Notre Dame Freshman Impact: Offense
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.
#25 CHRIS TYREE, RUNNING BACK
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.
#87 MICHAEL MAYER, TIGHT END
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.
#15 JORDAN JOHNSON, WIDE RECEIVER
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.
#82 XAVIER WATTS, WIDE RECEIVER
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.
#84 KEVIN BAUMAN, TIGHT END
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.
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook