Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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30 FEBRUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY LOU SOMOGYI T h e e a r l y s i g n i n g p e r i o d (Dec. 18‑20) for the class of 2020 in college football saw 18 high school seniors sign their let‑ ters of intent for Notre Dame — the last from Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty three‑star cornerback Ramon Hen‑ derson, who had remained uncom‑ mitted until Dec. 18. Outside of Henderson, this group had long been assembled, with Ne‑ braska wide receiver Xavier Watts giving the Fighting Irish their 17th pledge in this cycle way back on July 5 to virtually complete the class. Irish head coach Brian Kelly indi‑ cated how the early signing period is actually "the signing period" for Notre Dame. He elaborated that if any player joins in the February process for 2020, it would be on offense (last year the lone late addition in February was Cal‑ ifornia defensive end Isaiah Foskey). In terms of re‑ cruiting rankings, it remains status quo. The usual suspects — Clem‑ son, Alabama and Ohio State — are at the top, along with Georgia and LSU. Since 2014, Notre Dame generally ranks in the No. 10 to No. 15 range, and this year was no exception with 247Sports placing the Irish No. 11, ESPN No. 13 and Rivals No. 15. One of the reasons why the Irish didn't crack the top 10 again is be‑ cause of the lower amount of recruits that could be signed after bringing in 22 last year and 27 the year prior (of which 24 remain). Per NCAA limits, a team cannot have more than 85 on scholarship entering a season. Whereas class strengths in recent recruiting cycles concentrated on both lines, linebacker, tight end and safety, this year's haul centers on the glamour positions on offense and at cornerback on defense. Headlining the harvest are four of Rivals' top‑50 players: St. Louis De Smet Jesuit five‑star wide re‑ ceiver Jordan Johnson (No. 25), and four‑star figures in Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic tight end Mi‑ chael Mayer (No. 37), Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale running back Chris Tyree (No. 43) and Phoenix Pinnacle offensive tackle Tosh Baker (No. 48). Tyree joined Johnson as a five‑star prospect on 247Sports. Four others were classified among the Rivals250: New Canaan (Conn.) High quarterback Drew Pyne (No. 118), Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic tight end Kevin Bauman (No. 130), Lake Forest (Ill.) High defensive tackle Rylie Mills (No. 161) and Honolulu St. Louis de‑ fensive end Jordan Botelho (No. 198). Here were primary talking points from head coach Brian Kelly: 1. Early Enrollees Since its first admission of early enrollees in 2006, Notre Dame has had 62 in those 14 years from 2006‑19 — with a record 10 last year. When the spring term begins on Jan. 13, 2020, eight will begin their academic work, along with winter conditioning and then spring drills, which usually commence in early March: Botelho, Henderson, Mills, Pyne and Watts, Shrewsbury (Mass.) Saint John's three‑star wide receiver Jay Brunelle, Dusseldorf (Germany) Theodor‑Fliedner Gymnasium three‑ star defensive end Alexander Ehrens‑ berger and Southaven (Miss.) High three‑star cornerback Caleb Offord. Also enrolling in January will be Ohio State graduate transfer safety Isaiah Pryor. 2. Speed And Corner Coverage Prior to the 2019 season, Kelly indi‑ cated the areas that most separated top‑ 10 Notre Dame from the first‑tier group led by Clemson and Alabama is the speed and game‑breaking explosive‑ ness at the skill positions and corner‑ back, although graduating senior Troy Pride Jr. could match anyone in speed. But in Tyree at running back and Johnson at receiver, they found such players and that caliber of skill. Tyree ran the fastest 55 meters (6.30) in the nation last February among high school athletes, and defended his title as the Fastest Man at the prestigious The Opening camp during the summer with a 4.37 in the 40‑yard dash. Recruiting coor‑ dinator Brian Po‑ lian said landing speed particularly was important at cornerback, a top position of need in the 2020 where the Irish signed four. All are considered "developmental" three‑stars, but Polian said the home‑ work on them was thorough among the defensive staff. "We watched these young men work out at track, in spring football," Polian said. "… We have verified times on every one of them, whether it be a track time, a 40 time at a camp, we know more about this group than we probably do any group the last couple of years." 3. Overcoming Chip Long's Departure On Dec. 11, third‑year offensive co‑ ordinator Chip Long and the Fighting Irish parted ways. That can be unnerv‑ ing one week prior to the early signing period, especially because Long was recognized as a stellar recruiter. However, Kelly said that deep, long‑ standing relationships with the entire EARLY RESULTS Among 18 Notre Dame players signed in the 2020 recruiting cycle, 17 had committed by July 5 St. Louis De Smet Jesuit five-star wide receiver Jordan Johnson — Rivals' No. 25 overall player in the country — headlines a top-15 Irish class that focused on the glamour positions on offense and cornerback on defense. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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