Official visit season will return for the Irish this weekend.
Until last year, recruits could not take such trips until their senior seasons. An NCAA rule passed in 2017 that declared April the first month juniors (or rising seniors) could take official visits. This year, they can take official visits from April to June 23 and then once their senior year begins.
Notre Dame will host a handful of 2020 targets on official visits starting Friday. The visits, which last 48 hours, are exclusively paid by the university. Recruits can take up to five official visits.
Last year’s first trial run proved to be successful for the Irish, as only one of their five official visitors did not sign with them. Defensive linemen NaNa Osafo-Mensah, Hunter Spears and Jacob Lacey and linebacker Osita Ekwonu made the April 13-15 trip before inking with ND’s 2019 class.
The Irish will start a week ahead this time. And they brought in an even bigger crop of players than last year. Three of ND’s five 2020 commits — defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina and tight ends Kevin Bauman and Michael Mayer — will trek to South Bend to help recruit this weekend. Keanaaina’s visit will be an official.
• DE Braiden McGregor, 6-6, 255; Port Huron (Mich.) Northern: There's been mutual interest between McGregor and the Irish for a while. Earning an offer following his visit last April, McGregor has since visited South Bend in June, August and November of 2018.
The Irish covet McGregor's athleticism. ND’s staff expressed that when attending at least three of his basketball games over the winter.
“He needs to fill out and get stronger, but he’s athletic,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “And that’s what Notre Dame likes about him. I think Mike Elston really likes his athletic ability and range. He’s a kid that could grow into a really good one. I don’t think he’s dynamic, but he’s good.”
McGregor named the Irish in his April 1 top 10 list, which also included Ohio State, Miami, LSU, Clemson, Michigan, Oregon, Florida, Alabama and Penn State.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 3 SDE, No. 27 overall | Rivals: Three stars, No. 27 OLB
• DE/DT Rylie Mills, 6-5, 270; Lake Forest (Ill.) High: Like McGregor, Mills has visited ND’s campus multiple times. What position Mills will play remains the biggest question.
Recruiting sites list Mills as a strongside defensive end. He could develop into a three-technique in college, though. As of now, the Irish need more bodies at that position than the edge. That’s why they will move 2019 signee Howard Cross III inside. Mills lines up inside for Lake Forest on most plays anyway.
“I don’t know if he’s too stiff to play defensive end, but he’s a big, muscular kid,” Lemming said. “I think he could have a really good inside presence on the defensive line. He plays that in high school at Lake Forest. But he’s a big, muscular, talented kid.”
Mills has accrued offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and more.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 8 SDE, No. 169 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 10 SDE, No. 155 overall
• WR Jordan Johnson, 6-2, 195; St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit: There’s not a better receiver this interested in Notre Dame. In fact, the Irish would reach new ground if they inked Johnson. He would be the first consensus top 60 receiver to sign under head coach Brian Kelly.
Lemming compared him to former Irish standout Michael Floyd. Johnson caught 28 passes for 721 yards and nine touchdowns across 12 games as a junior.
“He can run, he’s a physical kid and the kind of guy Notre Dame needs,” Lemming said. “They have been really weak when it comes to recruiting running backs and wide receivers of that ilk. Guys that can be a difference maker at those positions.”
Johnson will return after visiting in late January during inclement weather conditions. Only two other 2020 receivers held Irish offers when Johnson added one last January. Missouri, Texas A&M, Alabama, USC, Florida and Georgia have also offered him.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 10 WR, No. 56 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 13 WR, No. 59 overall
• OL Andrew Gentry, 6-8, 290; Littleton (Colo.) Columbine: Colorado looks ripe with talent this cycle, especially in the offensive line department. The Irish offered three such players in Centennial (Colo.) Eaglecrest’s Reece Atteberry, Littleton (Colo.) Valor Christian’s Roger Rosengarten and Gentry.
The University of Colorado fired its head coach, Mike MacIntyre, last year following a second straight 5-7 season. A coaching change could make the Buffaloes vulnerable to losing in-state products like Gentry.
“Another very good athlete,” Lemming said. All of these Colorado kids that they’ve offered are really good athletes. You usually don’t see that many good ones in Colorado. I think there’s more that maybe Notre Dame hasn’t offered yet. Some big time guys.”
Gentry added his Irish offer after his first visit for their Dec. 15 junior day. Alabama, BYU, Michigan and UCLA have also offered Gentry.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 10 OT, No. 80 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 7 OT, No. 40 overall
• OL Jimmy Christ, 6-7, 280; Sterling (Va.) Dominion: The Irish are targeting a handful of athletic, lengthy offensive lineman in this class. Christ, as well as Gentry, fit that mold.
He’s not rated as high as Gentry and will need to add weight, but Christ could develop into a starting left tackle at the next level.
“Good athlete and one of the best players in Virginia,” Lemming said. “High four-star guy. He’s got length, he’s got quick feet, he’s very technically sound, he’s very aggressive as a tackle. He has a frame where he’s going to keep gaining more weight, too.
“He’s definitely someone you would want as a left tackle. He’s got a lot of the tools that Quinn is looking for.”
Christ returns for his second visit. He watched Notre Dame defeat Wake Forest 48-37 on Nov. 4, 2017. Virginia, Oklahoma, Clemson and Florida are among teams that have offered Christ.
247Sports: Three stars, No. 39 OT, No. 460 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 22 OT, No. 212 overall
• CB Ryan Watts, 6-2, 185; Little Elm (Texas) High: Watts has not been to South Bend and didn’t earn an Irish offer until February. Yet, he chose Notre Dame for his first official visit.
ND emerging later in the process did not deter Watts, especially because of his relationship with special teams coordinator Brian Polian.
“He had a great personality when he came down here to see me,” Watts said. “Really energetic. He just preached to me that I’m a priority for Notre Dame’s 2020 class. It has meant a lot to me, which is another reason why they are high on my radar.”
Watts marks the only official visitor Lemming has not seen in person. His tape doesn’t jump off the charts, Lemming said. Watts, however, holds offers from Texas A&M, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma and more.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 15 CB | Rivals: Three stars, No. 35 CB
• ATH Mordecai McDaniel, 6-3, 185; Washington (D.C.) St. John’s College: The Irish staff looks to feel out McDaniel this weekend. He could play anywhere in the secondary or at wide receiver, and they plan to see what he prefers.
Lemming envisions McDaniel as a receiver.
“He’s got really good size, good speed, really good hands, plays against great competition, body control,” Lemming said. “He’s one of the better ones in the Atlantic Coast region as far as wide receivers are concerned. He kind of fits what Notre Dame goes after normally — big, physical wide receivers.”
LSU, Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma and Penn State are among teams that have offered McDaniel.
247Sports: Three stars, No. 29 ATH, No. 368 overall | Rivals: Three stars, No. 20 S