Analysis: Ranking the 17 members of Notre Dame's 2020 class

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Projecting the college careers of high school football players involves some guess work.

Plenty of unforeseeable factors impact college football players — for better and for worse. Predicting a player will succeed hardly holds into account the incalculable coaching changes, off-the-field issues and injuries that may come.

So in ranking all members of Notre Dame’s 2020 recruiting class, 1 through 17, the optimal method involves weighing four questions:

• How well does this player’s game translate to college and Notre Dame’s system?

• What are the pros and cons with this player?

• How does this player compare to teammates — current and in the future — at his position?

• How much of an impact will this player have relative to his position in his college career?

Conversations with these players, their coaches and other recruiting analysts along with film reviews and in-person evaluations were used to determine the rankings below. Where players fell in 247Sports ranking relative to each other is also listed.

The following signees received in-person evaluations from ND Insider’s Carter Karels: Tight end Michael Mayer (twice), running back Chris Tyree, offensive linemen Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody, wide receivers Jordan Johnson and Jay Brunelle and quarterback Drew Pyne.

With National Signing Day on Wednesday, the Irish class finished ranked No. 19 and No. 21 nationally on 247Sports and Rivals, respectively.

1. TE Michael Mayer, 6-4, 232; Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic

Notre Dame tight end signee Michael Mayer

Mayer is the most likely signee to become an All-American and first-round selection in the NFL Draft. He’s set to immediately contribute after Cole Kmet departed early for the NFL Draft. Bringing a complete package, Mayer threatens defenses downfield and for contested grabs with his athleticism, wide catch radius and body control. His college career will be more productive than that of former Irish tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Kmet.

247Sports ranking: 1.

2. DE Jordan Botelho, 6-2, 230; Honolulu Saint Louis School

Notre Dame defensive end signee Jordan Botelho (12). 

One word describes Botelho’s style: violent. Notre Dame’s “meanest” signee punishes opponents with a ferocious style and seemingly endless motor. Botelho looks to have the growth potential to develop into a standout multi-year starter at drop defensive end. He will be a significant part of the rotation by year two. His light feet, strong upper body and sharp instincts also make buck linebacker an option.

247Sports ranking: 4.

3. OL Tosh Baker, 6-7, 271; Phoenix Pinnacle

Phoenix Pinnacle’s Tosh Baker, an offensive line recruit in the 2020 class, will sign with Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Irish offensive linemen typically don’t see the field until around year three. Baker may also have to wait behind sophomores Quinn Carroll and Andrew Kristofic. His ceiling is higher than both tackles because of his size, quick feet and overall athleticism. By adding strength and physicality, playing lower and mastering the nuances of playing left tackle, Baker could develop into a high first-round draft pick.

247Sports ranking: 2.

4. RB Chris Tyree, 5-10, 185; Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale

Notre Dame running back signee Chris Tyree.

The most important addition to Notre Dame’s recruiting class, Tyree brings much-needed elite speed. Tyree will produce in year one and may find success as a slot receiver in certain situations. Whether Tyree is capable of handling a featured workload and withstanding a beating without suffering injuries remains the biggest question. If his durability checks out, Tyree will develop into one of college football’s more electric speedsters.

247Sports ranking: 5.

5. WR Jordan Johnson, 6-0, 182; St. Louis De Smet Jesuit

Notre Dame wide receiver signee Jordan Johnson.

With his reliability and keen ability to get open, Johnson will assume the possession receiver role. Year one may not come with many opportunities, but Johnson will eventually lead Notre Dame in receiving for one or two seasons. He will emerge as one of the nation’s top route runners who creates separation not by speed, but by quickness. Johnson possesses the skills to thrive at either outside receiver position.

247Sports ranking: 3.

6. DT Rylie Mills, 6-5, 275; Lake Forest (Ill.) High

Notre Dame defensive tackle signee Rylie Mills (99). 

Though Mills brings versatility and will train at big defensive end and defensive tackle to begin his career, the comparisons to former Irish standout Jerry Tillery seem like a reach. That doesn’t mean Mills won’t find success. Look for him to earn playing time by no later than year two with the chance of becoming a multi-year starter.

247Sports ranking: 9.

7. WR Xavier Watts, 5-11, 190; Omaha (Neb.) Burke

Notre Dame wide receiver signee Xavier Watts.

As the most underrated Irish signee, ranked No. 89 at wide receiver this class per Rivals, Watts could make recruiting analysts and even this ranking look foolish. He’s a tough but smooth two-way recruit who plays faster with the ball in his hands. Watts flashes the instincts, soft hands and shiftiness required to play slot receiver at a high level. Finding significant playing time early on will be a challenge unless Watts moves to cornerback, a position of need for the Irish at the moment.

247Sports ranking: 7.

8. OL Michael Carmody, 6-5, 283; Mars (Pa.) Area

Notre Dame offensive line signee Michael Carmody (left). 

Carroll, Kristofic and Baker project as better offensive tackles than Carmody. The Irish are also primed to bring in an elite offensive line haul in the 2021 class. Listed as an offensive tackle, Carmody’s best chance at becoming a multi-year starter may come at guard. His frame and style would make the transition smooth. He brings a mean streak to his game and enjoys taking defenders to the ground. His play on the hardwood — he's averaging 19 points and 19 rebounds — translates to the quick feet and athleticism he displays as an offensive lineman.

247Sports ranking: 6.

9. NG Aidan Keanaaina, 6-3, 303; Denver Mullen

Notre Dame nose guard signee Aidan Keanaaina.

Look for Keanaaina to outperform his recruiting rankings with the potential to be one of Notre Dame’s best run-stopping nose guards in years. Keanaaina’s wide build, sound technique and strong upper body will help him plug the middle and be disruptive against the run. His limited athleticism will keep him from being an elite defensive lineman who can play in space. Keanaaina should see the field a good amount by year two.

247Sports ranking: 10.

10. TE Kevin Bauman, 6-4, 238; Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic

Notre Dame tight end signee Kevin Bauman (18). 

Mayer’s stardom should truncate Bauman’s opportunities. None of his attributes are at the level of Mayer’s playmaking ability and overall athleticism. Bauman looks to be a better blocker than Mayer at the moment, meaning he may find a niche role like Brock Wright did in 2019. Notre Dame’s propensity to involve multiple tight ends should provide Bauman enough opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way down the road.

247Sports ranking: 11.

11. CB Clarence Lewis, 6-0, 185; Middletown (N.J.) Mater Dei

Notre Dame cornerback signee Clarence Lewis (3). 

With room to grow technique-wise, Lewis currently plays cornerback like a boundary receiver. His length and vertical leap combine for a ball-hawking style. Lewis will need to do more than just play the ball in the air well to succeed at boundary corner. Nailing down press-man technique and improving as a tackler will be challenging. He still possesses the highest floor among the three cornerback signees.

247Sports ranking: 14.

12. CB Ramon Henderson, 6-2, 180; Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty

Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty's Ramon Henderson, a 2020 cornerback, committed to Notre Dame on Dec. 18.

Cornerback just doesn’t seem to properly fit Henderson. He runs with abnormally long strides, which could slow the process of hip turning and overall lateral movement. His impressive ball skills and elite speed, running a 10.59 100-meter dash last spring, would suit him well as a receiver. Free safety also makes sense with his ranginess, though he would need to improve his physicality, instincts and tackling. Henderson brings the most upside among the three cornerback signees but is the most difficult to project.

247Sports ranking: 8.

13. WR Jay Brunelle, 6-2, 200; Shrewsbury (Mass.) St. John’s High

Notre Dame wide receiver signee Jay Brunelle.

How well Notre Dame is recruiting at wide receiver may keep Brunelle from ever cracking the starting lineup. Johnson, Watts and 2021 commits Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles Jr. project as better receivers. The learning curve after facing weak high school competition figures to be steep for Brunelle. His keen ability to play the ball in the air and secure contested grabs makes him an intriguing big-play rotational option in his final two seasons.

247Sports ranking: 13.

14. QB Drew Pyne, 6-1, 195; New Canaan (Conn.) High

Notre Dame quarterback signee Drew Pyne (right). 

Will Pyne eventually win the starting job? Doing so would require beating out sophomore Brendon Clark and 2021 commit Tyler Buchner. Both quarterbacks project as better players with more superior physical attributes. Pyne brings a high football I.Q. and is a quick decision-maker who shows solid intermediate accuracy. Any size concerns are overblown when considering the nature of today’s game. He just doesn’t have the arm strength to deliver big-time throws outside the numbers.

247Sports ranking: 15.

15. DE Alexander Ehrensberger, 6-7, 240; Düsseldorft (Germany) Theodor-Fliedner-Gymnasium

DE signee Alexander Ehrensberger.

With his size, strength, motor and explosiveness, Ehrensberger brings a few impressive attributes for defensive line coach Mike Elston to mold. Ehrensberger faces an uphill battle, though, because of the learning curve that will come with his newness to American football. His measurables are apparent, but whether Ehrensberger can learn the technique and nuances quickly and tap into his full potential remains to be seen.

247Sports ranking: 16.

16. CB Caleb Offord, 6-1, 175; Southaven (Miss.) High

Notre Dame cornerback signee Caleb Offord. 

There are questions surrounding Offord at both boundary and field corner. He needs to develop the physicality to hold his own against towering receivers and to offer run support. His elite length and 4.61 40-yard dash speed may make keeping up with shifty receivers difficult. Maybe free safety is Offord’s best fit because of his range and abnormally long arms. Otherwise, he could face problems in man coverage.

247Sports ranking: 12.

17. LS Alex Peitsch, 6-1, 210; Washington (D.C.) St. John’s College High

Notre Dame long snapper signee Alex Peitsch.

Peitsch should be in a separate category. This ranking only reflects Peitsch’s overall impact. He will be a four-year starter and standout long snapper for the Irish.

247Sports ranking: 17.

Don't miss any of our Notre Dame football recruiting coverage. Sign up for our ND recruiting newsletter for weekly updates on the Irish sent straight to your email inbox.

Saint Louis School defensive end Jordan Botelho signed to Notre Dame's 2020 recruiting class in December.