The main theme of the post game press conference from Brian Kelly following the loss against Clemson in the 2018 playoffs was they need more skill. He felt his Irish team could match up physically with the eventual national champions along the lines, but they were undone by far greater skill from the Tigers. Their receiving corps outplayed Notre Dame’s secondary, while the Irish offense could not create space from their counterparts.
The goal for the 2020 recruiting class was clear: acquire more top-end talent from the skill positions on offense. Heading into the 2019 season, Notre Dame had zero offensive skill players ranked in the composite top 50 per 247 sports. They only boast one five star player on the roster at large, right guard Tommy Kraemer, so an overall boost in talent is badly needed.
With the trio of running back Chris Tyree, wide receiver Jordan Johnson, and tight end Michael Mayer, Brian Kelly can consider it mission accomplished. Those three players are ranked #25, #28, and #48 overall, all offer the potential to play immediately and could be what will take Notre Dame to new heights offensively.
A downside of the way Notre Dame does their business in recruiting nowadays is these three players have been locked up for many months before their official signing today, and thus the excitement regarding their acquisitions has been tempered. But, we shouldn’t lose sight of how important their signings are and what it means.
5-10, 179, .9842 composite rating, five star, #25 overall, #1 All-Purpose back
Other offers: Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU
Tyree is seen by many as the biggest get in this class because he A.) is the highest rated B.) plays running back C.) has a skill set at the position that no one else currently possesses. He’s gone to the Opening Finals two years in a row and won the fastest man competition, beating everyone at the camp of elite national prospects in the 40-yard dash. He reportedly ran a 4.37 at the camp, and he also led all players in receptions during the 7 on 7 tournament with over 20.
It is the receiving portion of his game that attracted him to Notre Dame, as his position coach Lance Taylor coached dual threat, Christian McCaffrey, at Stanford. It is widely believed that without Taylor on board, Tyree doesn’t matriculate to South Bend, so Taylor was quite a coup for Brian Kelly in that respect.
Tyree missed a good portion of his senior season with a high ankle sprain, something he fought through late in the year, but it shouldn’t be an issue for him once he steps on campus.
One has to think if he can prove himself able to secure the ball and picks up the offense quick enough, he can have an immediate impact on offense next season. As stated above, no one possesses his skillset, so as a change of pace, he’s the one to go to, and his versatility catching the ball is invaluable. Likely not a lead back situation, but as we saw from Braden Lenzy last season, just a few touches from an extremely explosive player can change a game.
6-2, 180, .9834 composite, five star, #28 overall, #4 wide receiver
Other offers: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ohio State, USC
Johnson represents the first five-star wide receiver to sign with Notre Dame since Michael Floyd in 2008, and if you remember, Floyd had a pretty instant impact freshman season to the tune of 48 receptions for 719 yards and 7 touchdowns. Johnson is not as big as Floyd was, but he’s probably faster and shiftier in the open field, and at 6-2, he’s definitely not on the short side.
The only weakness one could point out in Johnson’s game is the offense he played under; they were a predominantly running team, so the passing game wasn’t as sophisticated as some other schools. The transition to the college game could present some challenges for him early on, but on talent alone, he’s got a shot to see the field.
He’s got the top end speed to separate from defenders on deep routes, is elusive after the catch, and has tremendous ball skills. The biggest issue will be acclimating to the college game, but if he can do that quickly, he has the talent to see the field. This is the fun part about getting five-star prospects; they’re generally ready to go from the start. That’s why they’re five stars!
6-5, 240, .9772 composite, four star, #48 overall, #2 tight end
Other offers: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State
One thing you’ll notice is all three of these players were offered scholarships by Alabama, LSU, and Ohio State, three programs of some success over the last few seasons. Just something worth pointing out.
In most classes, Mayer would be the crown jewel, but because of Tyree and Johnson, he’s taken a bit of a back seat. The interesting thing is of the three players; I’m most confident Mayer will be a star. First, he is a monster at 6-5, 240, and he’s built incredibly solid. He’s a guy who will physically walk on campus and be ready to go.
Second, Mayer is dominant as a receiver. He knows how to gain leverage as a route runner, use his body to shield defenders, has natural hands, and no one out fights him for the ball. He displayed this during the year, and at the Opening Finals against the top defenders nationally.
Third, he’s tremendous after the catch and has a nose for the end zone. Fourth, he’s a very willing and physical blocker. There are probably some technique issues he can work out, but he’s not afraid to mix it up.
Fifth, he’s one of these competitors who seems like he’s never lost at anything in his life.
So this is all good news. About Mayer. About Tyree and Johnson. It’s all good and fun. They’ve been official members of the Notre Dame team for mere hours now, so who knows how things ultimately pan out. But, for now, it’s an exciting time, and this is just what the doctor ordered for Kelly and Notre Dame.