Two Year Grades: Notre Dame Offense

Bryan Driskell

The best way to truly evaluate how a program is recruiting is to compare classes in succession. Previous success - or failures - play a role in dictating how the current class will be put together. Looking at classes in a two-year view also gives the best way to full evaluate how positions are being built.

With that in mind it’s time to hand out grades for Notre Dame’s 2019 and 2020 classes, beginning with the offense.

Grade Key:

A — Elite / College Football Playoff caliber
B — Outstanding / Top 15 caliber
C — Solid / Borderline Top 25 caliber
D — Subpar / Not good enough
F — Disaster

QUARTERBACK

Grade: B

Signees: Brendon Clark (2019), Drew Pyne (2020)

Overview: Notre Dame has signed talented quarterbacks in each of the last two seasons, which restocked the depth chart. Clark and Pyne are polar opposite players, with Clark being a highly talented but somewhat raw player, and Pyne lacking the elite physical tools but possessing advanced technique and feel for the game.

Brendon Clark has tremendous strength and he’s a quality athlete. He brings the ability to make plays with his legs on designed runs and scrambles. His throwing motion is a bit long and his mechanics are inconsistent, which can cause him to be erratic at times, but the natural talent is top-notch. Clark made throws in high school few quarterbacks could make, then he would miss on easy throws where his mechanics got him in trouble.

Drew Pyne is a precision passer and a smart quarterback. He has impressive mechanics that includes a fast and repeatable delivery. Pyne puts a lot of zip on throws 15 yards or closer and he has shown the ability to get the ball over the top of the defense. He is a good athlete but not a runner, although he is capable of moving the chains with his legs. Pyne shows impressive anticipation and has the tools to develop into an outstanding ball distributor.

RUNNING BACK

Grade: B+

Signees: Chris Tyree (2020), Kyren Williams (2019)

Overview: Landing Chris Tyree in his first year was big for running backs coach Lance Taylor, but he’ll need to build on that in future classes in order to repair the running back depth chart he inherited. The lack of a more traditional back, or a guy who can complement Tyree, is what keeps this grade from being better.

Williams is a quality player that provides good depth and a change of pace skillset. He is thick and strong enough to make plays on the first two downs, and he’s an effective player in the pass game. Williams has a quality all-around skillset, but his lack of size and lack of any top-level traits projects him to be more of a rotation player during his career.

Tyree is the most explosive back in the country, winning the fastest man competition at the Nike Football The Opening each of the last two years. That speed carries over to the football field, where he is a legit home run threat every time he touches the ball as a runner, pass catcher and return man. Tyree likely isn’t someone that will rack up 15-20 carries a game, pairing him with a back capable of doing that in future classes will be a must.

WIDE RECEIVER

Grade: B+

Signees: Kendall Abdur-Rahman (2019), Jay Brunelle (2020), Jordan Johnson (2020), Xavier Watts (2020)

Overview: Had Cam Hart stayed at wide receiver this grade would have been higher, but signing four wideouts over two years in an offense that is based out of a three-wide receiver set does drag the grade down a bit. There is a great deal of upside in this group, but the lack of ideal numbers and the fact a pair of the players have lower floors to go with their high ceilings is what keeps it from being an A grade.

Kendall Abdur-Rahman was a quarterback in high school that rushed for 2,534 yards and 45 touchdowns in his last two seasons. He has above average length and his ball skills must be developed, but the skillset and ability to do damage with the ball in his hands make him an intriguing prospect. Notre Dame wants and needs playmakers, and Abdur-Rahman has the raw talent to develop into a playmaker.

Landing Jordan Johnson, a composite five-star recruit and the No. 28 player in the country, was a coup for the Irish. Johnson has a very high floor, possessing top-level athleticism, impressive ball skills and the potential to develop into an elite route runner. He projects to be a strong boundary player thanks to his length, ability to win one-on-one battles and excellent pass catching ability.

Xavier Watts is a high-upside player that still has a lot to learn about the position, but if he taps into his potential he’ll be a dynamic pass catcher for the Irish. All the tools are there for Watts, who has good size, outstanding ball skills, he’s an excellent all-around athlete and he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands. If he puts in the work he could be a special player for the Irish, projecting to both of the field positions.

Jay Brunelle made a big jump as a senior, showing better burst and quickness to go with his size, ball skills and long speed. Brunelle is a tough player that can block well, work the middle of the field effectively and he’s quite good at winning one-on-one battles on the outside. He’s an excellent complementary piece to the other three receivers signed by the Irish in the last two classes.

TIGHT END

Grade: A

Signees: Kevin Bauman (2020), Michael Mayer (2020)

Overview: From a numbers standpoint I believe landing an average of one player per year is ideal, and with Notre Dame landing two players in 2020 they met that average. Even better, both of the talented 2018 signees - Tommy Tremble and Georgie Takacs - redshirted and enter the 2020 season as redshirt sophomores. So when fall comes Notre Dame will have four players on the roster with at least three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Ultra-talented Michael Mayer is the highest ranked tight end to sign with Notre Dame since Kyle Rudolph back in the 2008 class. A consensus Top 100 recruit and No. 48 on the composite list, Mayer brings the top-level skills to make an impact the moment he steps foot on campus. Mayer is an excellent athlete for his size, and he can do damage as a pass catcher from every tight end alignment.

Most teams would be thrilled to have Kevin Bauman as their No. 1 tight end in the class, but Notre Dame was able to put Bauman and Mayer together. That combination is the best one-two punch in the country and rivals the dynamic duo that Cole Kmet and Brock Wright were in 2017. Bauman has some throwback to his game, but he is a strong route runner, has strong hands and he projects to be a dangerous third-down and red zone player.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Grade: A-

Signees: Tosh Baker (2020), Michael Carmody (2020), Quinn Carroll (2019), Zeke Correll (2019), Andrew Kristofic (2019), John Olmstead (2019)

Overview: Notre Dame has added a lot of talent to its offensive line the last two years, with all six recruits ranking as Top 200 players and two more ranking as composite Top 100 players. Three signees (Carroll, Correll, Baker) were ranked as Top 100 recruits by at least one service. The issue with the class, and the reason it did not get a full A grade is that it came up short on numbers in 2020 and the fact several of the linemen have incredibly high ceilings, but also have lower floors. The combination of low-floor players with a lack of numbers is risky.

Zeke Correll was the highest ranked 2019 signee on the composite list, checking in as the No. 95 player in the country. Correll is undersized, but he’s strong, athletic and plays with the kind of nasty demeanor you expect from a Notre Dame offensive lineman. Correll projects as a center or guard player in college, where his combination of quickness, leverage and punch gived him an incredibly bright future.

Tackle prospect Quinn Carroll was ranked as the No. 68 player in the country according to Rivals, and his upside is enormous. Carroll has tremendous size, length and good technique, and he’s a quality athlete for his size. He’s a pure tackle prospect with a lot of pass blocking talent, but his toughness, run blocking potential and ability to play with good pad level gives him the ability to play guard if the need arose. That versatility, combined with his pure tackle traits, only enhances his value as a prospect.

There might not be a tackle in the 2019 group with more natural upside than Andrew Kristofic, who has the length and athleticism to develop into an outstanding tackle. He’s raw and still needs a lot of work, but Kristofic’s tools are impressive, and his potential is sky high. Like Carroll, Kristofic projects as a pure tackle thanks to his foot quickness, fluid hips, length and ability to play in space, but he also has the toughness and movement skills to play inside should the need be there.

Guard John Olmstead lacks the size of Carroll or Kristofic, and he lacks the athleticism of Correll. His ceiling isn’t nearly as high as his classmates, but he’s a tough blocker and has good size potential. Olmstead projects at either guard or tackle, and at the very least he could develop into a quality depth player.

There isn’t an offensive player in either the 2019 or 2020 class that has a ceiling as high as Tosh Baker. Despite having a lower floor, if Baker taps into his full potential he has future Top 15 NFL Draft pick skills. Baker has a massive frame and elite length, and he is a top-notch athlete that projects to be a tremendous pass blocker. He’ll need to add a lot of strength and improve his technique (and pad level) to really thrive as a run blocker, but the tools are certainly there.

Michael Carmody is still learning the nuances of playing the line, but the tools are there for him to be an impact blocker for the Irish. Carmody is a quality athlete with a thick frame, but it is his physicality and demeanor that really stand out. He’s what you’d expect from a Western Pennsylvania blocker, and while Carmody has the tools to play tackle, I really like his potential as an athletic, physical and dominant interior blocker.

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Comments (3)
ClashmoreMike
ClashmoreMike

This is an excellent article, Coach. Love the two-year look.

In addition -- and Ive mentioned this to Sampson and the Tims, I'd like to see tracking of some more strategic metrics in recruiting. We all agree that Kelly is bumping up against a roster talent ceiling that leaves a defining gap between ND and OSU/Bama/Clemson. So let's track some basic metrics year over year on the most critical area for improvement in Notre Dame football -- recruited elite talent. Player development at ND is excellent, but ND is not landing the raw material to be competitive with OSU/Bama/Clemson.

Today, 5-star recruits generally do not visit Notre Dame.

Let's track the following -- or something similar:

Rivals (or choose your service) 5-star weekend visits Weekend visits by "single digit" (1-9) ranked players

5-star signings "Single digit" signings

When ND consistently signs multiple 5-stars and 10-12 "single digit" ranked position players, the team performance gap with OSU/Bama/Clem will vanish.

These metrics will show the progress -- or lack of progress -- against what is really the most important program development opportunity at Notre Dame. Make these metrics visible, and the conversation about ND winning a national championship will become more intelligent.

No. 1-2
PigPen2.0
PigPen2.0

Particularly interested to see how Tosh turns out, partially because I live in the PHX/Scottsdale area; but also because his size.

It would be great if he develops into the road grading OL the Irish have been looking for


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