Notre Dame Freshman Impact: Offense

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame's 2020 recruiting class was absolutely loaded on the offensive side of the ball. Despite the return of a number of veteran players at every position, the freshman class is expected to have an immediate impact.

Brian Kelly talked about some of the freshmen during his initial camp interview, which you can read HERE. 

Let's take a look at the contenders for immediate playing time, and what they bring to the offense.


Tyree is the most explosive athlete to sign with Notre Dame in a very long time. A Top 100 recruit, Tyree ended the rough recruiting stretch at running back, and he's expected to make his presence felt immediately.

The Virginia native has been timed in the 4.2 range and he was one of the nation's best sprinters in high school. He brings a home run element that Notre Dame needs, but he's more than just a speed player.

Kelly is normally reserved when talking about freshman players, especially skill players after just one practice. He did not hold back when talking about Tyree, and Notre Dame fans are likely very excited to hear Kelly talk about the rookie back being more than just a change of pace player or specialist.


Mayer was arguably the best tight end in the 2020 class, possessing a unique blend of size, athleticism, strength and pass catching skills. He dominated on the field and at every camp or all-star game he attended.

Listed at 235 pounds, he's likely not quite ready to be a full-time attached tight end, but what made him such an outstanding prospect is the versatility he brings to the offense. He can play attached, but he's just as dangerous in the slot or lined up outside.

Notre Dame is loaded at tight end and there really isn't a "need" for a freshman at the position, but Mayer is simply too good not to get on the field.


One position where Notre Dame has been frustratingly cautious with freshman is wide receiver. While there is some depth at the position, the reality is the Irish staff needs to work overtime to get Johnson and Xavier Watts ready to play.

There are two reasons for that, and the first is Johnson is very talented. No, he's not a big player and he'll need to get stronger. No, he doesn't have the entire playbook locked down, and he's not an advanced route runner yet.

But Johnson is talented and needs to play. The other part is the veteran receivers have a very checkered injury history, and when you combine that with the COVID-19 situation, Notre Dame needs Johnson ready to play. They need to find 4-5 things he's comfortable with, build on those things, get his confidence up and put him on the field to do those things.


Everything I said about Johnson is also true for Watts. He's simply too talented not to play, he's too talented to leave on the sideline. There's no reason they can't find a role for him, even as just a rotation player.

What other top programs do with young receivers is they find a few things they are comfortable with and they build around those early. This gets the young wideouts to be confident, which means they catch well, and then they start to build on those things as the season grows on.

Those teams will allow those young players to execute the few things they are good at early on. Notre Dame hasn't done that in the past, but they can't afford to make that mistake again this season.


First-year tight ends coach John McNulty must think he won the lottery or something. When a player like Bauman is fighting not to be the fifth tight end on the depth chart you have an absolutely loaded position group.

Bauman has always been an over-looked player because of Mayer, but he's talented, ultra-competitive, an while I initially thought him playing this year would be a challenge, Kelly mentioned that Bauman will in fact be very hard to keep off the field this season.

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Comments (4)
No. 1-3

Nice write up, Bryan. I have a question, if you please. You said, "Johnson is not an advanced route runner." What does this mean? Does it mean he doesn't know how to run all the routes or that there are certain techniques he doesn't yet apply that would help disguise the route, etc.? TIA


I was so looking forward to the 2020 version of Irish football, and in particular, the contribution of incoming players like Tyree and Johnson. While I am still pretty skeptical about this season ever happening, I hope it does. Even if it turned out to be a shortened season, I'd still like to see what our newest additions can do on the field.


A number of the 2020 Class of Incoming Freshmen are very advanced and college ready and you nailed some of the best.

Tyree has added more than a few pounds and is benefiting from the S&C by Balis regimen. Similar comments about Johnson who should be able to develop and not be rushed along too fast.

When Lou Holtz was on a roll--you'd see some flashes from younger guys and they'd show you what they had coming up behind the starters...nice to finally see some of that happening again.

Baumann is very talented and just because his NJ team didn't sling the rock much...doesn't mean he can't play.

ND has been steadily adding skill and difference makers and now we have a wide and deep set of WR/TE weapons where teams can't load up and just take 1-2 guys away---now we have 3-5 guys who can hurt ya.

Keep hearing early comments on how in synch the offense is getting to be with a different mindset and attitude---they feel focused and confident they know what they are doing and teams are going to be caught off guard about players and schemes that are going to get big plays.

One mistake or mental breakdown on defenses can be costly. ND is going to attack weaknesses and make people decide what to do ...and then flip the play on them and be more balanced and unpredictable.

Brendan Clark is a very sharp guy and Freshman Pyne at is off to a good start so far.

Just stay healthy and I hope this season gets launched and stays steady for 10-11 weeks.

The 2020 Irish are very good....great Freshman and Transfers have really made a good ND a much stronger team...ND will catch some teams by surprise early.