2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 156 of 163

BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ✦ 155 The Irish put an offer on the table to Cy- press (Texas) Fairbank's LJ Johnson, the No. 4 running back and No. 69 overall player according to Rivals, but several recruiting analysts project him to pick Texas A&M. While ranked as three-star prospects, Metairie (La.) Rummel's Logan Diggs, Del Valle (Texas) High's Tavierre Dunlap and Conroe (Texas) Oak Ridge's Alton Mc- Caskill all hold around 30 scholarship offers. Notre Dame joined the race for those pros- pects in May, but the staff hopes they will take the time with their respective recruiting processes so they can see South Bend before coming to a decision. Notre Dame could take two running backs in the 2021 class, but it is more likely the staff will sign one. Wide Receiver Committed: 1 Projected Take: 2-3 Synopsis: The Irish already have one of the nation's best playmakers commit- ted. Pickerington (Ohio) Central's Lorenzo Styles — Rivals' No. 7 wide receiver and No. 39 overall prospect nationally — pledged last October, but Notre Dame will have to fend off Michigan, Kentucky and others to hold on to the 6-1, 170-pounder. The Irish previously had a commitment from Athens (Ga.) Academy's Deion Colzie, who is listed as the nation's No. 11 wideout and No. 73 overall prospect by Rivals, but he backed off that pledge in March. Most pundits predict Colzie to land at Georgia, but the staff in South Bend will continue to fight for him. The highest-ranked receiver target on the board is Baltimore Mount St. Jo- seph's Dont'e Thornton Jr., who sits at No. 53 overall in Rivals' national rankings. Thornton was scheduled to visit Notre Dame in April but that was canceled due to the coronavirus dead period. Thornton has a top six of Ari- zona State, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oregon, USC and Virginia. The Irish have an uphill battle to land Colzie and Thornton but sit in a more favorable position for a few other talented pass catchers. Atlanta Pace Academy's Jayden Thomas, the No. 23 wide receiver and No. 131 player nationally per Rivals, is intrigued by Notre Dame and could be closing in on an Irish commitment. Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan and Virginia Tech are some of the others involved. Pleasant Grove (Ala.) High's Chris- tian Lewis and East Lansing (Mich.) High's Andrel Anthony, a pair of three- star talents, are also high on the Irish and would be considered solid lands. For a while, Notre Dame planned to take three receivers — and they still could — but the expectation, as of early June, is to sign two. Tight End Committed: 1 Projected Take: 1-2 Synopsis: Notre Dame has a pledge from Hartwell (Ga.) Hart County tight end Cane Berrong, a Rivals four-star prospect. Former tight ends coach Chip Long recruited Ber- rong, but when John McNulty was hired in March, he quickly built a strong relationship with the 6-4, 225-pounder. The staff would like to add a second tight end in the class if it believes he is an im- pact player. The top targets are Napa (Calif.) High's Brock Bowers, Rivals' No. 6 tight end and No. 106 overall player in the land, and Council Bluffs (Iowa) Lewis Central's Thomas Fidone, the country's No. 3 tight end and No. 62 overall recruit per Rivals. Notre Dame is pursuing both, but is not con- sidered the favorite to land either. The staff has been after Bowers and Fi- done for several months, while adding Little- ton (Colo.) Heritage's Erik Olsen to the offer board June 2. The 6-5, 235-pounder, who is listed as a four-star prospect and the No. 14 tight end in America by Rivals, is fired up about the Irish and is one to watch moving forward. Offensive Line Committed: 2 Projected Take: 4-5 Synopsis: There is a mixed bag when it comes to assessing Notre Dame offensive line recruiting in 2021. The Irish have two prospects committed and both are highly coveted recruits. Notre Dame beat out 30 other programs for Avon (Ind.) High's Blake Fisher, Rivals' No. 3 offensive tackle and No. 22 overall prospect nationally. Rivals views Chicago Marist's Pat Coogan as a three-star talent, but he chose the Irish over LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford and many others. Fisher can play guard or tackle in college, while Coogan is expected to man an interior spot. Notre Dame is also in a promising spot for Clarkston (Mich.) High's Rocco Spindler, who is ranked as the No. 3 guard and No. 56 overall recruit in the land by Rivals. The Irish are competing with LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State for his services, and many consider Notre Dame the team to beat, but it's no guarantee that he lands in South Bend. The Irish were in good position for many other top offensive line prospects early in the cycle but struck out on many of them. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Notre Dame to cancel important offensive line recruit- ing weekends, and several prospects who were scheduled to visit have now committed elsewhere. Don't be surprised to see the of- fensive line board expand this summer. They would love to add Lititz (Pa.) War- wick's Nolan Rucci, Rivals' No. 6 offensive tackle and No. 36 overall prospect nation- ally, but Clemson, Penn State and Wisconsin will be tough to beat out. Fridley (Minn.) Totino Grace's Joe Alt, the son of former Kansas City Chiefs' Pro Bowl lineman John Alt, is a new target on the board. His father played for Iowa, another top choice in his recruitment, but Alt is giving the Irish a close look. Defensive Line Committed: 3 Projected Take: 3-4 Synopsis: Last summer, the Irish landed their interior priority of the class. St. Peters (Mo.) Lutheran of St. Charles' Gabriel Rubio, the na- tion's No. 8 defensive tackle and No. 99 overall recruit according to Rivals, picked Notre Dame over Geor- gia, LSU, Ohio State and many others. He is a defensive linchpin for the 2021 group. Warwick (R.I.) Bishop Hendricken School's Jason Onye and Mans- field (Texas) Legacy's David Abiara pledged to the Irish this spring, giving Notre Dame two promising edge rush- ers. Onye committed without having visited South Bend and is considered very strong in his Irish pledge. Rivals rates Avon (Ind.) High four-star recruit and Notre Dame pledge Blake Fisher as the nation's No. 3 offensive tackle and No. 22 overall prospect. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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