an ND wide receiver class that already included Ponchatoula, La., prospect Amorion Walker, the implied impact is more incremental than seismic.
That’s because quantity must be paired with quality at the position group that arguably looked the most uncomfortable and unequipped in losses on the big stage to eventual national champs Clemson in 2018 and Alabama last Jan. 1.
Rectifying that is more process than event.
Player development matters. Tommy Rees’ evolution as an offensive coordinator and play-caller matters. Following up with more of the same at receiver as well as an elite QB prospect in 2023 matters.
Independent of all that and on just pure face value, Merriweather is the nation’s No. 155 player in the 2022 class regardless of position, per Rivals.com. That rating compares favorably to the five receivers Kelly and staff have signed out of high school since Kelly’s first class in 2010 that have gone on to be selected in the NFL Draft.
Those five comprise Chase Claypool (109), Equanimeous St. Brown (144), Miles Boykin (156), Will Fuller (176) and TJ Jones (141).
Merriweather chose the Irish over Stanford, Oregon, USC and Michigan, among others.
"The biggest (factor) for me was just the coaching staff there, how we connected and clicked and that we’re all on the same page," Merriweather said Wednesday at his decision announcement.
“Tobias could be that gamebreaker Notre Dame’s been looking for — a big kid who can run, very athletic,” CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “I think this year is the year he’s going to explode. With his speed, and his size and hands, I think we’re talking about a premier player who should be a five-star player by the end of the year.
“He has a 36-inch vertical so you know he can do everything. He and C.J. Williams will give Tyler Buchner a couple of great receivers to throw to next year. This is really good. This is what Notre Dame has needed all along.”
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Merriweather wedged a track season into a busy spring that included a delayed and abridged six-game football season because of the COVID-19 pandemic for Union High. The football team went 5-1, and Merriweather took home district track titles in the 100-meter dash (10.95 seconds), the 200 (22.01) and the 400 (49.78).
“He’s a guy you can see improving that speed in college,” Biggins said. “Not just because of his track background but his family’s track background.”
Father Dom Merriweather is Union’s sprint coach. His twin sisters, Jai’lyn and Dai’lyn, are sprinters at the University of Oklahoma.
Jai’lyn was a three-time state champ at Union in the 400 and won state relay titles as part of the 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 squads in 2017. Dai’lyn won the 200 three times at the state meet and teamed with Jai’lyn on the 4 x 400 state title-winning relay team.
Tobias has a state title too — though in football. He was a 145-pound freshman when Union routed Lake Stevens, 52-20, in the Class 4A state championship game in 2018.
“He’s gotten stronger and will continue to do so at Notre Dame,” Lemming said. “Matt Balis (ND director of football performance) will see to that.”
Merriweather's commitment allowed the Irish to leapfrog Ohio State into third place in the 247Sports composite team recruiting rankings, behind No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Alabama.
In the Rivals team rankings, the Irish remained No. 3 but closed the gap on No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Ohio State.
Merriweather is ranked as the No. 75 prospect by 247Sports. Williams, from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, is No. 29 per Rivals and No. 72 by 247Sports. Walker is a three-star prospect, largely because of an injury-ravaged season in 2020.
But he has picked up offers from notably Alabama and LSU since committing to the Irish in March.
Assuming Williams commits to the irish on Sunday, Notre Dame is likely to continue to browse the wide receiver market and could add a fourth in this cycle, though that’s not a foregone conclusion.
Andre Greene Jr. — a 6-3, 180-pound four-star prospect from Richmond, Va. — is penciled in for an official visit for the weekend of the Oct. 2 matchup with Cincinnati.
“I think the exciting aspect about Tobias, Amorion and C.J. is that they’re all pretty good right now,” Lemming said. “And each of them has a chance to be even better at the college level.”
Follow NDInsider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI