The first signing day of the 2019 recruiting class is near, and after that is a downhill slope leading directly into 2020. The Irish already have quarterback Drew Pyne joined by tight ends Kevin Bauman and Michael Mayer for the next class, but there are many targets left on the board that can have a significant impact on the quality of this upcoming recruiting class.
With that said, we’re going to take a look at 10 recruits that can make or break the Class of 2020, in no particular order. A caveat: this isn’t a situation where the Irish need to land all 10 recruits to avoid a failure. Batting .500 on this list would be a success for Notre Dame, while anything lower would appear to be a marked failure - although the recruiting big board for 2020 is definitely subject to change so this isn’t necessarily the case.
Without further ado, let’s get right into it:
10 Recruits That Can Make or Break the Class of 2020
RB/WR AJ Henning
- Height/Weight: 5’10” / 170 lbs
- From: Frankfort, IL
- Rankings: #25 (247) / #68 (Rivals)
AJ Henning is one of the top targets for the Irish coaching staff and has been one for months now. He was at one point considered a clear Irish lean, but Ohio State came in and has made this a battle - even potentially taking the lead for Henning away from the Irish. But, Henning battled through injuries this past season and Ohio State cooled on him. The Irish appear to be back in the driver’s seat because of that.
Henning is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands. He’s an effective gadget player that can line up in the backfield or out wide, and hurt the defense from a multitude of positions. Pairing him with Drew Pyne will be a priority for the Irish, as this is a duo that could make waves in the coming years.
LB Kalel Mullings
- Height/Weight: 6’2” / 215 lbs
- From: Boston, MA
- Rankings: #144 (247) / #82 (Rivals)
Kalel Mullings is being recruited as an outside linebacker by the Irish, but he has garnered a bit of interest as a running back as well. He hails from Boston, MA and attends Milton Academy - which is the same high school as Irish kicker Justin Yoon. Mullings has already visited Notre Dame multiple times, the last coming on July 27. This appears to be a Michigan - Notre Dame battle at this juncture.
If you weren’t sure just based off the interest in him at both linebacker and running back, Mullings is a superb athlete. He has sideline to sideline ability, and projects nicely at the Buck position in Clark Lea’s defense. Landing him would be a great addition to the defense for the coaching staff.
OL Andrew Raym
- Height/Weight: 6’5” / 300 lbs
- From: Broken Arrow, OK
- Rankings: #28 (247)
Andrew Raym has expressed interest in Notre Dame, and unofficially visited last October for the beatdown of USC. But, being from Oklahoma, the Irish are likely playing catch-up here to the Sooners. But the pedigree of offensive lineman at Notre Dame has caught his interest, no doubt.
Raym is, simply put, a mauler. While comparing any offensive line recruit to Quenton Nelson is far from fair, that is the mold that Raym is in. He is a tank on the football field, looking to obliterate anyone unfortunate enough to be in his path. And like Nelson, Raym likely projects to the Guard position. Having Raym follow up a class that consisted of studs like Andrew Kristofic, Quinn Carroll, and Zeke Correll would be ridiculous. And that might be an understatement.
WR Jordan Johnson
- Height/Weight: 6’2” / 180 lbs
- From: DeSmet, MO
- Rankings: #96 (247) / #45 (Rivals)
Jordan Johnson is one the Irish coaching staff would love to have. This WR from Missouri has said all the right things since visiting for Notre Dame’s Junior Day back on March 3rd, even saying his mom “loved” the university. Missouri isn’t exactly a pipeline state for the Irish, but Notre Dame appears to be a top contender for the junior talent at this point. That’s a major positive for the Irish, too, as Johnson has said that he wants to commit before his senior season.
While AJ Henning is a fantastic player for any offense to pick up, Johnson may be even better. This is a big, fast, and strong receiver. His route running is good given the level of experience, but his supreme athletic ability is what pops out on tape. A quick comparison for him at this point is a slightly more athletic Kevin Austin, which Notre Dame would obviously take in a heartbeat.
DL Darrion Henry
- Height/Weight: 6’6” / 260 lbs
- From: Cincinnati, Ohio
- Rankings: #61 (247)
Darrion Henry has been high on the Irish for some time now. He was an early target from the coaching staff, getting his offer back in March at the Junior Day along with Jordan Johnson. Of course, with Henry being from Ohio, Ohio State is going to put up quite the fight. Michigan also figures to be stiff competition for the standout defensive lineman.
Henry is listed as a strongside defensive end by recruiting services, but at 6’6” 260 lbs, he could definitely grow into an interior defensive lineman. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he flexed between the two positions either. Henry’s a promising defensive lineman with the length and athletic potential that coaches covet. Landing (and subsequently developing) him would be quite the victory for the Irish coaching staff, and a good way to follow up a solid 2018 D-Line class.
DB Lejond Cavazos
- Height/Weight: 6’0” / 186 lbs
- From: Bradenton, FL
- Rankings: #357 (247) / #130 (Rivals)
Lejond Cavazos was a longtime target for the Irish despite his commitment to Ohio State back on June 27th. Well, with the retirement of Urban Meyer, Cavazos reopened his recruitment and is supposedly in talks with the Irish about setting up a date to visit. Don’t be fooled by his ranking by 247, this guy is an athlete that Ohio State wanted in their backfield. That should tell you all you need to know about his ability.
Cavazos is listed as a safety by Rivals and a cornerback by 247, but in all reality, the position doesn’t make a huge difference. Much like Houston Griffith, Cavazos can play both. Regardless of where, you want him in the defensive backfield. He is a good athlete, a playmaker, and has solid size. What more can you ask for?
RB Chris Tyree
- Height/Weight: 5’9” / 180 lbs
- From: Chester, VA
- Rankings: #32 (247) / #55 (Rivals)
Chris Tyree got his offer from Notre Dame on May 2nd, and the Irish have been fighting both Penn State and Virginia Tech ever since. Penn State is widely perceived as the leader here, but there is a long way to go. Tyree just recently put out a top 10 that included Notre Dame, which is obviously a good sign. Closing the gap on Penn State is the next step to take.
Tyree is an athlete of a similar caliber to AJ Henning. On the smaller side, but deceptively shifty and extremely fast. Tyree was clocked at a 4.38 back in April, and while that number is likely a bit inflated, it should give an idea just what kind of speed we’re talking about here. Listed as an all-purpose back, Tyree has exceptional receiving ability as well. He would be a great pull for the Irish - but they’re certainly not the front-runner at this point, so don’t hold you’re breath.
S Darius Snow
- Height/Weight: 6’1” / 216 lbs
- From: Carollton, TX
- Rankings:#109 (247) / #120 (Rivals)
Darius Snow is another longtime target for the Irish, receiving his offer back on May 11th. He visited on June 21st as well, showing some interest in the university. Snow is a top target on the back end of the defense for the Irish and got a visit from Terry Joseph just over a week ago. As of right now, Texas and Michigan State appear to be out in front of the pack.
Darius Snow is an outstanding athlete at the safety position, with the desired size and length for the strong safety position. Snow is an absolute thumper who plays with a downhill, attacking mentality. This is a guy who doesn’t hesitate to lower his shoulder and lay into his opponents. Aggression like his is exactly what the Terry Joseph and Clark Lea want at the safety position.
DL Rylie Mills
- Height/Weight: 6’5” / 270 lbs
- From: Lake Forest, IL
- Rankings: #145 (247) / #152 (Rivals)
Much of what was said about Darrion Henry can be said about Rylie Mills. Mills is a long time target of Notre Dame, is in good proximity to the university, and there will indubitably be some local competition to fend off. What the Irish have going for them with Mills, however, is that they appear to be in the lead as of now. Keeping it that way is the hard part.
Mills is a big bodied defensive lineman who - again, like Henry - has the size to end up at either strongside defensive end or as an interior defensive lineman. Mills is an overpowering lineman who uses his size and strength to his advantage, rather than employing much finesse to his game. To put it another way, he is much more Stephon Tuitt than he is Khalid Kareem. With some time under Matt Balis, Mills could be a terror for opposing quarterbacks.
Some Honorable Mentions:
Mekhail Sherman is a big time LB/DE recruit out of St. John’s College in Washington DC. He has great athleticism and speed off the edge reminiscent of Julian Okwara. He is also the former teammate of Irish players Kofi Wardlow and DJ Brown. That being said, the Irish are on the outside looking in on this one - Ohio State seems to be the clear leader. Sherman is rated as the #5 overall player by 247, and #9 overall by Rivals.
Offensive lineman Kevin Pyne is also a huge (literally) target for the Irish. Listed at 6’7” 275 lbs, Pyne has the length and athleticism of Mike McGlinchey, but his technique leaves some to be desired. It should also be mentioned that he is the cousin of quarterback commit Drew Pyne. The Irish are the consensus leaders for this one. 247Sports ranks him as the #282 overall player, while rivals has him all the way up at #21 overall.