2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 154 of 163

BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ✦ 153 Oklahoma, Tennessee, UCLA, Utah, Wash- ington and Washington State. 247Sports listed Henderson as an "ath- lete," while Rivals dubbed him a cornerback, which he is expected to play at Notre Dame. With Henderson's speed and range, he could switch to safety if needed. The Irish emphasize taking prospects who can move around to different positions, as Polian said in his aforementioned tweet. Notre Dame's other two 2020 defensive back signees possess position flexibility as well. Offord, a 6-1, 184-pounder who Rivals listed as the No. 44 player in Mississippi, has the size, length and wide hips to play safety. He picked the Irish over offers from Ar- kansas, Duke, Houston, Kansas, Louisville, Purdue and Vanderbilt. Three weeks into his Notre Dame commitment, he added Okla- homa to his offer sheet, and many thought he may flip to the Sooners. "I was very surprised," Offord told Blue & Gold Illustrated soon after receiving the Oklahoma offer. "It really came out of no- where. My mind didn't change at all. I felt that I needed to post [about it on social me- dia] out of being thankful for the offer. As far as my [Notre Dame] commitment, my mind didn't change at all." Notre Dame's first defensive back pledge in the class came from Clarence Lewis on June 10, 2019. The Middletown (N.J.) Ma- ter Dei three-star talent picked Notre Dame over Boston College, Duke, Kentucky, Min- nesota, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Vir- ginia Tech, West Virginia and others. Lewis very well could be the sleeper in the class. He is not discussed much and his talent is still raw, but he was more of a wide receiver in high school and excelled at the position on that level. He'll be asked to line up at defen- sive back in college, and his 6-0, 180-pound frame and athletic traits will give him an op- portunity to make an impact down the road. Henderson, Lewis and Offord weren't the top-of-the-board targets for the Irish, who hoped to land a premier defensive back haul in 2020. Each of the signees has the upside to make an impact in South Bend, but do they help Notre Dame knock off the Alabamas or Clemsons of the world? This brings us to our next point … Closing The Gap? Notre Dame has accumulated a 33-6 re- cord since its abysmal 4-8 finish in 2016. Some Irish fans believe that is a laudable feat and Brian Kelly has gotten the program back on the right track. Others focus on Notre Dame's results in the "big games," which would include the 2018 College Football Playoff tilt where Clemson cruised past Kelly's squad. The 2020 class checked in at No. 22 na- tionally per Rivals, which isn't even in the 10-15 range where the Irish have finished eight times in the Kelly era (which doesn't include a top-five group in 2013). There is context that should be con- sidered, however. Rivals' team recruiting rankings take into account a squad's top 20 prospects. When a school signs less than 20 players, it immediately puts them at a disadvantage. If the Irish signed three more players with a modest 5.5 Rivals recruit ranking (the low- est designation for a three-star prospect) to reach 20 signees, then Notre Dame would've catapulted from No. 22 all the way up to No. 14, one spot ahead of Oklahoma, which inked 23 total recruits. When sorting the 2020 class by average stars per recruits, Notre Dame's group was No. 12 in the country. The Irish finished with an average of 3.59, ahead of No. 10 Auburn, No. 11 Michigan, No. 14 Penn State, No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 20 Florida State, among many others. Notre Dame's 2020 class is also top heavy. It is headlined by the offensive skill quartet plus highly regarded prospects on both sides of the line. It's relatively safe to assume this class will help the Irish continue to win 10 games on an annual basis. The issue is whether this group helps Notre Dame close the gap on the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma — schools that are consistently competing for a national championship. When September 2022 rolls around, Notre Dame's 2020 recruiting class will be enter- ing its junior season. The Irish travel to Ohio State and host Clemson that season. The fol- lowing year, the Irish face both teams again, with locations of the games swapped. It will be the 2020 class for Notre Dame that will be largely pitted against those col- lege football titans' 2020 classes. Clemson's 2020 recruiting class ranked No. 2, while the Buckeyes finished at No. 5. It's impossible to know right now if Notre Dame's current recruiting efforts will help them close the national championship gap, but the spotlight will be on them in a couple of years to see if it can. ✦ Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty product Ramon Hender- son was ranked by Rivals as just a three-star talent and the nation's No. 60 cornerback, but 247Sports listed him as a four-star prospect and the No. 280 overall player in the land. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM Football Recruiting Is HERE! Get A FREE 60-Day Trial • Promo Code Irish60 BlueAn BlueAndGold.com dGold.com Daily Team Coverage Expert Analysis Recruiting Scoop Prospect Videos Lively Message Boards Final 2020 Class Rankings Rivals 22 247Sports 17 ESPN 14

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