2023 recruit Braylon James after picking Notre Dame: 'It was genuine love'

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Stuckey during football practice April 2, 2022 at the Irish Athletics Center in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame football has its first big win of the Chansi Stuckey recruiting era. 

Four-star wide receiver Braylon James announced his non-binding commitment to Notre Dame on Tuesday night. James, a Class of ‘23 recruit from Stony Point High School in Round Rock, Texas, picked the Irish over fellow finalists Stanford and Texas Christian. 

“In terms of recruiting pitch, all they really did was get to know me,” James told CBS Sports during a live stream of his announcement. “Just sitting down and getting to know who somebody truly is is something not a lot of coaches do. I felt like everything there was genuine from coach Stuckey to coach (Tommy) Rees all the way up to coach (Marcus) Freeman. It was genuine love. It was real.” 

Stuckey, the former NFL receiver hired in January after spending last season coaching wide receivers at Baylor, made a strong impression on James. 

“I kind of always had an idea in the back of my head that’s where I wanted to go,” James said. “Probably from right when coach Stuckey got in there, he texted me before he announced he took the position. He was like, ‘Man, I want you to be a part of my branch. I feel like we could build a Wide Receiver U at Notre Dame.’ “ 

More on ND football:Chris Tyree, aka 'Coach CT,' warms to leadership role for Notre Dame football

James, listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and rated the No. 12 overall receiver in the 2023 recruiting class, visited South Bend at the start of spring practice. One month later, he’s in the fold for a 2023 class once again ranked first nationally by 247Sports.com. 

“It sounded good, but once I finally got up there, I was like, ‘Man, this is the place,’ “ James said. “I went ahead and pulled the plug and told coach Freeman and coach Rees. The whole staff was fired up just as much as I was. I feel like I made the right decision for me and my life.”

James, who also has experience in basketball and track and field, is known for his physicality and ability to make tough catches in traffic. He high jumped 6-foot-4 as a junior and is a standout kick returner. 

► Notre Dame football coaching staff:Marcus Freeman learning that life as a football coach is different when you're in charge

James, who counted 13 touchdowns among his 89 catches the past two seasons, has returned to Stony Point after spending the past two football seasons at Del Valle High School, about 25 miles away in Austin’s southern suburbs. 

“I’m a real dynamic athlete,” James said. “I’m not just a football player. I do it all.”

His message to the Irish fan base?

“I just want you all to know you are getting a true athlete as well as, not to brag, but I feel like I’m a high-character individual,” James said. “Just know that we’re going to win some championships when I’m up there along with the great class that we’re going to build.”

Meeting Eli Raridon, Holden Staes 

This weekend is expected to mark the first meeting between new tight ends coach Gerad Parker and incoming freshmen Eli Raridon and Holden Staes. 

Parker was a late addition to the Irish coaching staff after John McNulty left to become the offensive coordinator at Boston College. Once Parker was hired in early February, he worked to build a long-distance relationship with the four-star signees from West Des Moines, Iowa (Raridon) and Atlanta (Staes). 

“They’re both in a great place,” Parker said recently. “I know Raridon is rehabbing really well (from a torn ACL in December). They’re both gifted enough. It’s getting them here, get them acclimated and let them learn how it is to train like a college athlete and then learn this playbook.” 

With All-America candidate Michael Mayer, Kevin Bauman, Mitchell Evans and the rehabbing Cane Berrong (torn ACL) ahead of them on the depth chart, there is no particular urgency for the highly regarded freshmen. By 2023, however, both could push for playing time in a loaded position group. 

“Their talents and gifts sure match what the room is,” Parker said. “There’s a lot of expectation from the guys who signed them before I was here.” 

Staff writer Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.