Recruiting Notebook: Updates on early enrollees, 2020 class and more

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Enrolling early at Notre Dame required wide receiver commit Jay Brunelle to negotiate a plan with his high school.

“Something like that has never been done there,” said Brunelle of St. John’s High, a private, all-boys Catholic school in Shrewsbury, Mass. “Their deal to me was if I really wanted to do this, I’m going to have to work for it.

"So that on their part, it doesn’t look like I’m cheating any system or letting it slide.”

Eight of Notre Dame's other 17 commits in the 2020 class will join Brunelle in South Bend in January: wide receiver Xavier Watts, cornerbacks Caleb Offord and Landen Bartleson, defensive linemen Rylie Mills, Jordan Botelho and Alexander Ehrensberger, quarterback Drew Pyne and tight end Michael Mayer. The other eight will come to Notre Dame in June.

Brunelle’s path to graduating high school a semester early may have required the most rigorous workload among that group. Private schools are more likely to prohibit that process than public schools in most cases.

By pledging to the Irish in June, Brunelle’s path to early enrollee status also required the extra coursework to be crammed into one semester. He’s taking four online classes in addition to his regular coursework.

“I try my best to not cram my weekdays as much because I’m busy enough with normal schoolwork, football and practice,” Brunelle said. “I have to get up really early on Saturday and Sunday and almost work like it’s a normal school day until the mid-afternoon.”

A process that began at Notre Dame in 2006 under Charlie Weis has since become ordinary under head coach Brian Kelly. The Irish added a school-record 10 midyears this past winter from their 2019 recruiting class of 22 signees.

That includes starting punter Jay Bramblett, who like Brunelle earned an exception from his high school and crammed extra coursework into his final semester. A tough spring football campaign helped Bramblett adjust before the season.

“Having (Bramblett) here for the spring was really good, and it was really important,” said special teams coordinator Brian Polian in August. I don’t think people know how hard Jay worked academically to make sure that he could arrive here at the (spring) semester.

“I’m just proud of the work he did to make that a possibility. He has fit in really nicely for our team.”

Brunelle feels like he will need to prove himself. Rarely does he face a fellow Massachusetts recruit bound for Division I football. Acclimating himself earlier than usual was thought by him as a must. 

“Coming in a little raw,” Brunelle said. “To really come into spring ball and get that experience against some of the best defensive backs I will ever face (is important). I think that experience alone is going to tell me how far I can really go potentially.”

Poaching time?

A three-star cornerback recruit committed to N.C. State’s 2020 class started to receive contact from Notre Dame last month.

Arden (N.C.) Christ School product Aydan White told the Tribune he started hearing from the Irish coaching staff a few weeks ago. White believes he meets Notre Dame's academic requirements.

The word inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, though, is that Notre Dame remains in evaluation mode for White.  White visiting in the eleventh hour will be worth monitoring.

“They’ve just been asking me how things are going and wishing me good luck before games. Nothing too serious right now,” White said.

Among Notre Dame’s remaining 2020 targets, Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty’s Ramon Henderson stands as the most likely to land with the Irish. He’s the only uncommitted target on Notre Dame’s radar that took an official visit to South Bend.

Henderson, now a four-star cornerback per 247Sports, trekked to Notre Dame’s Sept. 28 home game against Virginia. He’s expected to announce his decision in December. The Irish landing Henderson would give them four cornerbacks this cycle and graduate transfer Isaiah Pryor, the former Ohio State safety who committed to Notre Dame last weekend.

While Henderson weighs his decision, Notre Dame will test the waters with a few other defensive back recruits. Cornerback Jalen Harrell, who decommitted from Florida State last month, and Pittsburgh commit Jordan Addison recently received contact from the Irish.

White becomes the latest to hear from Notre Dame. 247Sports ranks White as its No. 38 cornerback and No. 424 overall player.

“It would be an honor to have an offer from Notre Dame,” White said. “I would just have to talk with my parents and see where everything stands with N.C. State. Then see where Notre Dame falls between all that.”


• Eight Notre Dame commits plan to play in a high school All-American game.

Wide receiver Jordan Johnson, offensive linemen Michael Carmody and Tosh Baker, tight end Michael Mayer and defensive end Jordan Botelho will play in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 4, 2020.

The Under Armour All-American Game — played in Orlando, Fla. on Jan. 2, 2020 — will feature quarterback Drew Pyne, running back Chris Tyree and long snapper Alex Peitsch.

• Four-star commit Jordan Botelho was named as one of 15 semifinalists for the Butkus Award on Monday. Former Notre Dame stars Manti Te’o and Jaylon Smith claimed the award for the nation’s top linebacker in both high school and college.

Botelho has been a force when rushing the passer off the edge for St. Louis High in Honolulu. The Irish envision the 6-3, 230-pounder to develop into Julian Okwara’s position at weak-side defensive end.

The following high school linebackers also made the semifinalist cut: Sergio Allen (Clemson), Jackson Bratton (Alabama), Bryson Eason (Tennessee), Justin Flowe (uncommitted), Demouy Kennedy (Alabama), Quandarrius Robinson (Alabama), Antoine Sampah (LSU), Damian Sellers (uncommitted), Noah Sewell (uncommitted), Mekhail Sherman (Georgia), Trenton Simpson (uncommitted), Sav’ell Smalls (Washington), Kevin Swint (Clemson) and Derek Wingo (Florida).

Nine Notre Dame commits from its 2020 recruiting class, including three-star wide receiver Jay Brunelle, will enroll early in January.