Freeman factors into Notre Dame winning recruiting tug-of-war for O-lineman Schrauth
Marcus Freeman ditched the protracted pomp of his own introductory press conference as Notre Dame’s head football coach on Monday to get down to the actual business of living up to his words.
Which included a strong message about being the lead recruiter for every prospect the Irish would pursue.
“I’d better be the No. 1 recruiter,” he said.
Before the press conference venue — the Irish Athletics Center — started to empty, Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees had already boarded a jet to take them to Fond du Lac, Wis., to try to close the deal on four-star offensive guard target Billy Schrauth.
In one of the more uncanny recruiting tugs-of-war involving ND in recent memory, Schrauth on Friday verbally committed to the Irish over home-state Wisconsin. Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Oregon and Stanford were also among the schools that offered scholarships to the 6-foot-6, 280-pound two-way standout..
But they could never gain the traction that Wisconsin and ND had in the final months of his recruitment, even when Freeman’s predecessor, Brian Kelly, left for LSU on Nov. 29 and Irish offensive line coach Jeff Quinn’s future went into limbo.
Schrauth visited three schools in June once the NCAA lifted a 15-month ban on on-campus visits, imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Notre Dame seemed to come out of its visit with Schrauth with an insurmountable lead. Then momentum shifted to Wisconsin, then back to Notre Dame in October, then Wisconsin again before the final push from Freeman and Rees.
“In 1991, (former Notre Dame defensive coordinator) Barry Alvarez put a fence around the state of Wisconsin when he got the head-coaching job there,” CBS recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said.
“And in the next 30 years, even when Barry was no longer in coaching, almost never would an offensive lineman leave the state that Wisconsin wanted and identified early. So this is a really big catch, and a rare one, for Notre Dame.”
Schrauth is the 23rd verbal commitment in a class expected to sign National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, and the fifth offensive lineman in it. He plans to enroll early, in January.
Rivals ranks Schrauth as the No. 3 offensive guard nationally and No. 124 prospect regardless of position. He’s the No. 9 interior offensive lineman and No. 204 overall prospect per 247Sports.
“He’s a 4.0 student and runs a 4.9 40-yard dash, which is fantastic for an offensive lineman,” Lemming said. “He dominated in a suspect league against small-school competition, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there might not be a better offensive guard in the country when you look at his athletic ability, intelligence, technique and potential.”
Schrauth led Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs to a Division 6A state runner-up finish last month and a state championship as a sophomore in 2019. He was also a track and field standout, with personal bests of 49 feet, 10 ¼ inches in the shot put and 134-4 in the discus last spring.
Schrauth is the seventh of eight children, with two older brothers who played football at the Division II level — Sam (Minnesota State-Mankato) and Jack (Winona State). He has a sister, Kelli, who plays professional basketball in Croatia.
His parents own a livestock business in Campbellsport, Wis., and included in Schrauth’s skill set is the ability to milk cows.
“As a football player, both Wisconsin and Notre Dame believe he will end up as an All-American in college,” Lemming said. “He has the ability to start or be a key backup as a true freshman. He’s that good.”
Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI