Where A.J. Henning fits does not appear to concern Notre Dame — it’s his explosiveness that matters.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder embodies the recruit Notre Dame covets offensively. The Frankfort (Ill.) Lincoln-Way East product brings elite speed and versatility. Though the Irish envision Henning as a slot receiver, he could play running back or slotback in college.
Irish running back commit Chris Tyree (5-10, 181) possesses similar all-purpose ability.
“Just like Tyree, they are both very exciting in the open field,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “Notre Dame could be inventive with these guys. They don’t have to be a wide receiver. They don’t have to be a running back.
“They could be a slotback. Just move them around. They are both really exceptional athletes.”
Henning will be among four recruits taking official visits at Notre Dame this weekend. The following 2020 recruits are also taking June 7-9 official visits to South Bend: Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic safety Lathan Ransom, Middletown (N.J.) Mater Dei cornerback Clarence Lewis and Olney (Md.) Good Counsel drop defensive end Mitchell Melton.
The Irish welcomed Mars (Pa.) Area’s Michael Carmody, a 2020 offensive lineman, on Thursday for his two-day unofficial visit. Southaven (Miss.) High’s Caleb Offord, a 2020 cornerback, and Frederick (Md.) Tuscarora’s Jordan Addison, a 2020 cornerback, are taking June 8-9 unofficial visits.
The four-star Henning could be the best offensive prospect in South Bend this weekend. Rivals pegs Henning as its No. 3 all-purpose back and No. 84 overall player. 247Sports slates Henning as its No. 27 wide receiver and No. 125 overall player.
Before being plagued by injuries, Henning clocked a 10.67 100-meter dash as a freshman. He then missed his sophomore track season and most of his junior football season due to a nagging hip injury and ankle sprain. In April’s St. Louis Opening Regional, Henning clocked a 4.46 40-yard dash.
“He probably would have been a five-star player by now had he not missed most of his junior year,” Lemming said. “He’s the most exciting player in Illinois. He’s one of the top, if not the best, players in the Midwest.”
With Jordan Johnson verbally committed, the Irish would like to add two more receivers to their 2020 recruiting class. Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial’s Jalen McMillan, Omaha (Neb.) Burke’s Xavier Watts and Henning are the best remaining options.
Since earning an Irish offer in January of 2018, Henning has visited Notre Dame more than Watts and McMillan combined. As a Chicago area recruit, Henning once seemed like a lean to the Irish.
Notre Dame will mark the eighth school Henning has visited over the last six weeks, though. He took an official visit to Georgia last weekend and intends to take a June 21-23 official visit at Michigan. Henning’s favorite school seems up in the air, though his decision should come before his senior football season.
• S Lathan Ransom, 6-1, 185: Ransom fits the mold of the ideal safety the Irish need. Notre Dame whiffed on a few of its top defensive back targets, which increased Ransom’s value further.
“That’s the kind of defensive back that Notre Dame needs to get,” said Lemming of Ransom, who visited Notre Dame on Feb. 23. “Those are the kind of guys you need to get if you want to compete with the big boys, which would be Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, those schools.
“He’s a legit, big time player that could probably play as a freshman.”
Ransom listed Notre Dame in his June 4 released top five schools, which also included Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU and Texas. He took an April 12-14 official visit to Oklahoma and an April 26-28 official visit to LSU. Ransom plans to take June 14-16 and June 21-23 official visits to Texas and Ohio State, respectively.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 2 S, No. 55 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 4 S, No. 70 overall
• DE Mitchell Melton, 6-4, 220: At the moment, Notre Dame will host one defensive lineman for a June official visit: Mitchell Melton.
With four defensive line commits — Aidan Keanaaina, Alexander Ehrensberger, Rylie Mills and Jordan Botelho — the Irish have space for one more defensive lineman. California drop end target Benjamin Yurosek reneged on his June 21-23 official visit plans, leaving Melton as ND’s current top option.
“He’s a steady ballplayer. Not spectacular, but steady,” Lemming said. “He’s got good size, good speed, good takeoff. He’s an aggressive player. Not a great player. He’s a solid four-star guy.”
After earning a Notre Dame offer in late January, Melton made his first trip to campus via a March 27-28 unofficial visit. Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio State and Ole Miss are among other schools he’s considering.
247Sports: Three stars, No. 47 OLB, No. 625 overall | Rivals: Three stars, No. 47 OLB
• CB Clarence Lewis, 6-1, 180: The Irish offered seven 2020 cornerbacks over 36 days, spanning from mid-April through May. Lewis was one of them.
Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston visited Lewis’ school during the evaluation period on May 1. Top Irish cornerback targets Jalen Kimber, Dontae Manning and Ryan Watts had just committed elsewhere.
“Obviously they have been missing out on a few people, so they are circling the wagons on a few guys,” Lemming said. “He’s not a bad player. I thought it was somewhat of weak year out of New Jersey.”
Lewis holds offers from Boston College, Nebraska, Duke, Kentucky and more. This will be his first visit to Notre Dame.
247Sports: Three stars, No. 106 WR, No. 583 overall | Rivals: Three stars