Sizing up the long-term potential for Notre Dame's 'Big 3' offensive skill players

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Last December, Notre Dame did something it hadn’t accomplished in 12 recruiting cycles — signing three or more Rivals top-100-rated, offensive skill players in the same class.

The previous group, in the 2008 cycle, comprised tight end Kyle Rudolph, quarterback Dayne Crist, wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Jonas Gray.

Among the touted newcomers in the 2020 class, wide receiver Jordan Johnson, running back Chris Tyree and tight end Michael Mayer, all June-arriving freshmen, have continuously made strong early impressions.

We surveyed three national recruiting analysts as to which of those three freshmen is eventually most likely to have the best college career. Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports, Mike Farrell of Rivals and Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network also weighed in on a variety of recruiting topics involving the Irish, in a recruiting roundtable that can be found here.

Here are their thoughts on stacking up Mayer, Tyree and Johnson.

Wiltfong: “I think Michael Mayer is the safe answer. I don’t understand how anyone could say otherwise.

“Mayer is a sure thing to be good. He’s physically ready to go. He still has upside there. He can do everything at the tight end position from playing attached to the slot, flexed and he’s got ball skills. He can make things after the catch. He’s tough. He’s smart.

“I don’t see how Michael Mayer is not a great player at Notre Dame. Now, the other guys are going to be good players, too. I think Jordan Johnson is a smooth receiver. He’s going to make a lot of plays.

“Chris Tyree is as fast of a player that Notre Dame has recruited in a long time. He has a chance to be special. You can think of scenarios where Tyree is not a sure thing. With Mayer, I can’t think of scenarios where he’s not going to be great.”

Farrell: “I’ll go in order: Mayer, Johnson and Tyree. The reason Tyree is last is because he’s little. You have to be pretty special at that position to dominate, stay healthy and go on to be a next-level guy. He’s fast. That’s great, but he’s not very big.

“I’m saying Mayer because of the success they’ve had at tight end. Because he’s a huge target, an athletic kid. He’s going to be very, very difficult for anybody to handle in that offense. Not only can he stretch the field a bit, but he also has a knack for sitting down at the right spot and making himself open, boxing out defenders.

“Johnson is going to be interesting. He’s got all of the skills in the world. Wide receivers should be the easiest to predict, but sometimes they tend to be the hardest. Speed is the only question I have with him. I think he could have a very good career, but Notre Dame wide receivers don’t light up the world.”

Lemming: “Michael Mayer. For Notre Dame, tight end is great. I gave him five stars. All three of them are five-star players. I do think that all three have potential to be great.

“Mayer, because he’s a tight end and Notre Dame utilizes their tight end a lot, or at least they did under (former offensive coordinator) Chip (Long). So hopefully they will still do that. Tyree, if he stays healthy, Notre Dame is exceptionally weak at tailback. He could become a big star for them. And Johnson reminds me of (former Irish receiver) Michael Floyd.”

Freshman tight end Michael Mayer may have the highest ceiling among Notre Dame’s highly touted newcomers.