Jaden Mickey

Jaden Mickey, a four-star cornerback from Corona, Calif., on Sunday became the 10th verbal commitment in Notre Dame’s 2022 recruiting class.

Jaden Mickey

Less than a week before Jaden Mickey played in the first game of his twice-delayed high school junior season, the cornerback from Corona, Calif., made a big splash.

For himself and Notre Dame.

On Sunday afternoon, the 6-foot, 175-pound consensus four-star prospect in the 2022 class announced his verbal commitment to the Irish, choosing ND over finalists Oregon, Northwestern and Cal. Georgia and USC were among his other suitors.

Which fits the December 2019 directive/mantra/aspiration of Irish head coach Brian Kelly that the Irish get in the business of amassing top 5 classes nationally.

“Not only is Notre Dame close to a top five class at the moment, they’re in on enough of the top guys to make a sustained run at the top five,” CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “The last several years, they weren’t going to be a top five class, because they didn’t go after enough top kids. Now they are.”

Mickey comes from Centennial High, the same school that produced recent Irish wide receiver Javon McKinley. He’s the 10th verbal commitment for Notre Dame in the 2022 class, and he recorded 31 tackles, 11 pass breakups and six interceptions as a sophomore for southern California power Centennial (9-3) in 2019.

He returned two of his six picks for touchdowns.

“Jaden is an outstanding athlete, something Notre Dame desperately needed in their defensive backfield,” Lemming said. “A big-time player from Southern California.

“Not only is he a real good athlete, I think he’ll be an outstanding corner. Corners are tough to find, and he’s one of the pure cover corners in California. It’s a big catch for them and testimony to Marcus Freeman.”

That’s first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, whose ambitious approach with the volume of offers and the caliber of his targets is paying off.

Rivals rates Mickey as the nation’s No. 35 cornerback, while 247Sports lists him at No. 27. He’ll finally have the chance to polish his evaluation when Centennial opens its abbreviated five-game schedule (due to COVID-19 concerns) Thursday against Riverside King.

“I just think it’s a new era for Notre Dame, the way they’re getting a lot of offers out, offering kids early and staying on top of them,” Lemming said. “And the combination of Marcus Freeman and (recruiting coordinator) Mike Elston and (cornerbacks coach) Mike Mickens worked well in getting Jaden.

“I said this before, adding Marcus Freeman to the staff is like getting a five-star recruit. There’s a whole new attitude with defensive recruiting. With Elston in charge and everyone working hard, things are clicking. And the best may be yet to come.”

ehansen@sbtinfo.com

Twitter: @EHansenNDI