Notre Dame inches closer to championship-level recruiting
Aidan Thomas | Friday, September 11, 2020
This summer, Notre Dame made headlines on the recruiting front, but its biggest headline wasn’t one Irish fans wanted to see. On May 5, top-ranked 2021 running back Will Shipley announced his commitment to Clemson, leaving Notre Dame in an undesirable position. Having poured everything into Shipley’s recruitment, Notre Dame was seemingly lost at running back for their 2021 class. However, despite the unfortunate loss, Notre Dame bounced back quickly, and they landed another premier target at the position, earning a commitment from Logan Diggs.
“As soon as they lost Shipley, I said if they get [Diggs], that’s a win” said Bryan Driskell, lead publisher at Irish Breakdown. “You’re going to lose battles, but the question is how you overcome those. Can they add another big-time back to that class? They’re definitely working hard to fill the ‘miss’ of not getting Shipley.”
Driskell points toward the promising state of Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts. Not only were they in the conversation for one of the nation’s best players, but they immediately were able to secure extremely talented secondary targets to fill gaps in their class. That ability to recruit for not just standout talent, but also consistency and depth is a hallmark of championship teams. It bodes well for Notre Dame’s chances, as they continue to march towards the ultimate goal of breaking a 32-year drought without a national championship. Their ability to land Diggs has been just one of many examples of Notre Dame’s continually improving efforts on the recruiting front.
The running back position is one of several that is becoming a strength for Notre Dame. In their 2020 class, the Irish have Chris Tyree, a four-star recruit who is expected to contribute right away. Heading into the season-opener with Duke on Saturday, Tyree was listed as the second-string back on the depth chart. Tyree brings elite speed to the Irish backfield, having twice won the Under Armour Fastest Man competition. He’s clocked in with a 4.37 40-yard dash time, which would have been the fastest mark among running backs at this year’s NFL Combine.
Tyree’s speed, combined with the traditional prowess of the Notre Dame offensive line, brings promise to the running game in coming seasons, Driskell said.
“ND doesn’t get players like this very often, and most teams don’t,” he said. “We’ve seen with Josh Adams and Dexter Williams — guys with good speed — and this offensive line have been very productive. Now you bring in a guy who brings that speed to another level, so it’s understandable why Notre Dame is pretty excited about [Tyree].”
Tyree is just one of several members of the 2020 class who could become immediate contributors on the gridiron for the Irish. Fellow offensive recruits Michael Mayer and Jordan Johnson are heralded as tremendous playmakers at tight end and wide receiver, respectively. While Notre Dame boasts tremendous depth at those positions, Driskell said, don’t expect these freshman to be purely bystanders in their first collegiate season.
“When Mayer’s been out there, he’s been outstanding. He’ll get a chance to make an impact,” he said. “Jordan Johnson is a guy who stands out even in this deep group of receivers. Johnson, Mayer and Tyree are all guys who could be called upon to give them a spark.”
The athleticism of Notre Dame’s 2020 recruits is particularly notable, and should they get some game-action Saturday against Duke’s athletic defense — led by a secondary that has been dubbed “Cheetah U” for its secondary speed — that speed and talent may be on full display from the get-go.
On the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame has another couple of studs coming in with the freshman class, Driskell said. Among them are defensive ends Jordan Botelho and Rylie Mills.
“Those guys aren’t five-year players and the coaching staff knows that. So they’ll want to get as much out of them as possible,” Driskell said. “I think Riley Mills especially has a chance. He really stood out in fall camp, even all the way back to when they were just doing conditioning”
Mills and Botelho are the latest additions to the Notre Dame defense, where they’ve been particularly successful recruiting the front seven.
“The job [defensive line coach] Mike Elston has done has been incredible,” Driskell said. “They used to get the big name guys occasionally on the defensive line, but they couldn’t get that depth. Watch college football any given Saturday. … The great teams all win in the trenches. And Notre Dame is proving they are capable of that.”
With kickoff less 48 hours away, Irish fans may not have to wait long to take a look at what is shaping up to be a promising future for Notre Dame football.