2020 Class Grades: Offense
Notre Dame’s 2020 class is signed, so now it’s time to hand out grades for the class.
A — Elite / College Football Playoff caliber
B — Outstanding / Top 15 caliber
C — Solid / Borderline Top 25 caliber
D — Subpar / Not good enough
F — Disaster
Let’s begin with the offense.
Signees: QB Drew Pyne; RB Chris Tyree
Overview: Notre Dame needed to land a quarterback capable of running the offense at a high level, it needed an impact running back and I believe it needed a second complementary. Notre Dame chose not to sign a second back, which drags down the grade just a tad, but it’s still an outstanding haul that met its first two needs.
Notre Dame got its impact back in Chris Tyree, who gives the offense a much-needed boost in speed and explosiveness. He’s the fastest player in the country and is a legit home run threat every time he touches the ball, and the best part is he can make plays as a runner, pass catcher and return man. Tyree immediately becomes the most explosive player on the offense, which is impressive when you consider Notre Dame has speedster Braden Lenzy and underrated athlete Lawrence Keys III already on the roster.
Drew Pyne isn’t an elite quarterback, but he’s a highly efficient, incredibly accurate and gritty quarterback that loves to compete. Pyne threw for over 9,400 yards and accounted for 125 touchdowns in his career. He lacks the size and strength to make an immediate impact, but he has better tools than current starter Ian Book had when he was a senior in high school.
Notre Dame landed an elite group of skill players, and Pyne is the ideal trigger man to spread the ball around to that group of standout playmakers.
Freshman Impact: Barring injury expect to see Tyree to be a key part of the running back rotation from day one. He’s too explosive and too talented to not be on the field next season. There will be no “he doesn’t know the offense” excuses or “he isn’t big enough” or any other excuse to not play him. As long as he’s healthy Tyree needs to play, and he needs to get touches.
Now, the one thing fans need to accept is that Tyree isn’t going to walk in the door and carry the ball 15-20 times per week. As a freshman he’ll need to be more of a complementary part of the backfield. He needs at least 8-10 touches per game, but if he starts getting into the 15-20 range as a freshman there is the risk he wears down. Keeping Tyree in the lineup week after week, along with Lenzy and Keys, gives Notre Dame a speed dimension is hasn’t had since 2015.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
Signees: WR Jay Brunelle, WR Jordan Johnson, WR Xavier Watts / TE Kevin Bauman, TE Michael Mayer
Overview: It’s hard to imagine Notre Dame doing much better at these two positions, especially if you’re like me and focus more on their talent than the ranking. Five-star Jordan Johnson is one of the nation’s top pass catchers, possessing a strong all-around athletic skill set and top-notch ball skills to go with elite route running potential. Tight end Michael Mayer is also a five-star recruit, and the combination of Johnson and Mayer gives Notre Dame one of the best one-two pass catching duos in the country.
In my view there isn’t a more underrated wide receiver in the country than Xavier Watts. A dynamic two-way player in high school, Watts has the raw tools to develop into an impact weapon in the Notre Dame offense. He can stretch the field, he can win one-on-one battles on the perimeter and do damage after the catch. The third wideout in the class, Jay Brunelle, saw a big jump in play as a senior, earning a four-star grade on my board.
The best part about the three wideouts is they complement each other well. I've already used the word complementary several times already, and it's a key part of a strong recruiting class. Johnson is the all-around weapon, Watts is the after the catch player and Brunelle is the physical pass catcher that can work the middle of the field.
Kevin Bauman and Mayer are the best tight end tandem in the country, and like the wideouts they complement each other well. Bauman has some old school to his game, with the New Jersey native projecting as a strong blocker and legit third-down and red zone weapon that can work the middle of the field. Mayer can line up attached, but he’s most dangerous when he gets in the slot or plays outside, where he can use his length, athleticism and ball skills to dominate linebackers and safeties.
Freshman Impact: Mayer is going to be incredibly hard to keep off the field, especially with Cole Kmet headed to the NFL. We’ve seen Notre Dame be more than willing to play three and four tight ends, and I find it hard to believe Mayer won’t be one of the three best tight ends the moment he steps on campus.
On the outside, Johnson has the advanced repertoire and skill to work into the rotation. There’s a chance he and rising junior Kevin Austin could combine to form a potent one-two punch in the boundary next season. Watts being an early enrollee could give him a chance to work into the rotation. His after-the-catch skills is something most of the current roster lacks enough of, and Watts is much bigger than the wideouts who do have those traits, which will make him an attractive option for the Irish coaches.
Signees: OL Tosh Baker, OL Michael Carmody
Overview: Notre Dame landed two talented offensive linemen, but both have some project to their game. On top of that, Notre Dame came up short on numbers, which is the primary reason for the B grade. Notre Dame missed out on a lot of top prospects that it wanted, and came up short in an attempt to flip USC signee Jonah Monheim in December.
Notre Dame only has three players left from the 2018 class and it signed four players last season, so with the two-man haul in 2020 the Irish can’t fill out a full two-deep up front with its last three classes, which isn’t an ideal situation. The good news, however, is the players they have signed in the 2019 and 2020 classes are outstanding.
Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody are both quality athletes and both are very talented with incredibly high ceilings. Baker will need a lot of work filling out his frame and adding strength, but he has upside that rivals that of former Top 10 NFL Draft picks Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey. Baker and Carmody are both starting centers on their basketball teams, and when you see how well they move it makes sense.
Baker has elite, five-star upside as a left tackle, possessing great length (6-7) and a frame that should allow him to get well over 300 pounds while adding explosiveness and strength. Carmody could certainly play right tackle, but his game might be best suited for guard, where he could use his power and demeanor to thrive.
Freshman Impact: In an ideal world both Baker and Carmody will be able to preserve a season of eligibility next fall.
To read the defensive grades, CLICK HERE.