A recent podcast featured a question and answer segment where it was asked if Notre Dame gets too caught up trying to fix a glaring weakness from the previous season only to let another area in the program become a new weakness in response. On the surface, this seems silly as most well run programs can fix issues without blindly letting another area slip because they have tunnel vision fixing that original weakness.
Coming into the 2020 recruiting cycle Notre Dame seemed acutely aware of a couple weaknesses that had lingered for a number of years and needed to be addressed following the loss to Clemson in the College Football Semi-final:
1) Seek out and sign elite top-end talent, including 5 stars and top 50 recruits.
2) Make a big impression on offense, especially with the skill position players.
In this effort Notre Dame dominated 2020 and has reason to be proud of their effort. Receiver Jordan Johnson, running back Chris Tyree, and tight end Michael Mayer are unquestioned top players at their positions, plus quarterback Drew Pyne performed really well at The Opening recently. All three of Tyree, Pyne, and Mayer should at minimum receive decent bumps in the rankings soon coming off their performances in the Dallas Nike event. Johnson did not participate while nursing an injury.
As the Irish currently sit at 5th nationally in the team rankings can we say the program has definitely improved recruiting this cycle from the recent past?
As mentioned, elite offensive skilled talent was a major need for 2020 and that box was checked with authority. Back in April and May–when Johnson and later Tyree gave their verbal to Notre Dame–it seemed unquestioned that recruiting would cruise to its best finish for the Irish in a number of years and that the momentum from success on the field was a very real thing.
Today, things are a little murkier.
This is supposed to a smallish class (likely 20 commits, maybe 21 at most) and back in the spring when nearly all of the top-rated commits were already on board the average player ranking put Notre Dame right up there with the best in the country. As summer continues to roll on the Irish have a lost a lot of momentum in recruiting as 6 out of the last 7 commits have not been blue-chip 4-star or 5-star prospects.
With a smaller class the national team ranking for Notre Dame has probably peaked already and very likely will be falling back from their current position in the coming weeks. With the early December signing period moving up the calendar for most programs (it’s basically November now using the old February signing date) the picture is a lot clearer than it usually would be during the summer yet several programs are ready to make a move.
The Irish will certainly be jumped by Georgia (6th nationally, 14 commits), Florida lurks in 9th with the same commits as Notre Dame, while Texas A&M (11th, 15 commits), Oklahoma (12th, 14 commits), Florida State (13th, 15 commits), Auburn (14th, 13 commits), Oregon (15th, 15 commits), and Texas (43rd, 7 commits) are all strong recruiting programs who will be adding more prospects than the Irish by the end of the cycle.
Recruiting rankings and offer lists make for fun and interesting conversations. Finding the right people makes for sustained success! Coach Kelly and our staff are building the roster with guys that FIT Notre Dame – and we are excited about the future! #IrishBoundXX #GoldRush21 pic.twitter.com/ctBLKIE1ei
— Brian Polian (@BrianPolian) July 5, 2019
Securing a top 10 class won’t be easy now. Resting with 20 or 21 commits does make it difficult to maintain a top 5 class as only one program (2018 USC, 4th overall, 18 commits) has finished in the top 5 of the team rankings over the last 3 cycles with fewer than 21 commits overall.
Perhaps the larger issue for Notre Dame is that the remaining 3-4 spots don’t look like they will be filled by elite recruits. That’s a little concerning when 6 out of the last 7 commits have been 3-star prospects. Potentially ending a cycle with 3 stars in 9 out of your last 10 commits would be quite frustrating and a tough pill to swallow.
Now, the recruiting player average has fallen to .906 which is tied for 3rd best in the Kelly era and still quite strong. We’re just not sure how much lower that average will drop by February for a class that could be the smallest at Notre Dame since 2012.
The blue-chip ratio has also now fallen to 52.9% for the 2020 cycle, that’s 6th best during the Kelly era. Where will that number end up when the class officially closes?
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As always in recruiting, things could change. The post-Opening bumps for the Notre Dame recruits could be quite large and give a major boost to the player average. Safety Lathan Ransom could surprise and commit to the Irish, receiver Jalen McMillan has a flip-like vibe to him and could reconsider his pledge to Washington in the fall, and there could be a late bloomer or two who comes aboard later in the process to increase Notre Dame’s class rank.
It’s also not a bad time to have such a high variance of recruits for 2020 and think you’re signing some much needed difference-makers on offense when the previous cycle featured a really solid base of blue-chips.
Still, given the tremendous offensive haul the Irish are currently left with only a pair of blue-chip defenders, no blue-chip defenders in the back 7, and a decision to skip on linebackers for 2020. This could lead to priorities for 2021 (off to a hot start but only 1 defender from 5 commits and no one in the back 7) that prevent Notre Dame from taking a major step in the recruiting world.
Notre Dame moved forward with their 2020 offensive playmaker haul which cannot be lost. However, it doesn’t appear the Irish are going to extend that prosperity to the class as a whole and combine the likes of Tyree, Johnson, and Mayer with a deep and talented list of blue-chips coming off an impressive 22-4 run and playoff appearance on the field. At this moment 2020 feels like a small step in the right direction but a breakthrough cycle vaulting Notre Dame into the top echelon of the recruiting world may not happen yet.