Chat Transcript: A closer look at Notre Dame's 2020 recruiting class

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ND Insider

Carter Karels: Howdy and welcome to the ND Insider Live Chat for the first day of this year’s early signing period. Doing my first chat EVER with you guys bright and early. Started my morning with some Juice Wrld and McDonald’s (as always). Notre Dame started its morning by receiving Alexander Ehrensberger’s National Letter of Intent. He’s a 6-foot-7, 240-pound defensive end out of Düsseldorf (Germany) Theodor-Fliedner-Gymnasium that will enroll early.

Carter Karels: Not expecting a ton of questions this early so I’ll be with you guys until at least Brian Kelly’s press conference. We are supposed to talk with him and special teams coordinator Brian Polian at 12:15 p.m. ET. In the meantime, I’ll be providing updates on who has signed and answering your questions. You can follow our signing day coverage here: https://www.ndinsider.com/recruiting/signingday/

Dennis from Chicago: Do you expect any surprises today? 

Carter Karels: Notre Dame expects to sign all 17 commits and uncommitted cornerback Ramon Henderson out of Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty High. He plans to make his decision public at 4:30 p.m. EST from his high school. I’ll keep you guys posted on if there’s a Periscope link or anything where y’all can watch.

I’m confident the Irish land Henderson but don’t expect any surprises. The ones to watch were Washington wide receiver commit Jalen McMillan and Ohio State safety commit Lathan Ransom. UW head coach Chris Petersen stepped down and Ransom’s position coach, Jeff Haley, took the Boston College head coaching job. Both McMillan and Ransom ended the speculation by reaffirming their commitments.

Any other developments would have to materialize following this early signing period. One development to watch: Notre Dame DB target Cameron Martinez, committed to Ohio State, has decided to delay his signing.

Here's the story I wrote previewing the today for Notre Dame: https://www.ndinsider.com/premium/recruiting/notre-dame-look

Carter Karels: The first batch of signees are in:

Mars (Pa.) Area OL Michael Carmody

Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic TE Kevin Bauman

Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale RB Chris Tyree

Michael from Chicago: If Ramon Henderson signs and Crawford returns for a 6th year will the Irish forgo a grad transfer CB? Any other potential positions they might consider a grad transfer or traditional transfer for 2021?

Carter Karels: Good question. Our Eric Hansen reported over the weekend that Shaun Crawford has filed paperwork to the NCAA petitioning for a sixth year of eligibility. That gives the Irish two experienced field cornerbacks (Crawford and TaRiq Bracy) but still leaves them inexperienced at boundary corner.

We asked Brian Kelly last week what he thinks about adding more from the transfer portal. He said they are "at the salary cap" but will continue to examine it. We'll see if his tone on that changes today.

Notre Dame already added former Ohio State safety Isaiah Pryor, who has two seasons of eligibility left. He moved to South Bend on Monday after graduating from Ohio State on Sunday. The next best option would be adding a boundary-type cornerback that’s plug and play.

These are fluid situations, though. Players surface in the transfer portal that you don’t expect. Notre Dame might have an extra scholarship to hand out — or not. Things change quickly.

Carter Karels: A few more signed with Notre Dame: Danville (Ky.) Boyle county cornerback Landen Bartleson, Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic tight end Michael Mayer and Shrewsbury (Mass.) St. John's High wide receiver Jay Brunelle.

Eric from Bristol: Hello Carter, thank you for offering this chat - I'm cuing the Soap theme as we speak.  Are you able to peel back the curtain and relay just how hard high school players get recruited after their verbal commitment and what that entails?  Also, if negative recruiting occurs against Notre Dame, do you have a sense for what the theme tend to involve?

Carter Karels: As far as how recruits are pursued after committing, it depends on the recruit. Are they taking other visits? Are they a five-star recruit with offers from everyone? Typically, if a recruit is really good and/or has been either mysterious or open to communicating with other schools, they are more prone to continue to be pursued.

That doesn’t happen much with Notre Dame commits, though. They tend to be pretty firm on their decisions and commit to more than just football.

Negative recruiting happens the same way. The better players deal with it more. I know for a fact it was pretty bad with RB signee Chris Tyree… I’m not sure any of the main negative recruiting points against Notre Dame would surprise you. It’s cold, it’s in the middle of nowhere, academics are hard, they haven’t won since ‘88, etc.

Carter Karels: A couple more signees: New Canaan (Conn.) High quarterback Drew Pyne and Washington (D.C) St. John's High long snapper Alex Peitsch.

Pyne reminds me of Ian Book in a lot of ways. He will enroll early. Peitsch is in line to start next season since starter John Shannon won't return for his final year of eligibility. 

Jude from Watertown, N.Y.: What's something you can say about Whataburger's honey BBQ chicken strip sandwich but also about three-star cornerback Landen Bartleson?

Carter Karels: Wow, Jude. We couldn’t go five questions without a Whataburger reference? Kidding. For those who don’t know, and it’s not like I ever talk about it, I’m a Dallas native. So I would say there’s no recruit that would compare to my beloved Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich.

Landen Bartleson is one of four cornerbacks expected to sign today, joining Caleb Offord, Clarence Lewis and Ramon Henderson. I don’t see any of them as plug and play guys, but they all have interesting potential for different reasons.

For Bartleson, he's one heck of an athlete. I think his speed is closer to the 4.4 range. He played both ways for Danville (Ky.) Boyle County and received scholarship offers as a running back from Colorado, Louisville and others. Because of his athleticism, Bartleson has nice potential once he grows technique-wise. He still has a lot to learn at corner. He's 50-50 on enrolling early.

Carter Karels: Middletown (N.J.) Mater Dei cornerback Clarence Lewis signed. Notre Dame also confirmed that Isaiah Pryor signed. Here are the Central Time Zone recruits expected to sign this hour:

Omaha (Neb.) Burke wide receiver Xavier Watts

St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit wide receiver Jordan Johnson

Lake Forest (Ill.) High defensive lineman Rylie Mills

Southaven (Miss.) High cornerback Caleb Offord

Here are the other ones remaining: Honolulu Saint Louis school defensive end Jordan Botelho, Phoenix Pinnacle offensive lineman Tosh Baker and Denver Mullen defensive lineman Aidan Keanaaina.

Carter Karels: Mills, Offord and Watts have all signed.

This is a good time to mention that I pegged Xavier Watts as the most underrated member of this Irish class. Not sure which position he plays long term. Notre Dame liked him both ways as a slot receiver and defensive back. He will enroll early and begin his career on offense.

Like his ball skills, explosiveness, route running and quickness. Here's the Signing Day superlatives piece I wrote that includes my full thoughts on Watts and also includes who I think is the best get, has the highest upside and more: https://www.ndinsider.com/recruiting/signing-day-superlatives-for-notr...

Michael from Chicago: Of the early enrollees who do you foresee making the most noticeable impact in spring practice?

Carter Karels: Here are the players expected to enroll early: Wide receivers Xavier Watts and Jay Brunelle, cornerback Caleb Offord, defensive linemen Rylie Mills, Jordan Botelho and Alexander Ehrensberger and quarterback Drew Pyne. As I mentioned before, cornerback Landen Bartleson is still 50-50 and should know for sure within the next week or so.

I think there’s a chance Mills could ascend to No. 3 on the depth chart at defensive tackle and be part of the rotation. But the midyear I’m highest on is Botelho. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the No. 3 DROP DE as a freshman.

At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Botelho still has room to grow physically. But he already has the quick hands and feet and strong upper body that you look for in a pass rusher. He also has a meanness to his game and one of the best motors you’ll find. He’s a different breed. Here’s my film study analyzing his junior season: https://www.ndinsider.com/premium/recruiting/film-study-notre-dame-de-...

Mike from Ontario, Canada: Hi Carter wondering which of the recruiting sites you find the most in line with your own player ratings and or which site do you find is the most accurate in projecting players impact? Thanks enjoy the ice coffee.

Carter Karels: It’s interesting you ask, because our Tyler James wrote about this topic last signing day. He found that 247Sports and Rivals disagreed on 27 of the star ratings provided between the 2011 and 2015 Irish recruiting classes. To James, Rivals had the more accurate rating 16 of those 27 times: https://www.ndinsider.com/premium/recruiting/has-rivals-or-sports-been...

I’ve found that Rivals has been more accurate but only slightly. I also find 247Sports to have more dramatic ratings boosts or drops that seemingly come out of nowhere. Obviously both sites have missed on their share of evaluations, but there’s an impossible science involved in projecting high school players. So I cut them slack.

Gabe from South Bend: Do you have an NFL comparison for Jay Brunelle? 

Carter Karels: I compare Brunelle to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Both were overlooked but productive in high school. Same size (6-2, 200) and speed (4.45-4.55 40-yard dash). Brunelle, like Thielen, has the route running of a slot receiver but the ball skills, body control and concentration that makes for a good outside receiver.

That’s why I’m curious to see which position he plays. It’s good that Brunelle is enrolling early. It will likely take time for him to adjust after playing weaker competition in Massachusetts. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup might be another good comparison if Brunelle truly blossoms into a boundary receiver.

Here's my film study on Brunelle: https://www.ndinsider.com/premium/recruiting/film-study-notre-dame-wr-...

Michael from Chicago: Where in the QB depth chart do you see Pyne sitting at the end of spring practice? With 4 QBs in camp what is a realistic split of reps? And if Pyne or Clark shines would you anticipate a transfer given the Buchner hype?

Carter Karels: I will answer this with the assumption that Ian Book will return, though that has not been confirmed or indicated. Notre Dame does not give out a lot of reps for the third- and fourth-team quarterbacks in practice, so I don’t see Pyne distancing himself from anyone in the spring.

I also heard great things about Clark’s first year and liked what I saw from him in mop-up duty this season. He claimed the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year award at last week’s Echoes Award ceremony, too.

I don’t expect either of them to pass Book or Jurkovec on the depth chart this spring, but Clark ascending will be the storyline to watch. Pyne has a long ways to go. He has the weakest arm strength of the four and needs developing. But it's staggering how similar he is to Ian Book as a freshman. Shows the quick decision-making and accuracy that Notre Dame covets.

Carter Karels: Johnson, Baker and Keanaaina are signed. The only commit out of the 17 that hasn't signed is Honolulu Saint Louis School DL Jordan Botelho. He's not eligible to sign until Noon EST. Then we will await Ramon Henderson's decision, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST.

Adam from Iowa: Do you see Chip Long's departure impacting any of the current recruits related to offensive scheme and formation situations?

Carter Karels: We will see who Notre Dame hires, but I don’t expect it to impact schemes/formations too much. Brian Kelly has indicated that this will still be his offense, though he won’t call plays. The Irish have recruited very well at the position, so I imagine they will want to continue having an offense that features more than one tight end.

That has made the Irish offense more multiple, unpredictable and effective. How they used the varying skill sets of Cole Kmet and Tommy Tremble in 2019 is a good example of that.

Doug from Sunny Florida: I'm thinking Jordan Botelho may be the sleeper in this class.  He hasn't gotten much national hype but I think will be an impact type of player.  What could be the reason for the lack of hype for him?  Is it his location?  Do you think his play warrants more recognition or am I just off base?

Carter Karels: I wouldn’t say he’s overlooked at all. 247Sports almost has him at five-star status as its No. 43 overall player. He’s a top 200 overall player on Rivals. In my chats with folks for both recruiting sites, though, they have told me that Hawaii players are among the hardest to evaluate. Location plays the biggest role in that. It’s more difficult for them to be seen because they aren’t able to make a lot of the inland recruiting camps and showcases.

It’s a shame that I won’t see Botelho at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio next month. I believe he has the highest ceiling of any signee on defense. I mentioned this earlier, but I believe he has the potential of being the No. 3 Drop DE next year, behind Jamir Jones and Daelin Hayes. Isaiah Foskey and Botelho will eventually wreak havoc as multi-year starters, in my opinion.

Mike from Ontario, Canada: Hi, Carter. A few months ago TSN in Canada did a profile on a former CFL player leading camps for European players seeking scholarships it was an interesting piece noting ND recent recruitment of the tall DE from Germany. Do you feel this could be a route ND will continue to pursue and if so is there any player on their radar from overseas at this time. Thanks.

Carter Karels: There has been a lot more resources, time and interest spent toward developing European talent in recent years. PPI recruits, led by former NFL player Brandon Collier, has especially been on the rise and is training/developing dozens of recruits bound for Power Five ball.

PPI also does a lot of college tours, bringing their players to colleges instead of vice versa. That’s how the Irish found Ehrensberger: https://www.ndinsider.com/recruiting/irish-commit-alexander-ehrensberg...

Notre Dame also extended a scholarship offer to German defensive tackle Joseph Appiah Darkwa, another PPI product. He ended up signing with Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class but heavily considered Notre Dame. At this time, Notre Dame has not offered an overseas recruit in the classes beyond 2020. I'm sure options could surface eventually.

Steve from Chicago : How many of the 17 signees do you think will get significant playing time in 2020?

Carter Karels: Depends on how you define significant. Let’s assume Cole Kmet follows through on his decision to stay for the 2020 season. I still think Michael Mayer is talented enough to earn a rotational role. Jordan Johnson and Chris Tyree should be involved a good bit on offense. On defense, I see Rylie Mills and Aidan Keanaaina potentially being part of the rotation. Both could redshirt. Botelho should be part of the rotation. Long snapper Alex Peitsch will start.

The ones I haven’t mentioned will likely redshirt. The three I'm most certain will not redshirt: Johnson, Tyree and Peitsch.

Adam from Iowa: Off the wall question, but do any of the recruits who are enrolling in Spring semester get to be guests or on the sidelines during the bowl game? If you are allowed any guests on the sidelines for media passes for the bowl game I would be interested :) I am an Iowa State grad, but I have been a Notre Dame fan since I was a boy. This bowl game is a dream match-up for me personally, but can't get down to Orlando as flights out of Des Moines, Iowa are stupid expensive!

Carter Karels: Adam, I hear you Iowa State fans love you some Busch Light. I can’t be bringing a drunk fan with me on the sidelines. I will have to check on the level of access permitted to early signees for bowl games. In the past, recruits could attend games with tickets from the program, but they couldn’t interact with the staff. Not sure if the early signing period changed that rule since they are already signed. The dead period, which prohibits on-campus and off-campus contact, lasts through mid-January. But that’s technically a rule for unsigned recruits.

Quarterback Drew Pyne will be in town for the Under Armour All-American Game that week. I would expect him to attend the bowl game. Also, I’m glad one Notre Dame fan is excited for the Camping World Bowl.

Craig from Chicago:I saw that Botelho won’t be playing in upcoming playoff and all-star games due to an off-field altercation. Any whiff of character issues?

Carter Karels: Craig, the October incident you mentioned did not deter Notre Dame’s coaching staff. They did not see character issues in Botelho and remained firm on their interest and scholarship offer. Botelho had no prior incidents like that. He will still enroll early.

Botelho’s head coach at Saint Louis School in Honolulu, Cal Lee, told the Hawaii Prep World that Botelho did not throw the first punch — the other high schooler did: https://www.ndinsider.com/football/notebook-will-notre-dame-be-turning...

Regardless, that’s not a situation Botelho should want to be in just a few months before coming to South Bend. I’m sure he regrets what happened.

Adam from Iowa: I would not drink a drop if that meant I could tag along! Yes, us Iowa State fans have a reputation that precedes us. I am guessing they will drink that town out of the Latte in the first day or two.

Carter Karels: Scott Dochterman of the Athletic wrote a really entertaining piece about Iowa State connection with Busch Light: https://theathletic.com/1225599/2019/09/24/iowa-state-football-busch-l...

And it appears the Camping World Bowl is already all in on the idea.

Jude from Watertown, N.Y.: Carter, I'm concerned about Chris Tyree's injuries affecting his collegiate performance. Is he running track this spring? Am I being too dramatic about these sprains, since they weren't breaks or tears?

Carter Karels: The injury you are referencing was a middle-grade high ankle sprain suffered in game three this season. Tyree later reaggravated it and was never the same in his senior year. Injuries of that nature are typically only concerning when suffered in the middle of the season. He’ll have all offseason to get right again. The last time I checked with Tyree, he planned to run track in the spring at Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale.

The challenge for Tyree will be similar to that of wide receiver Braden Lenzy early on. Will Tyree’s size (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) and injury history hinder him from securing a prominent role? Can he take a beating inside the tackles? Can he pass protect? As Lenzy taught us, speed alone isn’t enough.

The difference is, there’s no running back on the Irish roster that compares to Tyree speed-wise. Not even close. He will be a talented player, but I’m hesitant to predict he will have a significant 2020 season.

Carter Karels: OK folks, time to press the pause button and head to Notre Dame's signing day press conference. Expect Jordan Botelho to sign within the next hour and hear of Ramon Henderson's decision around 4:30 p.m. EST.

Carter Karels: Here at the signing day press conference and will send updates. I'll try to answer any additional questions y'all may have. Also, Botelho just signed. All 17 commits are now Irish signees.

Carter Karels: Kelly: "I don't know why it continues to be called the early signing day. This is (our) signing day."

Carter Karels: Kelly on what the Irish coaching staff saw in defensive end Alexander Ehrensberger: "Two things, length and just his ability to change direction."

Carter Karels: Kelly on what they looked for at cornerback: "Makeup speed, the ability to run and length. The third is the ability to play the ball in the air."

Carter Karels: Polian on their cornerback signees: "We feel more comfortable with this group than any (defensive back) group we've had over the last couple years."

Nick from Denver: My parents are both Iowa State grads and my wife and I are ND grads, so you can count two more ND fans as excited about this matchup.

Carter Karels: Irish offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland is also excited because his parents went to Iowa, so there's three.

Erik from Granger:Thanks for being here! I was nervous when Mayer decided not to enroll early due to Kmet staying. Thought he might not sign. He signed, so why not come early? Just want to finish up HS with his friends?

Carter Karels: I talked with Michael Mayer about this a couple weeks ago. He said his decision had nothing to do with Kmet staying for 2020. Mayer just felt he didn't have enough time to prepare for an early enrollment and may play basketball.

Carter Karels: Polian on defensive end signee Jordan Botelho: "He's a really unique combination of a high-intensity, violent player."

Carter Karels: That's it from Notre Dame's signing day press conference. And that's it from me for today's live chat. Thanks to everyone for the questions and interest. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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Carter Karels Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 in the South Bend Tribune studio.