Quack attack: Oregon jolts Notre Dame by flipping 5-star S Peyton Bowen, RB Jayden Limar

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — By 10:02 a.m. Wednesday, Notre Dame’s football recruiting machine had successfully converted all but two of its 26 non-binding commitments into signed letters of intent.

The two stragglers as the early signing period opened: five-star safety Peyton Bowen of Denton, Texas, and four-star running back Jayden Limar of Lake Stevens, Wash.

Shortly after noon Eastern Wednesday, Bowen ended his portion of the suspense by announcing his newfound commitment to the University of Oregon. Four hours later, Limar joined Bowen in a Ducks' recruiting class that surged to No. 7 in the national rankings, two spots ahead of Notre Dame.

More:National Signing Day: Meet the Notre Dame Football 2023 recruiting class

Flipping:How Notre Dame refined its recruiting class with a quartet of flips

Bowen, committed publicly to Notre Dame since New Year’s Day, continued to visit high-powered suitors such as Alabama and neighboring Oklahoma throughout the process. Bowen was rated No. 14 nationally in the Class of 2023, and 247Sports pegged him as the second-best safety in the country and the third-best prospect out of talent-rich Texas.

Peyton Bowen

As of Thursday afternoon Bowen's final destination remained uncertain, according to the Dallas Morning News, with Oklahoma still in consideration.

Bowen’s defection was the second by a five-star Notre Dame commit since August. Tampa’s Keon Keeley, the nation’s No. 1 edge rusher who signed Wednesday with Alabama, was the first five-star to back away from the Irish.

Keeley was ranked No. 10 overall by the recruiting service. Offensive tackle Charles Jagusah, a 6-foot-6, 308 pounder from Rock Island, Ill., became the highest-rated Notre Dame recruit to sign in this class.

Jagusah is No. 49 nationally, per 247Sports.

Losing Limar delivered another sting but not a crushing blow to the 2023 Irish recruiting class that already included four-star running back Jeremiyah Love of St. Louis.

A Missouri state champion in track and field, Love (6-foot, 190 pounds) was rated the No. 5 running back in the country and the No. 68 recruit overall by 247Sports. He will add his talents to an already deep group of running backs for the Irish.

In addition to the versatile trio of Audric Estime, Logan Diggs and Chris Tyree, Notre Dame returns freshmen Gi’Bran Payne and Jadarian Price.

Jayden Limar

Limar carried rankings of No. 276 nationally and No. 17 among running backs.

Governor Drayk Bowen

The midday drama in north Texas kept Notre Dame from landing its double-Bowen attempt, but coach Marcus Freeman still expressed appreciation for the Bowen that remained loyal: four-star linebacker Drayk Bowen (no relation).

The two-sport star from Merrillville Andrean High School can unofficially add another distinction to his recent Butkus Award and IndyStar Mr. Football honors.

“He’s probably our best recruiter,” Freeman said. “He’s come to every single home game. He loves this place. He talks to every single one of those recruits, and they all respect him. This is a Notre Dame kid. He’s going to be great.”

Andrean's Drayk Bowen wins 2022 Mr. Football

Set to enroll in January and cleared to play corner infield for newly hired baseball coach Shawn Stiffler, Drayk Bowen did his part of keep Peyton Bowen and the other Irish commitments in the fold.

“He did a great job of continuing to keep this class interconnected,” Freeman said. “He tells me he’s a great ‘Madden’ player. They all play ‘Madden’ against each other in video games. That’s what these young guys do: They’re on Xbox and PlayStations and Snapchats and all that stuff. Drayk was vital in keeping that group – this group – together.”

No concerns about Kenny Minchey's shoulder

A recurring injury to Kenny Minchey’s throwing shoulder caused the Notre Dame quarterback signee to miss more than half his senior season at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, however, downplayed the issue when it was raised on signing day.

“I know he was throwing (Tuesday),” Rees said. “It was something that was pretty minor. We don’t expect any holdup here moving forward.”

Pope John Paul II QB Kenny Minchey talks with Knights fans prior to his signing day ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Minchey signed to play football at Notre Dame.

Minchey, listed at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, had been committed to Pittsburgh for 6 ½ months before re-opening his recruitment on Nov. 14. Notre Dame swooped in and secured his commitment shortly after hosting Minchey for a snowy Senior Day win over Boston College.

“You don’t want a guy to be hurt and injured, but the medical progress that’s been made here over the last 10 years or so, a lot of these injuries that were big deals no longer are,” Rees said. “Guys can come back from things and be able to rebound and be great players. Injuries, we don’t let that cause too much pause for us in the recruitment process.”

Bumped up more than 90 spots in the 247Sports Composite rankings since committing to the Irish, Minchey finished his prep career with a 16-9 record as the starter. Selected to the Jan. 7 All-American Bowl in San Antonio for the nation's top high school prospects, Minchey passed for 5,451 yards and 57 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions in his prep career.

New young corner combo

After watching 2022 signees Ben Morrison and Jaden Mickey earn early playing time, cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens has two more incoming freshmen that could factor right away: Christian Gray (St. Louis) and Houston’s Micah Bell.

Both are ranked among the nation’s top 18 cornerbacks.   

“Christian Gray will fit right into that room,” Freeman said. “The length, athleticism and competitiveness he brings to that position will translate right here.”

Christian Gray

As for Bell, a sub-10.5-second sprinter in the 100 meters, the return game could be his quickest path to the field.

“Some of his track times are crazy,” Freeman said. “He makes big plays on both sides of the ball.”

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.

78th Annual TaxSlayer Gator Bowl 

  • Who: No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4) vs. No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) 
  • When: Friday, Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. EST 
  • Where: TIAA Bank Field (67,164), Jacksonville, Fla. 
  • TV/Radio: ABC, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 
  • Line: Notre Dame opens as a 4.5 -point favorite  
  • Series: Notre Dame leads 3-1 
  • Last meeting: South Carolina won 36-32 in South Bend in 1984.