Chris Tyree thought about committing to Oklahoma following his April 12-14 official visit.
But not on Notre Dame’s watch. Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long and running backs coach Lance Taylor put an end to Tyree’s leaning toward the Sooners. They convinced him to take it easy and prolong his decision.
Five weeks later, the 5-foot-10, 181-pound running back now belongs to ND’s 2020 recruiting class.
The Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale product announced his verbal commitment to the Irish from his school’s auditorium Thursday afternoon. Alabama and Oklahoma were his other finalists. As a four-star recruit and the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back, Tyree ranks as the No. 51 and No. 60 overall player on 247Sports and Rivals, respectively.
Fourteen Irish players listed as running backs have signed under Brian Kelly. None of them finished the recruiting cycle ranked higher than Tyree's current status on 247Sports. Only Greg Bryant in 2013 ranked higher than Tyree on Rivals (No. 19 overall). None of them ranked higher than No. 115 overall on both recruiting sites.
Which could explain why the Irish would not move on once the Sooners pulled ahead. Their message to Tyree remained the same as always.
“It’s pretty much that I’m the missing piece in their offense,” Tyree told the Tribune in February. “We talked about how they needed that home run hitter and a guy with a lot of speed in that backfield.”
Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker encourages his players to not make emotional commitments during or shortly after visits. Taylor and Long learned more about Tucker’s philosophy on their April 16 visit to Thomas Dale.
In their ensuing phone conversations with Tyree, the Irish coaches reiterated Tucker’s message. Tyree trusted Long, who spearheaded his recruitment since offering him on May 2, 2018. It also helped that Taylor made a lasting impression on Tyree in their previous interactions.
Former Irish running backs coach Autry Denson played a minimal role in Tyree’s recruitment. Not Taylor. Once Notre Dame made his hiring official in February, Taylor collaborated with Long to assist in closing Tyree.
Tyree first visited Notre Dame for its Dec. 15 junior day before returning on March 23. Joined by Tucker for his second trip, Tyree spent much of his time with Taylor and watched an Irish spring football practice.
“Lance is very genuine and down to earth,” Tucker said. “It has always been about the players. Lance is not one to brag on himself. It’s a breath of fresh air. In this profession, I’ve seen it far too many times. Some of these coaches aren’t very genuine.
“I feel like Lance is one of the most genuine guys that we’ve had the opportunity to get to know.”
By providing them a questionnaire of sorts, Tucker helps his players formally weigh their options. Tyree took the assessment a few weeks ago. He rated his top three schools via a point scale across a litany of questions. The results inspired Tyree to tell Tucker he wanted to be Irish.
Tyree took the test again in the following days. This time, his leaning held firm. Taylor and Long then visited Thomas Dale on May 6 and left confident they would land him. Tyree's planned June 21-23 official visit was not needed to reach the decision.
“The numbers didn’t lie,” Tucker said.
The same can be said for Tyree on the field. He rushed for 1,446 yards and 11 touchdowns on 177 carries as a junior. He also caught 23 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown.
Clocking a 4.38 40-yard dash this spring, Tyree would bring much-needed speed to the Irish backfield. Only two Irish products ran under a 4.4 40-yard dash at their pro day or in the NFL Combine: receiver Will Fuller (4.32) and cornerback Darin Walls (4.39).
“He can do it all. He’s terrific out in space,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “Great vision and balance. He runs like a 200-pounder. He’s got really good hands. He just seems to do everything well.
“Under Brian Kelly, he’s the best (running back recruit) out of high school. He’s a gamebreaker.”
The Tyree development continues ND’s impressive seven-week run in recruiting. The Irish also secured commitments from a quartet of four-star recruits: wide receiver Jordan Johnson (April 6), drop defensive end Jordan Botelho (April 18), defensive lineman Rylie Mills (May 6) and offensive tackle Tosh Baker (May 8).
Johnson, Mills, Baker and Tyree each rank among the top 170 players overall on both Rivals and 247Sports. Alex Peitsch, the nation’s best long snapper per Kohl’s Kicking Camps, chose the Irish as well on April 24. ND’s 2020 class of 11 commits now ranks No. 6 and No. 8 nationally on Rivals and 247Sports, respectively.
“This is probably the best recruiting staff they’ve had since 1990,” Lemming said.
The Irish might add commit No. 12 on Friday in defensive end Braiden McGregor. The Port Huron (Mich.) Northern product intends to announce his decision at 7 p.m. EDT. He considers Notre Dame and Michigan as finalists, though his favorite remains a mystery.
Another running back — with more bulk and power than Tyree — could also be added to ND’s recruiting class. Tyree alone would be an impressive haul in Taylor’s first run, though. None of Denson’s six running back signees across his four recruiting cycles finished with a higher ranking than Tyree.
ND's five running backs — Jafar Armstrong, Tony Jones Jr., Jahmir Smith, Kyren Williams and C'Bo Flemister — collectively exceeded expectations in spring football. Taylor is now off to a solid start on the recruiting trail as well.
“He knows that coming into Notre Dame, the best way to make an impact is to recruit a great player,” Lemming said. “And that’s what he did.”