Notre Dame football recruits on display at high school All-American game in San Antonio

By Chris Dukes
Special to ND Insider
Notre Dame football recruits who played in the high school All-American game in San Antonio assembled for a photo afterward. Kneeling in front, from left, are Tyson Ford (98), Tobias Merriweather (5) and Bryce McFerson (17). Back row, from left, Ashton Craig (54), Billy Schrauth (72), Aamil Wagner (59), Aiden Gobaria (90), Joshua Burnham (15), Nolan Ziegler (40) and Niuafe Tuihalamaka (44).

SAN ANTONIO — There was plenty of promise on display for Notre Dame during the high school All-American Bowl Saturday afternoon inside the Alomodome as 10 Irish football commits were on the field among the top Class of 2022 seniors in the country. 

Future Notre Dame receiver Tobias Merriweather caught four passes for 47 yards in his national television debut at the All American Bowl.

Merriweather’s big day included a 34-yard reception on a double pass from West teammate and fellow receiver Kyion Greyes.

“That was a good moment,” he said. “I got to ball out and make some plays.”

Even with a nice stat line and a highlight-reel catch, Merriweather’s day was close to being even bigger.

► More:Meet the Notre Dame Football 2022 recruiting class

► More:This guy's back? That guy's leaving? Keeping up with the Irish football roster roulette

The 6-foot-3, 188-pound prospect from West Camas, Wash. beat a defender on a go route in the second quarter, but a pass interference penalty robbed him of an opportunity to turn the play into a score.

“I was going to come back to the ball and get loose,” he said. “The only thing (the defender) could do was grab me.”

The four-star recruit, rated the No. 11 wide receiver and No. 79 overall player in the 2022 class by 247Sports, came close to a game-breaking play again later in the half when he beat his coverage to haul in a 5-yard out route. With nothing but green turf in front of him, Merriweather’s momentum carried him just barely out of bounds on the play.

“I was so mad,” he said. “I knew I should have stayed in. I would have been gone.”

Merriweather won’t be dwelling on the near misses for long though, noting that this was just the beginning of his time in the spotlight.

“I’ll be back on NBC every week playing for Notre Dame next year,” he said. “I’ll get plenty of chances (to score touchdowns).”

Defensive end Aiden Gobaira turns heads

On the defensive side of the ball, Irish fans got a glimpse of the future in the form of defensive lineman Aiden Gobaira. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder out of Fairfax Va. drew a loud ovation from the Alamodome crowd after a punishing sack on West quarterback and Clemson commit Cade Klubnick.

Gobaria spent much of the game playing inside the tackles, but shined in his opportunity to show off his pass-rushing skills on the outside.

“I checked to make sure the quarterback wasn’t rolling out, when I saw that he wasn’t I just took off after him.”

Rated the No. 21 defensive lineman and No. 180 overall prospect in the 2022 class by 247 Sports, Gobaira raved about the All American Bowl experience.

“It’s been surreal being around so many players of this caliber,” he said. “Hopefully I can learn from this experience and keep getting better.”

O-line commit excited about Heistand hiring

One of new Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman’s first moves in his new position was bringing back former Irish offensive line coach Harry Heistand.

Heistand served in the position from 2012-17 at Notre Dame and was a big part of the team’s 2012 BCS National Title Game appearance. Heistand’s most recent coaching stint was with the Chicago Bears.

Though he hasn’t had a chance to meet with recruits yet, players like Lawrenceburg offensive lineman Ashton Craig seem enthused about working with their future position coach.

“I am pretty sure we are going to get on the phone and talk soon,” he said. “It’s obvious from what he’s done in the past that he’s really successful. He’s put a lot of guys into the NFL. I am excited to see what he can do for us.”

Future teammates already building a bond

With 11 Notre Dame commits across the two all-star rosters, the Irish were well represented all week in San Antonio. Only 10 dressed for Saturday's game.

Though the group was divided between the East and West rosters, the players used week-long event as an opportunity to build an early bond with their future teammates. They tried to get together for meals and other team meetings whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“They’re great guys,” linebacker Nolan Ziegler said. “We all get along. It’s been great getting to practice and compete against each other.

“To have 11 players here — the most of any school — that’s just a testament to all the hard work this group has been putting in for the last four years,” Merriweather said. “We have a chance to be a really special group. I feel like this is a step in the right direction.”

Aiden Gobaira and Joshua Burnham not only roomed together throughout the week, they will be roommates in college as well.

“It’s been great (rooming together),” Gobaira said. “I am super stoked to be actually planning for college in the near future.”

Added Burnham,  “It’s been cool building all of these connections.”

Other Irish commits

Punter Bryce McFerson had a nice game with three punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Tyson Ford recorded one tackle in the second quarter. Billy Schrauth and Aamil Armella earned playing time on the offensive line.