The Notre Dame Fighting Irish inked most of its 2020 recruiting class today as 17 commits signed their national letter of intent this morning. Ramon Hernandez, a 4-star athlete, could also be joining this class when he announces his commitment around 3:30 CST this afternoon. The Irish have two more days to add recruits during the early signing period, which runs from December 18th-20th. We wanted to take a look at Notre Dame’s biggest recruiting wins thus far in the 2020 class.
1. Chris Tyree, Running Back
Irish fans can all take a deep breath as Chris Tyree was 1 of the 17 commits who signed earlier today. Tyree is among the most highly touted recruits to sign with the Irish during the Brian Kelly era. 247Sports Composite Rankings rates Tyree as a 5-star recruit, while ranking him as the 25th best overall recruit in the class, the #1 all-purpose back in the nation, and the #1 player in the state of Virginia. During his 4 year varsity career, Tyree totaled 3,930 rushing yards and 37 rushing touchdowns. Tyree stands 5’10’’ and weighs 179 lbs. Most importantly, he possesses something the Irish dearly lack, home run play-making capabilities. He was clocked at 4.37 seconds at The Opening this summer, winning the Fastest Man Competition. Tyree attended high school at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia. The Irish were able to beat out other finalists Alabama and Oklahoma for his services. The Irish have not landed a player of this caliber at the running back position since Greg Bryant, a five-star back and the #19 overall player in the 2013 class. I consider this to be the biggest win of the recruiting cycle based on the caliber of player, the number of elite programs the Irish went up against, and the need at the position for the upcoming season. Irish fans may be seeing a large dose of Tyree in the backfield during the next several years.
2. Jordan Johnson, Wide Receiver
The Irish were able to secure another top commit at a position that they have traditionally struggled to land top-tier talent. Johnson is the highest rated wide receiver to join the Irish since they signed Michael Floyd in 2008. Per 247Sports Composite Rankings, Johnson is rated as a 5-star recruit. He is ranked as the 28th best overall recruit in the class, the 4th best wide receiver nationally, and the #1 player in the state of Missouri. Jordan Johnson stands 6’ 2’’ and weighs 180 lbs. He hails from DeSmet High School and resides in Saint Louis, Missouri. The Irish came out ahead of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, and USC in his recruitment. Johnson racked up 28 catches, 721 yards, and 9 touchdowns during his senior season. I consider this to be a big win on the recruiting trail for the Irish staff due to the inability to recruit true game-changing players at this position (think Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State). The biggest gripe among Irish fans is the inability of our wide receivers to stretch the field. I think the addition of Johnson, along with the return of Kevin Austin, will open up the downfield passing game far more than in years past.
3. Rylie Mills, Defensive End
Mike Elston has continued his strong recruiting along the defensive line over the past several years with the addition of Rylie Mills. 247Sports Composite Rankings rates Mills as a 4-star recruit. He is the 8th best strong side defensive end nationally, the 4th best player in the state of Illinois, and the 164th overall recruit nationally. Mills stands 6’ 5’’ and weighs 275 lbs. Mills attended Lake Forest High School, the same high school that Tommy Rees attended. The two major programs the Irish beat out during his recruitment were the Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers. Despite a high ankle sprain that kept him out several weeks, Mills registered 45 tackles, 14 TFLS, and 5 sacks in only 7 games during his senior season. With the mass exodus of talent along the defensive line this season, it was imperative for the staff to continue to bring in top end talent along the defensive line. The Irish return a plethora of bodies along the line, including Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, which may make it difficult for Mills to see anything more than spot duty in 4 games to preserve his redshirt. Though we may not hear his name for a year or two, it is important for the Irish to continue to win these recruiting battles against regional rivals for elite talent in the Midwest. Mills will be an early enrollee for the Irish program.
4. Caleb Offord, Cornerback
Caleb Offord joins a select group of players in the Brian Kelly era to come from Mississippi to play for the Irish. So select, in fact, he is the only one in that group. A major reason I consider this to be a large recruiting victory for the Irish is that they were able to lure a player out of Mississippi for the first time since 1996. While it may not seem like a hotbed for talent, Mississippi actually produced sixteen 4 or 5-star recruits in the 2019 recruiting cycle (per 247Sports), which ranked 5th best in the country. The Irish are beginning to develop a trend of being able to go into SEC country to pull out select prospects. As for Offord, he stands 6’ 1’’ and weighs 180s lbs. He attended Southaven High School. The Irish were able to beat out the Oklahoma Sooners, Arkansas Razorbacks, and Purdue Boilermakers to secure his services. 247Sports Composite Rankings rates him as a 3-star prospect, the 37th best cornerback, and 13th best prospect in the state of Mississippi. Although Offord was clocked at a fairly average 4.61 second 40 yard dash in May, his unique length gives him a chance to develop into a lockdown cornerback at the boundary position. Given the lack of returning experience at the cornerback position next season, he may have the chance to see considerable playing time next season. Offord will be an early enrollee for the Irish program.
5. Xavier Watts, Wide Receiver
With the return of Scott Frost to the Nebraska program, one would think top recruits would be begging to join the Nebraska Cornhusker program. Alas, poor results on the field have allowed programs like Notre Dame to continue to pluck the best talent from the state. Watts is rated as a 3-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite Rankings. He is the 2nd best recruit in the state of Nebraska and the 75th best wide receiver nationally. He stands 6’1’’ and weighs 191 lbs. Watts attended Burke High School and resides in Omaha, Nebraska. Although Watts may not have the star ranking to go with it, he is an elite play-maker with the ball in his hands. He was clocked at 4.49 seconds in the 40 yard dash during his senior season. He possesses rare quickness, the ability to change direction, and advanced route running skills. These skills should allow him to succeed in the slot at Notre Dame. Watts recorded 61 receptions, 1,072 yards receiving, and 13 receiving touchdowns during his senior season. Additionally, Watts played safety during his high school career. Though the need at the position is low after inking Ohio State transfer, Isaiah Pryor, Watts could also receive a look on defense. Notre Dame defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Michigan Wolverines, and Iowa Hawkeyes in his recruitment. Watts will be an early enrollee for the Irish program. I consider this to be a sleeper recruiting win for the Irish due to the raw athletic talent that Watts possesses and their ability to lure him away from the in-state Cornhuskers.
Let me know your thoughts on who you consider to be among the top 5 wins on the recruiting trail for the Irish in their 2020 class. Go Irish!