The Notre Dame football program looked completely different a year ago, right around the time 2022 tight end signees Eli Raridon and Holden Staes committed to play college football for the blue and gold.
It was early May 2021. Brian Kelly was the Irish head coach, Tommy Rees was the offensive coordinator and John McNulty was in charge of the tight end room. Fast forward almost 13 months, and only Rees remains as the two players are set to move to South Bend in mid-June.
Last week, four-star recruits Raridon and Staes detailed the initial moments after they found out McNulty was departing Notre Dame to be the Boston College offensive coordinator, a move which was finalized in February.
“It was startling at first,” Raridon said. “Everyone was panicking. I couldn’t even think straight when it happened. But I was talking to my dad, and I was like ‘I didn’t choose the school because of a coach.’ So I was pretty locked in.”
If any recruit understands the reasons to go to Notre Dame beyond a position coach, it’s Raridon. His aforementioned father, Scott, played football for the Irish under former head coach Charlie Weis. His grandfather was the Notre Dame strength and conditioning coach when Lou Holtz ran the program. The eldest Raridon was present for the 1988 national championship, the last title the Irish brought back to South Bend.
“It’s just kind of scary being unsure of the coaching staff,” Raridon added. “It worked out because we have pretty much all of the same coaches, and I love Coach (Gerad) Parker. I’m super confident in him. I think he’s a great coach and a great guy. I’m excited.”
The confidence is mutual, especially after new tight ends coach Parker got a closer look at the 6-6, 228-pound multi-sport athlete.
“I got here, got settled and learned who he was,” Parker said this spring. “I watched his basketball highlight, and I was like, ‘Holy s—!’ I sent it to my brother, and my brother also texts back, ‘Holy s—!’
“So that’s a good start. There’s a pretty good mold there of things he can do.”
Staes, a former Penn State commit out of Atlanta Westminster, really enjoyed getting to know McNulty and was excited to play for him, but he’s equally thrilled about working with Parker.
“I committed to Coach McNulty, and we had a really good relationship,” States said. “But you can’t be mad at him for taking the promotion at Boston College.”
Parker immediately reached out to build a relationship with Staes in his first few months, and the two had been talking weekly until they met at the Blue-Gold Game on April 23. Staes’ parents and Parker’s family got to link up as well.
“It’s been great to start (getting to know Coach Parker), and I’m looking forward to building the relationship.”