Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2020

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

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Page 44 of 55 OCT. 17, 2020 45 FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY MIKE SINGER L ast December, I wrote an article titled "Can Notre Dame Complete A Peach State Trifecta?" that was published on Fast-forward 10 months, and we finally have an answer: Yes — but there were some twists and turns along the way. Notre Dame landed a commit- ment last summer from Hartwell (Ga.) Hart County tight end Cane Berrong, who debuted as a top-200 prospect per Rivals but has dropped down to a three-star ranking, despite consistently impressing Blue & Gold Illustrated in person. Whether Berrong is a five-star or a two-star, his offer sheet, his docu- mented 40-yard dash time of 4.53 as a sophomore in high school, and his ever-improving game as a blocking and receiving tight end show off his skill set. Four months after Berrong com- mitted, the Irish landed its first two wide receiver pledges of the 2021 class when Athens (Ga.) Academy's Deion Colzie and Pickerington (Ohio) Central's Lorenzo Styles Jr. joined the fold during the weekend of the USC game last October. Styles, who is currently ranked as the nation's No. 41 overall prospect, has been strong in his commitment, but Colzie decommitted from the Irish in March. However, the Irish staff never gave up and outlasted the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Ten- nessee for his pledge once again. He announced his news Sept. 28. "The coaching staff did a great job of continuing to reach out to me, re- cruit me hard and staying with me," Colzie said. "They rebuilt a strong relationship with me and my family after I decommitted, and over time I just realized that Notre Dame is the school for me." Rewinding back to November 2019, the Irish staff offered Atlanta Pace Academy wide receiver Jayden Thomas while he was on campus for Notre Dame's victory against Vir- ginia Tech. "I like Coach Del Alexander a lot," Thomas said following his visit. "He really knows what he's doing. With what he's doing with Chase Clay- pool, I could see myself going there." From our point of view, the Irish were hot and cold with Thomas dur- ing the recruiting process. In March, Thomas told Rivals the schools that he was in touch with the most were Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. He did not include Notre Dame in that group and had those other four schools atop his list because they were in consistent contact with him. The following month, Thomas told Blue & Gold Illustrated that he was speaking weekly with the Irish, but it was safeties coach Terry Joseph in communication. At that point, the Irish were looking at Thomas as a defensive back, a position he has played at the high school level. There was a shift in May, when Fighting Irish wide receivers coach Del Alexander and offensive coordi- nator Tommy Rees re-entered the re- cruitment. Notre Dame quickly took the lead when they got serious with him as a receiver. Thomas announced his pledge to the Irish Oct. 2 over fellow finalists Arkan- sas and Georgia. And with his pledge, the Peach State trifecta was complete. There was a lot to overcome in the past 10 months. Berrong stuck with Notre Dame despite offensive coordi- nator and position coach Chip Long departing the program. Colzie decom- mitted from the Irish, and there seemed like a slim chance he'd rejoin the class, but he did just that. And for Thomas, there was a several-month process he had to go through with the Irish staff. From the 2018 to 2022 recruiting classes, the Irish have added or will add 10 players from Georgia. Notre Dame didn't land anyone from the Peach State in the 2020 cycle, but have three pass catchers hailing from the state in the 2021 class and already have Milton (Ga.) High tight end Jack Nickel committed in 2022. Berrong, Colzie and Thomas also share the same coach. The latter two have been training at the Terrence Edwards' Wide Receiver Academy since they were in middle school, and Berrong also has been learning under Edwards. "Deion is just that monster," said Edwards, the Georgia Bulldogs' all- time career receiving leader. "He's so big, but he can sink his hips and catches the 50/50 balls. He can catch a hitch and break a tackle and take it 80 yards. He's one of those guys who may not look that fast, but he's a long strider. He breaks a defensive back's cushion very fast. "Cane hasn't even scratched his po- tential yet. He's so freaking athletic and fast. He's going to the right situation at Notre Dame with how they use their tight ends. You look at the guys they have in the league right now, and he's going to fit right along with them. He catches the ball effortlessly, but what stands out about him is his athleticism. That sets him apart from everyone else. "Jayden's IQ of the game is very high. He hasn't even tapped into his potential. He still has a lot of growing to do. His ball skills are off the charts right now. He can run every pattern on the route tree, and he's deceptively fast. He's not a twitchy kid, but with his straight-line speed, people will be very surprised how fast he is." Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee were common schools on the offer sheets of Notre Dame's Peach State trifecta of Ber- rong, Colzie and Thomas. ✦ Hartwell (Ga.) Hart County's Cane Berrong — the nation's No. 30 tight end per Rivals — may be overlooked as a three-star prospect, but he com- mitted to Notre Dame over elite schools such as Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Penn State and many others in June 2019. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM Notre Dame Completes A Peach State Trifecta

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