SAN ANTONIO — A 75-yard touchdown from Washington signee Jalen McMillan on the opening play of the All-American Bowl looked like the beginnings of a gloomy Saturday for Notre Dame fans.
The Irish considered the four-star wide receiver as one of their top targets in the 2020 class. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound McMillan out of Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial ultimately chose the Huskies despite head coach Chris Petersen stepping down and a late push from the Irish.
McMillan demonstrated his elite speed (10.6 100-meter dash) on that slant route, something Notre Dame needs for an offense that lost top receivers Chase Claypool and Chris Finke and tight end Cole Kmet.
But then tight end Michael Mayer and wide receiver Jordan Johnson followed McMillan’s lead, reminding the football world of their potential too.
The two Notre Dame signees distinguished themselves for Team East in its 33-20 loss to Team West at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The high school all-star game that often comes without buzz generated by Irish-bound players featured plenty this time.
“We were out there making plays,” Johnson said.
The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Mayer had the best play, catching a 39-yard touchdown pass from Clemson quarterback signee DJ Uiagalelei in the first quarter. The Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic product took advantage of blown coverage and broke free up the seam. He still needed to adjust his route to help Uiagalelei complete the throw, though, after safety Lathan Ransom recovered.
Mayer capped his score by hopping over a Gatorade sign and celebrating with fans in the stands just beyond the end zone.
“That was huge. We will be seeing more of that soon,” said Johnson of Mayer’s first touchdown. “We had a little taste of it there. How huge he is, how talented he is — he can go out and catch that thing. He’s mobile, too, so after the catch he can get there.”
Johnson also demonstrated his skill set on a pair of catches for 28 yards. He showed his impressive route running and braking skills on a deep out route that created about five yards of separation and resulted in a 13-yard gain.
Using every inch of his 6-foot-0, 182-pound frame, Johnson caught another pass later for 15 yards. After the St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit product turned his head around on a comeback route, he hauled in Uiagalelei’s pass that traveled high and outside of his initial reach. He flashed concentration and athleticism in reacting and catching the football at its highest point.
“He’s a great wide receiver. Great hands and really good speed,” Mayer said. “Off the field, he’s a really good guy, too. We became buddies this week. I’m really excited to live in South Bend with him, hang out with him and have him as a wideout for us.”
Not much can be made from Notre Dame’s offensive line signees competing: Mars (Pa.) Area’s Michael Carmody and Phoenix Pinnacle’s Tosh Baker. All linemen competing hardly garnered legitimate reps in practice. The 6-foot-5, 283-pound Carmody also manned right guard this week despite projecting as an offensive tackle. Baker suffered an MCL sprain in his knee on Tuesday, an injury not considered to be serious.
By cutting his week short before the conclusion of that first practice and not playing in the game, Baker couldn’t prove his high pedigree on the national stage. At 6-foot-7, 271 pounds and as a four-star recruit, Baker projects as a left tackle with his athleticism and quick feet from playing basketball.
247Sports ranks Baker as its No. 4 offensive tackle and No. 44 overall player in the 2020 class, while Rivals pegs him No. 5 at the position and No. 48 overall.
Johnson and Mayer followed a strong week of practice with notable performances in a game that limits participation and encourages rotation at all positions.
“It was good. All week we competed,” Johnson said. “I feel like we all got better throughout the week. That was a blessing. I enjoyed getting out here working with the other guys.”
And on the first play of the All-American Bowl, Jalen McMillan scores a 75-yard touchdown. pic.twitter.com/QGfgM4DaFi— Carter Karels (@CarterKarels) January 4, 2020
Michael Mayer shows what he's been doing here all week with a 37-yard touchdown from Clemson signee DJ Uiagalelei. pic.twitter.com/oJ8OVJTxUr— Carter Karels (@CarterKarels) January 4, 2020