Notre Dame has found its future quarterback.
After months of adversity, speculation and uncertainty, Hendersonville (Tenn.) Pope John Paul II senior passer Kenny Minchey has ended it all, announcing his commitment to the Irish on Tuesday. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Minchey’s pledge comes eight days after decommitting from the University of Pittsburgh.
Rivals ranks Minchey as the No. 14 pro style quarterback and no. 9 players in Tennessee.
Amid his decision to back off his commitment to Pitt, the three-star passer scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame from last Friday evening to Sunday morning. And it ended with Minchey informing head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees of his decision to join the Irish.
“It was definitely a cool moment,” Minchey told Inside ND Sports before making his commitment public. “Me and my parents knew headed up to the visit, that’s where I wanted to be. …
“(Freeman and Rees) were both excited. They were both pumped up. Dapping me up and stuff like that. Once I told them, they both had wide eyes, took a deep breath and were like, ‘You made me sweat a little bit.'”
Quarterback recruiting has been more than just a sweat for Notre Dame during the 2023 cycle.
Early in the process, the Irish identified five-star quarterback Dante Moore as the priority target, which put other elite targets such as Jackson Arnold, Avery Johnson and Christopher Vizzina on the back burner. But Moore, trending toward the Irish for weeks in the spring, ended up jilting them for Oregon on July 8. And by then Arnold, Johnson and Vizzina were already locked into their respective schools.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame received a commitment from highly rated 2024 four-star quarterback CJ Carr on June 9. After Carr committed to the Irish, the Saline (Mich.) High product had the option to reclassify to 2023. But with uncertainty surrounding Carr’s feelings About moving up a grade, Notre Dame turned back to the 2023 recruiting trail.
The Irish tried to flip Baylor commit Austin Novosad, who visited July 26. But Novosad rejected the Irish — as well as Texas A&M and Ohio State — days later, leading to Freeman and Rees offering Minchey a scholarship July 30.
While Minchey remained in communication with the Notre Dame staff since then, ND’s confidence in flipping him from Pittsburgh was low. The Irish investigated several potential targets — both new and old — but did not get any traction. That was until Minchey reinitiated his Irish interest with his official visit.
But things did not simply happen that quickly, according to Notre Dame’s quarterback commit. Rather, the Irish have been on his mind for quite some time.
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“I wouldn’t say it’s as rushed as people think,” Minchey told Inside ND Sports. “Because obviously, no one knows the whole story. Me and Rees have been in connection for the past year and a half.
“I feel like this has been going on since when they were offered. That’s when it really picked up — those conversations. Yeah, I wouldn’t say it went as fast as people think.”
Minchey’s first impression of Notre Dame came June 6, 2021, when he participated in a camp session. He arrived in South Bend that day with six Power 5 offers. Still, the Irish held off on extending an offer that day.
Five months later, Minchey concluded his junior season throwing for 3,280 yards while completing 215-351 (61.3%) passes for 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He added nine more offers, with Pitt being the only Power 5 school among them.
During his senior campaign, Minchey began his season by completing 47-64 (73.4%) passes for 768 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception through the first four games. However, a shoulder injury to his throwing arm sidelined him for the rest of the regular season.
Minchey returned for the team’s first-round playoff game on Nov. 5 and converted 19 of 33 (57.6%) throws for 260 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-14 win over Springfield Township. But six days later, he left the game after two passes with the same shoulder injury in a 38-14 loss to Interboro.
Although he ended his senior season on the sideline, Minchey’s shoulder injury doesn’t carry much concern moving forward. Less than two weeks from his concluding season, Minchey has been participating in throwing sessions with his trainer. Last Tuesday, Minchey accepted an invitation to the All-American Bowl, and there is no concern about him playing in the game.
In 26 high school games, Minchey connected on 367 of 584 (62.8%) of throws for 5,486 yards, 59 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His body of work not only warrants a likely Rivals rankings increase, but it also provides the Irish with an excellent quarterback that possesses elite skills.
“He’s a very accurate passer and has excellent footwork,” said Sean Williams, Rivals national recruiting analyst. “As a pro-style quarterback, he looks to pass first. He has excellent footwork. He can make plays with his legs, but he does a really good job of using his legs to create more space in the pocket. He’s always looking downfield to make a play.
“He doesn’t turn the ball over a lot. And that’s a big thing with him. He’s a really good leader. You can tell that everybody rallies around him. The quarterback class in Tennessee is really good, with four guys going to Power 5 schools, but Kenny is the best pure passer of the bunch.”
Minchey hails from the same high school as former Notre Dame star wide receiver Golden Tate. When Minchey signs with the Irish on Dec. 21, he’ll be the ninth player from Tennessee to join the Irish as a high school recruit in the Rivals era (since 2002) — following in the footsteps of players like Harrison Smith (2007), Alex Bars (2014) and Prince Kollie (2021), among others.
If Minchey reaches four-star status, he’ll be the fourth player of that caliber to sign with Notre Dame since Rees took over as quarterbacks coach in 2017 and eventually offensive coordinator in 2020. Minchey is the second quarterback Rees has flipped after previously landing former Wake Forest commit Brendon Clark in 2019.
Because Minchey is currently a three-star prospect, his commitment has no bearing on Notre Dame’s spot in the 2022 Rivals team rankings. The Irish still have the No. 2 class, trailing Alabama by 264 points. The Rivals team ranking formula only considers the top 20 players in a recruiting class. ND has 24 commits.
Though Minchey’s commitment might not have any current mathematical implications in recruiting rankings, he certainly greatly impacts Notre Dame’s 2023 class. Before he even had the chance to inform other commits, Minchey was put into a group chat with wide receiver commits Rico Flores Jr., Jaden Greathouse and Braylon James.
“They were pumped in the group chat,” Minchey said. “They were texting saying that it’s fun, and they’re glad I’m going to be throwing at them.”
Minchey plans to join the program in January as a mid-year enrollee. While there are 31 days until the early signing period window closes Dec. 23 — and schools like Ohio State and Texas A&M need quarterbacks — Minchey contends that his recruitment is over.
“Everything will be shut down,” Minchey said. “Just super excited after getting up there on campus, meeting the coaches. And excited to know that I have a place to call home and that I’m gonna be going to Notre Dame.”
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