Notre Dame signed 18 recruits today for a smaller class than we’ve been used to. While quantity might have been down this year, quality sure wasn’t. Notre Dame signed playmakers at almost every position and leaves today with elite talent they have missed out on in recent years. Here’s a rundown of some of the class superlatives in what figures to be a class that helps Notre Dame continue its chase towards being a perrenial playoff contender.
Biggest Get: RB Chris Tyree
Notre Dame hasn’t landed a composite 5-star running back since composite rankings were a thing. Greg Bryant was a 5-star on Rivals, but only on Rivals in 2013. With Tyree, the Irish added a dynamic running back with elite speed who is also a weapon in the passing game. He’ll need a bit of time to add some weight to his 180 lbs frame, but he has the chance to be an absolute monster in this offense working with running backs coach Lance Taylor. There will be comparisons to Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love because of the Taylor connection, and that is exactly what Notre Dame is hoping to get out of Tyree. He will have a role in the offense next fall without a doubt even though he is not one of the early enrollees for 2020.
Fills Biggest Need: RB Chris Tyree
It’s always good when the biggest get in the class also fills the biggest need in the class. That’s what happened with Tyree. Notre Dame was in desperate need of game-changing running back in 2019. It was painfully obvious when the Irish lost Jafar Armstrong for almost half of the season on the first drive of the season. Tony Jones Jr powered the running game at times, but no Irish running back ever found a grove after that USC game whether it be because of injury or needed more time to develop.
Enter Chris Tyree. He is the most dynamic running back Notre Dame has recruited in years and as mentioned above, will play in some capacity in 2020.
Most Overlooked: QB Drew Pyne
Everyone is already looking to class of 2021 quarterback commit Tyler Buchner because of the video game numbers he put up throughout the 2019 season and seemingly forgetting about Pyne. Let’s not forget, however, that for most of the year Pyne was a Top-100 overall recruit on Rivals and a participant in the Elite 11 finals. This kid has talent and isn’t coming to Notre Dame to fill out a depth chart, he is coming to play. After facing some lesser competition in Connecticut in his high school career he’ll need some time to acclimate to the elevated level of talent at Notre Dame, but enrolling early should help him do just that.
It seems crazy to list a 4-star quarterback with the accolades of Pyne overlooked, but most have been so focused on Buchner already that they’ve seemingly forgotten about Pyne. They shouldn’t.
Biggest Sleeper: DE Alexander Ehrensberger
I wrote in the early enrollment article that Notre Dame used to have to rely on taking developmental defensive linemen and hoping they panned out. That isn’t the case anymore, but at the same time, someone like Ehrensberger is pretty exciting because of how raw he is. Like Ade Ogundeji, don’t expect to see or hear too much from him early in his career, but if Mike Elston develops him like Ogundeji, he has a chance to be the biggest sleeper in this class.
What makes an addition like Ehrensberger so exciting now is that because Notre Dame isn’t dependant on someone like him turning out to be a diamond in the rough, they won’t be in a bind even if he doesn’t fully pan out.
Highest Floor Recruit: Jordan Johnson
Jordan Johnson rose up the recruiting rankings throughout this year to the point that he is the first 5-star receiver to come to Notre Dame since Michael Floyd. Like Floyd, it’s almost unfathomable to think that Johnson might not pan out. Like any recruit, there’s a chance he doesn’t reach superstardom for Notre Dame, but of all the recruits that Notre Dame added today, Johnson has the highest floor. I’ll be shocked if he isn’t in the receiver rotation next year already and even more surprised if he isn’t at least a solid contributor for years. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think Johnson won’t be a star – I do. It just means that I’m convinced that even if he doesn’t fully pan out, at the very least he’ll still be pretty damn good.
Highest Ceiling Recruit: Jordan Botelho
I alluded to this in the early enrollee post, but I think Botelho has the chance to be one of the most impactful recruits in this class if he fully develops. He’s a powerful edge rusher right now who if even can develop a pass-rushing repertoire has the chance to be a game-wrecker for the Irish. Botelho had some off the field issues this fall that will keep him out of the all-star games he was scheduled to play in so that will be an area that he’ll need to develop once he arrives on campus as well. He is one of the seven early enrollees in this class though so he’ll be able to get to work right away with Mike Elston.
Most Under-Rated Recruit: Xavier Watts
Jordan Johnson is rightfully the highest-rated receiver in this class for Notre Dame, but Watts is underrated as a composite 3-star recruit. This is a loaded year for wide receivers so that could be playing a role in Watts 3-star status on some services, but it’s hard to imagine there are 74 better wide receivers in the country (according to the 247 composite rankings) than Watts. He is an early enrollee who could end up seeing the field early for Notre Dame.
Instant Impact Recruit: Alex Pietsch
A week ago, I would not have listed long snapper Alex Pietsch as an instant impact recruit, but that was before we knew that John Shannon would be pursuing a career in law enforcement after the Camping World Bowl even though he has two years of eligibility remaining. With Shannon pursuing his post-football career early, there is a chance for Pietsch to see the field very early in his collegiate career – as in day one.
Biggest Miss: Clark Phillips
At one point it looked like Notre Dame was leading for 4-star cornerback Clark Phillips. That didn’t last long and things trended to Ohio State in a hurry with Notre Dame never recovering. In a year in which cornerback recruiting was a top priority, Phillips represented Notre Dame’s best chance at an elite corner. Notre Dame swung and missed here just like that did with several other top corner prospects.
Greg Flammang Adopted Recruit of the Year: Ramon Henderson
Every year Greg seems to latch on to one recruit that he really loves. His fascination with Kyle Hamilton from when he was a 3-star recruit all the way up until Hamilton’s impressive freshman campaign is legendary on Notre Dame Twitter. Before Hamilton, it was Shaun Crawford. Another defensive back has Greg’s eye now though and it’s Notre Dame’s most recent addition – Ramon Henderson. He’s referred to him as a faster Robert Blanton to me and has been comparing his track times with Braden Lenzy‘s. Get ready for some Ramon Henderson tweets throughout spring and fall camps folks since Henderson is also an early enrollee.
Strongest Unit: Wide Receiver
This was a toss-up for me between wide receiver and tight end because Notre Dame did really well at both positions. I went with wide receiver here based on thinking that both Watts and Jay Brunelle outplay their recruiting rankings by a lot – especially Watts but we already talked about that. As a group Notre Dame added a trio that really complimented each other well and added a potential dynamic game-changing in Johnson. That said, one couldn’t go wrong listing tight end here either with Michael Mayer and Kevin Bauman both rated as composite 4-star prospects. I’ll roll the dice with the wide receiver unit outplaying their rankings and ultimately being the strongest unit in this class.
Most Questionable Unit: Cornerback
Notre Dame added numbers at cornerback, but it felt like they grab bagged a little bit after missing out on their top targets like Phillips. Amongst Henderson, Caleb Offord, Landen Bartleson, and Clarence Lewis; Notre Dame did add some versatility and position flexibility (not all four will stay at corner long term) but overall, this was a miss in the class in of 2020.
Cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght has not developed a strong track record recruiting since joining the Irish staff and it’s safe to wonder if his lack of recruiting success might force one of those tough decisions Brian Kelly has said he isn’t afraid to make. I don’t know if we’re at that stage just yet, but cornerback recruiting is the one position that Notre Dame has struggled the most.