2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 158 of 163

BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ✦ 157 BY ANDREW MENTOCK A fter a dominating performance at the 2019 Rivals 3 Stripe Camp last June, Jordan Johnson earned an il- lustrious fifth star to the right of the headshot on his Rivals recruiting profile. It was less than three months after the St. Louis De Smet Jesuit wide receiver committed to Notre Dame. After seeing news of his fifth star on social media, Johnson described his mood as "lit." The designation far from guarantees that he will become a superstar in South Bend, but it is indicative of his enormous potential. That is all recruiting rankings are about anyway: potential. Year after year, the teams that attract the most sought-after high school prospects — the players with the highest ceilings and floors — seem to end up com- peting for the national championship. It is not an exact science. Some five-star players are busts, but more often than not those prospects end up playing on Sundays. For Notre Dame football to truly wake up the echoes once again — which will come only with another national championship — signing players of Johnson's ilk must become a more common occurrence. That is easier said than done. There are, on average, 32 prospects with the five-star designation in each recruiting cycle. How many of those players could get into Notre Dame, which has higher academic and cultural-fit standards? Geography For decades, Notre Dame benefited from a national recruiting base. Even to this day, the Fighting Irish attract players from every corner of the United States, from Hawai'i to Florida to Minnesota. This is somewhat out of necessity. Notre Dame can recruit only a player with a certain academic profile — and the coaching staff travels far and wide to find said prospects. The program's long-standing college foot- ball history and success, the national televi- sion contract with NBC and the school's academic pedigree have allowed the Irish to recruit in this manner. But that doesn't mean it's easy to pull a five-star recruit out of his home region. Since 2016, Notre Dame has signed two Rivals five-star prospects in Daelin Hayes (class of 2016) and Johnson (class of 2020). Both are from midwestern states, with Hayes hailing from nearby Michigan, while Johnson grew up a six-hour drive away in St. Louis. A similar trend exists for other recruit- ing powerhouses. In that same time span, Georgia has signed the second-most five-star prospects in college football with 19. Of those 19 athletes, 15 come from Georgia or a bordering state. AIM FOR THE STARS Notre Dame's pursuit of the illustrious five-star prospect Class of 2020 wide receiver Jordan Johnson of St. Louis De Smet Jesuit was the first five-star prospect Notre Dame signed in four years. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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