Four-star DL Rylie Mills commits to Notre Dame; is Braiden McGregor next?

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame entered April with three top defensive line targets in mind to add to its 2020 recruiting class. 

The Irish already had a pair of defensive line commitments from defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina and defensive end Alexander Ehrensberger. Now Notre Dame has added commitments from two of its top three remaining targets.

Four-star defensive lineman Rylie Mills became the latest to verbally commit to Notre Dame, announcing the news via Twitter on Monday. Jordan Botelho, recruited as a drop defensive end, verbally pledged to the Irish on April 18. Defensive end Braiden McGregor remains as ND's top defensive line target.

I am 100% committed!!!

— Rylie Mills #99 DE LFHS (@ryliemillss) May 6, 2019

The decision from Mills, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound product of Lake Forest (Ill.) High, came as no surprise. The Irish were perceived as his favorite school for a while.

Defensive line coach Mike Elston and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees spearheaded Mills’ recruitment. He reported an offer from the Irish on Feb. 7, 2018.

247Sports slates Mills as the No. 8 strongside defensive end and No. 170 overall player in the 2020 class, while Rivals tags him No. 10 at the position and No. 155 overall. 

“He’s a big, physical looking kid," said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. "One of the top three prospects in the Chicago area. Real strong kid. Great grades. Benches over 350 pounds … He’s got a great first step, good use of hands and he’s a smart kid."

The Irish hosted Mills on multiple occasions, including for an April 5-7 official visit. Keanaaina and McGregor also took ND official visits that weekend.

Elston saw Mills twice over the last few weeks during the ongoing evaluation period, which permits coaches to visit high schools. Rees joined Elston for his April 16 trip, and Elston most recently visited Mills on May 2.

Mills narrowed down his recruitment to three schools: ND, Wisconsin and Ohio State. He took official visits to Wisconsin (April 12-14) and Ohio State (April 26-28) before taking time to mull over his decision. Mills plans to enroll early in January.

Notre Dame projects Mills at the big end position and defensive tackle. Mills flashes versatility and plays all across Lake Forest’s defensive line. Lemming wonders if Mills might be too stiff as a defensive end, though.

“And he might be too big for defensive tackle, because then he would lose the leverage battles,” Lemming said. “He’s pretty strong, though. He dominates the point of attack. He’s got quick feet, quick hands.

"Under Elston’s tutelage, I think he’s going to be really good at Notre Dame.”

Mills marks verbal commit No. 9 for the 2020 Irish recruiting class. Four of them are committed to play defensive line for Elston. ND's class now ranks No. 8 and No. 11 on Rivals and 247Sports, respectively.

Both Mills and Botelho, a 6-3, 230-pounder from Honolulu St. Louis, are rated as four-star recruits by Rivals and 247Sports. Both sites peg Ehrensberger, from Germany, as a three-star recruit. Denver Mullen's Keanaaina garnered a three-star rating from 247Sports and four-star rating from Rivals.

“Their defensive line haul could probably be top 10 nationally,” Lemming said. “It’s just a matter of how they will finish.

"The wild card in that one is the German kid (Ehrensberger), because no one really knows how good he’s going to be yet. He could be a knockout guy or a complete flop.”

The Irish are in line to secure another premiere defensive line class. Elston helped sign 2019 defensive linemen Howard Cross III, NaNa Osafo-Mensah, Isaiah Foskey, Hunter Spears and Jacob Lacey. Cross, Foskey and Lacey were four-star recruits.

McGregor, a four-star recruit on 247Sports and three-star recruit on Rivals, stands as ND’s final piece for 2020. The Irish aren’t as confident about McGregor as they were with Mills. As he continues to juggle his options, McGregor’s recruitment could last until July. He could also take more official visits. 

Port Huron (Mich.) Northern expects Elston to attend McGregor’s lacrosse game on Thursday. He visited McGregor’s school on April 22 as well. Keanaaina will continue to recruit McGregor after getting to know him better during last month’s visit.

“I was talking to (McGregor) about his visits and the process,” said Keanaaina last month. “He just said that he had a weird feeling about Notre Dame. The same went for Michigan and some of the other schools. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great feeling. I know that feeling.’” 

Perhaps Mills' announcement will result in a domino effect of sorts. Now that he’s committed, Mills can also recruit McGregor to the Irish. 

“As the defensive line goes, so does Notre Dame,” Lemming said.

— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) May 6, 2019

#IrishBouNDXX ☘️

— Aaryn Kearney (AK) (@aarynkearney) May 6, 2019

It’s a beautiful day to be Irish!!

Defensive Line looking!!

Need one more piece to the !!!#boomboompow

— Mike Elston (@CoachMikeElston) May 6, 2019

Lake Forest (Ill.) High's Rylie Mills, a 2020 defensive lineman, would play big end or defensive tackle at Notre Dame.