Raising Cane: Notre Dame secures commitment from nation's No. 1 tight end in 2021, Berrong

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

The sheer size of 6-foot-5, 220-pound Cane Berrong in the starting blocks before a race this spring caused quite a stir.

That was nothing, though, compared to the reaction the track and field newbie caused when the sophomore crossed the finish line first on a regular basis in the 100- and 200-meter dashes for Hart County (Ga.) High School.

On Friday, Berrong made waves in the sport he’s known best for — football — as the nation’s No. 1 tight end in the 2021 class per 247Sports verbally committed to Notre Dame.

On a pivotal football recruiting weekend at ND for the 2020 cycle, the elite 2021 prospect crashed the party.

Figuratively, from a distance, and in a good way.

“I’ve been wanting to commit for a while,” said Berrong, from Hartwell, Ga., located about a two-hour drive northeast of Atlanta and about 35 miles from the Clemson campus in South Carolina.

“I really liked Notre Dame. After I came home from my visit, my high school coach told me just to wait a couple of weeks and see if I had the same feeling. I’ve been having the same feeling ever since, and just decided to do it today.”

Berrong attended Notre Dame's Irish Invasion camp on June 9. He was the first 2021 tight end to receive a Notre Dame offer back in February.

“I called coach (offensive coordinator Chip) Long this morning and then called coach (Brian) Kelly,” he said. “They were really excited.”

The roll the Irish have been on with the 2021 class is likely exciting to them as well. Berrong’s commitment gives Notre Dame five players in that class, four of whom are rated in the top 100 nationally by either 247Sports, Rivals or both.

Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State and Wisconsin were among the impressive list of schools from which Berrong had secured scholarship offers.

“He’s an outstanding athlete,” said CBS recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who rates Berrong, a four-star-plus. “Good hands. They split him out a lot. Notre Dame likes him at 250 pounds, and he’s got another two seasons to go to get there.

“Very good athlete, definitely ranks among the top five tight ends in the 2021 class. Real good catch for them.”

The Irish have two of the nation’s top tight ends committed in the 2020 class — Michael Mayer of Park Hill, Ky., and Kevin Bauman of Red Bank, N.J. 247Sports slates Mayer as the No. 1 tight end in the class. Rivals ranks him No. 3. Bauman is pegged as the No. 4 and No. 9 tight end by Rivals and 247Sports, respectively.

“The tight end tradition got my attention as did the top-notch education,” Berrong said. “The campus is beautiful. I got to hang out with (current ND junior tight ends) Brock Wright and Cole Kmet and I just felt comfortable around them. They’re really good guys.

"And coach Long I really like him. I really connected with him. He’s from the South, which doesn’t hurt.”

Berrong went out for track for the first time in his life this spring after becoming “burnt out on baseball.”

He reports 11.4 seconds as his best time in the 100, and 23.8 seconds in the 200.

“I shocked a lot of people,” he said. “I was racing 5-5, 135-pound guys and beating them. I cut it short, because I suffered a hip injury. So I took it easy for a while and then got right back into working out with my football team.”

Notre Dame's 2020 class already consists of 13 verbally committed recruits with more expected to join soon after the current big recruiting weekend on campus. June has been productive for the Irish with five commitments coming in the 2020 and 2021 classes this month.

Berrong joins quarterback Tyler Buchner, defensive lineman Gabriel Rubio and offensive linemen Blake Fisher and Greg Crippen in the 2021 ND class. With five four-star commitments, the Irish have the No. 2 ranked 2021 class in the country, per Rivals and 247Sports.

“I’ve started to build a relationship with Tyler Buchner,” Berrong said. “But I can’t wait to build relationships with the other guys in the class.”

God. Country. Notre Dame.

I am beyond blessed and excited to announce that I am committed to The University of Notre Dame to further my academic and athletic career. #GoldRush21☘️ #GoIrish☘️

— Cane Berrong (@CaneBerrong) June 21, 2019

— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) June 21, 2019

Tight end Cane Berrong catches a pass during a drill at the Irish Invasion football camp, June 9 at Notre Dame. Berrong verbally committed to the Irish on Friday.