Recruiting Perspective: What Mike Mickens Hire Means For Notre Dame

Brian Smith

Notre Dame’s newly hired cornerbacks coach, Mike Mickens, tends to sign cornerback recruits much like another Notre Dame defensive assistant. He’s also quite familiar with fertile Notre Dame recruiting territory.

Recruiting success can be judged from many different angles. As Irish Breakdown publisher Bryan Driskell described in his Friday article regarding Mickens, he already proved that he can recruit and quickly develop players into elite-level performers. This article will aim to look at two areas that relate to Mickens as a recruiter.

Recruiting territory and the style of prospects recruited.

Mickens only spent two seasons as a Bearcats assistant, but he was involved with a really intriguing recruiting strategy.

After viewing a few of the defensive backs Cincinnati signed the past two years, one thing became apparent: the Bearcats coveted length. Height is one thing, arm length is quite another. Here’s a look at 2019 cornerback recruit Ahmad Gardner, a cornerback from Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King that Mickens recruited and helped develop into a Freshman All-American in 2019.

Notice Gardner’s length. He’s listed at 6-2, 165-pounds coming out of high school. His arms helped him make multiple plays on the video, and it’s likely a prime reason that Mickens signed him for Cincinnati.

The reason this type of recruit should be viewed as important derives from Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea also coveting length. Perhaps it’s also a reason that Mickens ended up accepting Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s offer to coach cornerbacks for Notre Dame.

The two coaches should mesh well together  Lea and Mickens  in an effort to get the most out of an inexperienced yet very talented group of young cornerbacks. Here’s another player that Mickens signed for the Bearcats that also possesses the requisite length to play big-time college football, yet he was overlooked by many programs.

That player would be Sammy Anderson, who was listed at 6-2 and 170 pounds, and he is definitely a long-armed prospect. The 2020 Cincinnati recruit hails from Dayton (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison, a tradition-rich program. Here’s a look at Anderson’s film.

It’s easy to compare Anderson to any of Notre Dame’s defensive back recruits. He’s long, athletic and makes plays. Also important, the Ohio native changes direction quite well. Perhaps Ramon Henderson would be the best comparison because his frame is similar at 6-3 and 185-pounds.

Henderson is going to be a full-time defensive back in college, so he probably possesses more technique growth opportunities than a recruit that only played cornerback in high school. He represents the type of athlete that Mickens already worked with at Cincinnati. Should be fun to see how the Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty prospect develops under the direction of Coach Mickens. Now let us turn to where Mickens might recruit.

As many of you probably know, the Irish recruit across the country. With that, Notre Dame does tend to hit certain states hard. Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and New Jersey would be seven of the prime states for Notre Dame since Kelly took over the helm at Notre Dame.

In fact, every one of those states provided multiple Notre Dame signees within a single class at one time or another during coach Kelly’s time at Notre Dame. Those states ring true for the Bearcats as well.

During the past three years, Cincinnati signed defensive backs from Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. It should also be noted the Bearcats signed prospects at other positions from Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey.

Looks quite familiar, does it not?

Mickens will not be a stranger to the places that Notre Dame consistently recruits. That’s important as he begins to recruit for the Irish. Mickens has already visited high schools and cities that he will now recruit for the Irish.

As he begins recruiting for Notre Dame, there will certainly be challenges. To help him ease into recruiting for the Irish, it’s going to be helpful already knowing some of Notre Dame’s prime recruiting territory. 

Two questions about Mickens as a recruiter.

Will he be willing to go to the eleventh hour for an elite recruit? During the past few years, Notre Dame tended to stay away from prospects that wanted to make really late decisions. Some of the truly elite cornerbacks often make late college choices. Mickens could be faced with some interesting decisions.

How well will Mickens adapt to recruiting in Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and California against the nation's top programs? Notre Dame hits all four of those states each year. If Mickens can make an impact with even one recruit per recruiting cycle from any one of those states, it could bode well for the Irish. All four of those states tend to produce talented defensive backs as well.

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Comments (11)
No. 1-5

So when a coach moves like this, does he keep recruiting the same kids he was before (in this case assuming they could meet ND's academic requirements). Are there any players that Mickens was currently recruiting that could be fits at ND?


Nice article! Is it safe to say ND is out of the race for Johnson before Mickens could attempt to develop a relationship with him? Does it have anything to do with Steeples not getting offered?


Chances ND signs a top 10 type CB? It’s been a minute.

Irish For Life
Irish For Life

I do love the relationships in common recruiting territories that Mickens has. How can you not like his production period and then also his ability to do it with true freshman too!


Brian and Bryan I’m curious how you’d rank our current staff on recruiting chops on the same 1-5 scale you use on recruits. Who’s our Michael Mayer and who’s our 2 star with upside ha!