Notebook: Notre Dame stayed busy on the recruiting trail last week

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

The timing seemed perfect for Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long and wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander.

The Irish assistants took a recruiting trip to see Washington wide receiver commit Jalen McMillan at Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial on Monday. That visit incidentally fell on the same day the Huskies would become their most vulnerable.

Just before Long and Alexander attended McMillan’s football practice, UW announced head football coach Chris Petersen would step down. In a Tuesday press conference, Petersen cited stress as a factor in the decision. Defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake will take over following the bowl game.

Anthony Goston, San Joaquin Memorial’s head football coach, spoke with the Tribune about McMillan’s recruitment. Barring a major change, Goston expects McMillan to still land in UW’s 2020 recruiting class.

“I still don’t have any reason to think that he’s not going to Washington,” Goston said. “That’s still where he and his parents want to go. I don’t think that’s going to change as of right now. But I know he was at least open to talking with other coaches, because he liked to talk with them.”

Long and Alexander temporarily ceased their heavy pursuit of the four-star wide receiver, per Goston, after he committed to the Huskies in June. The Irish then accepted two more receiver pledges in Xavier Watts and Jay Brunelle — to add to Jordan Johnson.

Communication between both parties reignited in October, leading to the Notre Dame coaches sticking around after the Stanford victory and visiting McMillan. The Irish won't take a fourth receiver unless it's McMillan, 247Sports’ No. 8 receiver and No. 38 overall player. Rivals pegs him No. 13 at the position and No. 84 overall.

USC’s coaching staff also looked to reengage with McMillan, visiting San Joaquin Memorial on Tuesday.

“I think Jalen was very receptive to hearing what they had to say,” said Goston on both coaching staffs.

Notre Dame and USC were among McMillan’s top schools that felt surprised — with Goston included — by his decision. McMillan previously planned to announce a commitment in December and had not publicly indicated a strong lean to UW.

The Petersen development sparked controversy with McMillan. He first removed a reference to being committed to UW from his Twitter bio. Then Scott Eklund, who covers UW recruiting for 247Sports, reported on Wednesday that “there’s definitely something to worry about” in reference to McMillan’s recruitment.

McMillan quieted that noise with a tweet later that night, reaffirming his UW allegiance.

In his first public interview since Petersen's resignation, McMillan reassured Husky fans again.

“I texted (Chip Long) and told him that I’m committed to Washington and I’m a Dawg,” McMillan said in Thursday's story on Irish Illustrated. “I thanked him for the opportunity and everything, but right now I’m a solid, 100 percent Dawg.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunities of playing at Washington, being able to change the program and giving the fans what they want and need.”

The Irish coaching staff hopes they can convince McMillan into hosting them for an in-home visit this week. That likely won’t happen.

“I would fully expect that he’s going to sign with Washington,” Goston said. “Until I hear from him and his parents that they aren’t going that direction or that they need help learning more information on other schools, I’m totally believing that he’s going to sign with Washington.”

2020 cornerback recruiting

The most likely addition to Notre Dame’s 2020 recruiting class, which holds 17 commits, remains cornerback Ramon Henderson. He’s the only uncommitted recruit that hosted members of the Irish coaching staff for an in-home visit last week.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Clark Lea and special teams coordinator Brian Polian trekked to Henderson’s house on Wednesday. The Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty product told the Tribune following the visit that he now plans to announce his commitment on Dec. 18, the first of the early signing period. Henderson previously planned to announce on Dec. 20.

Washington, UCLA, Tennessee and Utah are the other schools Henderson is considering. He may take another school visit but has been more unpredictable than usual over the last couple weeks. He reneged on visiting Tennessee last month, changed his commitment date and Washington and Utah emerged as contenders recently.

Championship time

Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees attended New Canaan (Conn.) High’s 42-7 victory over Wethersfield in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class L quarterfinals. Drew Pyne finished 17-of-20 for 316 yards and three passing touchdowns with a rushing score.

Pyne now represents the only Notre Dame commit with more football to play this season. The following Irish pledges have claimed state championships.

• 2020 WR Jordan Johnson | St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit 35, Joplin 20 (Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 6 on Nov. 30).

• 2020 TE Michael Mayer | Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic 14, Frederick Douglas 7 (Kentucky High School Athletic Association Class 5A on Saturday).

• 2021 WR Lorenzo Styles Jr. | Pickerington (Ohio) Central 21, Elder 14 (Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I on Saturday).

Awards, rankings updates

Michael Mayer had quite the week beyond winning his second state title in three years.

The 6-foot-5, 236-pound tight end was named Kentucky’s Gatorade Player of the Year on Friday. Mayer also elevated 21 spots to No. 37 overall on Rivals’ updated 2020 recruiting rankings. He’s still the No. 3 tight end behind Arik Gilbert (No. 11) and Darnell Washington (No. 17).

Seven other Irish pledges ranked among Rivals’ top 250 overall recruits: wide receiver Jordan Johnson (down four spots to No. 25), running back Chris Tyree (down three spots to No. 43), offensive tackle Tosh Baker (down four spots to No. 48), quarterback Drew Pyne (down 18 spots to No. 118), tight end Kevin Bauman (down three spots to No. 130) and defensive linemen Rylie Mills (down one spot to No. 161) and Jordan Botelho (up 13 spots to No. 198).

Quarterback Tyler Buchner, committed to Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class, also claimed an award this week. Prep Pigskin Report awarded Buchner with the 2019 Silver Pigskin — San Diego’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. He's the first junior since former USC running back Reggie Bush to win the award.

Buchner finished No. 3 all-time among high school players nationally in total yards (6,084) and yards per game (468) in his junior season at La Jolla (Calif.) The Bishop’s School.

Recruiting visits

Notre Dame’s coaching staff took to the recruiting trail following a 45-24 victory over Stanford on Nov. 30.

Head coach Brian Kelly, offensive coordinator Chip Long, defensive coordinator Clark Lea, offensive line coach Jeff Quinn, wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander, quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees, running backs coach Lance Taylor, defensive pass game coordinator Terry Joseph, cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght, defensive line coach Mike Elston and special teams coach Brian Polian each visited high schools last week.

The Irish coaching staff visited at least the following states: Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, Missouri, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Colorado, North Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts and Michigan.

The Tribune confirmed the following visits from Dec. 2-6. Targets hold Irish scholarship offers and prospects do not.

Monday, Dec. 2

2020 WR target Jalen McMillan, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial — Long, Alexander

2021 RB target Camar Wheaton, Garland (Texas) Lakeview Centennial — Taylor

2021 DE prospect Brock Bowers, Napa (Calif.) High — Elston

2022 WR prospect Larry Turner-Gooden, Calabasas (Calif.) High — Lyght

2020 CB commit Clarence Lewis, Middletown (N.J.) Mater Dei — Joseph

2021 QB commit Tyler Buchner, La Jolla (Calif.) The Bishop’s School — Rees

• ND Insider had a story about Buchner and this visit — click here.

Tuesday, Dec. 3

2021 RB prospect Ricky Parks, Tampa (Fla.) Jesuit — Taylor

2021 DE prospect Derek Wilkins, Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic — Elston

2020 DE commit Jordan Botelho, Honolulu St. Louis — Kelly, Polian

2020 OL commit Tosh Baker, Phoenix Pinnacle — Quinn

2020 CB commit Caleb Offord, Southaven (Miss.) High — Joseph

Wednesday, Dec. 4

2020 CB target Ramon Henderson, Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty — Kelly, Lea, Polian

2020 OL commit Michael Carmody, Mars (Pa.) Area — Quinn

2020 TE commit Michael Mayer, Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic — Long

2020 QB commit Drew Pyne, New Canaan (Conn.) High — Rees

2021 DT commit Gabriel Rubio, Saint Peters (Mo.) Lutheran — Elston

Thursday, Dec. 5

2020 CB commit Landen Bartleson, Danville (Ky.) Boyle County — Joseph

2020 TE commit Kevin Bauman, Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic — Long

2020 RB commit Chris Tyree, Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale — Taylor

• Kelly and Taylor are doing an in-home visit with Tyree next week.

2020 DT commit Aidan Keanaaina, Denver Mullen — Kelly, Elston

2020 WR commit Xavier Watts, Omaha (Neb.) Burke — Kelly, Alexander

Friday, Dec. 6

2021 RB target Will Shipley, Matthews (N.C.) Weddington — Taylor

• Taylor attended Shipley's playoff game.

2021 OL target Garrett Dellinger, Clarkston (Mich.) High — Quinn

2021 OL target Rocco Spindler, Clarkston (Mich.) High — Quinn

2021 CB target Dyson McCutcheon, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat — Lyght

2021 S target Xamarion Gordon, Downey (Calif.) Gordon — Lyght

• Gordon then received an Irish scholarship offer  — click here.

2020 DL commit Rylie Mills, Lake Forest (Ill.) High — Kelly, Elston, Rees

More visit notes

This week, Notre Dame's coaching staff will look to visit the commits they did not see last week and circle back and see some of the pledges they already visited.

Shrewsbury (Mass.) St. John's High receiver commit Jay Brunelle expects to host Kelly, Polian and Alexander for an in-home visit on Thursday, Dec. 12. Washington (D.C.) St. John's College High long snapper commit Alex Peitsch expects to see Polian at some point.

The following schools also received visits from the Irish coaching staff last week.

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Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial's Jalen McMillan (right), a four-star wide receiver committed to Washington's 2020 recruiting class, received a visit from Notre Dame assistant coaches Chip Long and DelVaughn Alexander last week.