Notre Dame turned a recruiting corner when wide receiver Jordan Johnson verbally committed earlier this month.
Adding Jalen McMillan would cement ND’s 2020 receiver class among the top nationally. That hasn’t happened often under Irish head football coach Brian Kelly.
McMillan’s first visit to South Bend last weekend made that more of a possibility. For now, it looks like ND and Washington are jockeying for the Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial High product. That wasn’t the case heading into his unofficial visit.
“I got the impression that he clearly couldn’t decide right now between Notre Dame and Washington,” Memorial head coach Anthony Goston said. “I think it’s flip a coin at this point. I think he’s really excited about both programs, and in some cases for different reasons.”
Goston joined McMillan on the four-day excursion and visited his daughter, who attends ND’s law school. A lifelong Irish fan, Goston initially helped educate McMillan on the school. They arrived Thursday and attended Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game before departing the next day.
Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma stand as the schools certain to receive official visits from McMillan, Goston said. The Irish hope he comes for their lone home night game against USC on Oct. 12.
Jalen’s mother, Belinda, accompanied him on previous unofficial visits to Oklahoma and Washington, but not to South Bend.
“She’s more knowledgeable about those two schools, so that’s why it’s important for her to get to Notre Dame in the fall,” Goston said. “I wouldn’t say she favors a certain school. I think she’s more knowledgeable about the two she’s been to versus Notre Dame.”
Baseball once played a role in McMillan’s recruiting process. He accrued offers from some of the schools that were recruiting him for football to play two sports — including California, USC and Oregon. Now a near-five-star recruit in football, McMillan has placed baseball on the back burner.
At least for now.
“I don’t think he’s thinking about baseball at the moment,” Goston said. “I think that was something that he thought about earlier. He also communicated that he wants to have a life in college.
“I would say it’s a slight possibility. I don’t think it’s a possibility like it was a year ago.”
The 6-foot-2, 180 pound four-star prospect ranks as 247Sports’ No. 4 receiver nationally and No. 30 overall player. No receiver has been ranked that high overall when signing with the Irish under Kelly. Rivals ranks McMillan as its No. 15 receiver and No. 73 overall player.
Only three receivers to sign with the Irish under Kelly have been ranked among the top 112 players overall in their recruiting classes by both Rivals and 247Sports: Davonte Neal (2012), Justin Brent (2014) and Javon McKinley (2016). Johnson figures to be the second Irish receiver ranked as a consensus top 75 overall player.
McMillan could become the third.
“He’s a premiere athlete,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “A guy who can really run, track star. Big time football kid. He’s a premiere player. A five-star player, really. A guy that can spread a defense, which is what Notre Dame needs.”
Goston compares McMillan to a “bigger” Will Fuller, the last Irish receiver to garner back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons (2014, 2015). 247Sports analyst Brandon Huffman and Goston compared McMillan’s route running to that of Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen. McMillan clocked a 4.49-second time in the 40-yard dash, Goston said.
McMillan’s production against quality competition gives credence to the lofty comparisons and ratings. He caught 151 passes for 3,211 yards and 40 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
McMillan told the Tribune he plans to announce a commitment on his birthday, Dec. 7. If he gives the Irish the nod, they would enter uncharted territory in the Kelly Era.
“They pointed to him and Jordan Johnson,” Goston said. “Those are two elite guys in this class that they want to have. They want to get three guys. Of the three, they need to have two guys that are elite. That’s why they are so impressed and really recruiting Jalen hard.
“They feel like he’s that guy.”
The Irish staff returns to the recruiting trail this week.
The NCAA’s spring evaluation period began on Monday. Coaches can now visit recruits to watch them play, work out and practice but remain prohibited from face-to-face conversations. Programs had been in a quiet period, which restricts off-campus visits, from Feb. 8 until Sunday. The quiet period returns June 1.
The Tribune confirmed two of ND’s most important spring visits — both of which took place on Tuesday. The Irish staff visited two of its top 2020 targets: running back Chris Tyree and defensive lineman Rylie Mills.
Running backs coach Lance Taylor journeyed to Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale High to see Tyree. Ranked atop the Irish recruiting board, the 2020 running back took an official visit to Oklahoma over the weekend. Though Tyree learned more about the Sooners, he’s still expected to make a decision in June. He has scheduled an ND official visit for June 21-23.
Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees trekked to Lake Forest (Ill.) High for Rylie Mills. He took an official visit to Wisconsin over the weekend and plans to take another at Ohio State in a couple weeks. He’s then expected to make a decision.
Elston also visited Denver Mullen High School to touch base with defensive tackle commit Aidan Keanaaina. Mills and Keanaaina were among ND’s eight official visitors from April 5-7.
One of the top safeties in the 2020 class will take an unofficial visit to Notre Dame this week.
Jordan Morant, out of Bergen Catholic in Oradell, N.J., will come to South Bend for the first time on Wednesday. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder ranks as 247Sports’ No. 1 safety and No. 43 overall player. Rivals tagged the four-star recruit as its No. 17 safety.
Morant included Notre Dame in his top schools, which he released via Twitter on April 3. His list also included USC, Penn State, LSU, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Clemson, Alabama, Michigan and Miami.