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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

2020 Defensive Outlook

October 19, 2018

Notre Dame’s 2019 recruiting class is almost complete. Isaiah Rutherford’s pledge last weekend gave the Irish 19 verbal commitments in the class with only a few spots left.

While the Irish are certainly going to focus on filling those remaining spots and hanging onto the recruits already in the fold, recruiting for the Class of 2020 is well underway.

Notre Dame already has three verbal commits for 2020, quarterback Drew Pyne‍ and tight ends Michael Mayer‍ and Kevin Bauman‍. The Irish have already established traction with several other junior prospects. Here are some of the top defensive prospects in the Class of 2020 for the Irish.

Click here to see some of the top offensive targets Notre Dame is in on


Cole Brevard‍: The in-state prospect has made multiple visits to South Bend. He’s landed several big-time offers, but seems to be focused most on Notre Dame, Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin. He likes the tradition, education and alumni connections that Notre Dame offers and seems to have a strong relationship with Mike Elston, both his area recruiter and potential position coach. In addition to Notre Dame, Brevard has made a stop at Penn State with plans for stops at Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana in the coming weeks.

Aidan Keanaaina‍: The Colorado family loves Notre Dame, including his parents. He visited for the Stanford game and really enjoyed his time on campus. Keanaaina (pictured above with Brian Kelly) felt he fit in extremely well with the commits and inside Notre Dame’s environment. He’s been building a strong relationship with Mike Elston. Seeing Jerry Tillery register four sacks against the Cardinal was proof to Keanaaina that Elston’s message is more than hype. It wouldn’t be a surprise to us if the Irish actually led this race right now, but Ohio State is another school to keep an eye on. If the Buckeyes offer, it’ll be interesting to see whether that reshapes his recruitment, but as of now, Notre Dame is in a great spot. 


McGregor with Mike Elston and Larry Black

Xavier Carlton‍: Notre Dame is a school Carlton consistently mentions and has talked about wanting to visit soon. He was excited when he landed the offer from the Irish and Mike Elston has made a strong early impression. Carlton’s father played at Utah, but his grandfather was a Notre Dame fan. He’s visited Utah, Arizona State and Cal in the past and Oregon is a school to watch now that the Ducks have offered.

Jacolbe Cowan‍: Visited back in March and Notre Dame really opened his eyes to what the program had to offer and it fits in line with what he wants in a college. He seemed to be impressed with a visit to South Carolina in September. He also visited NC State in September and saw Tennessee when the Vols played West Virginia in Charlotte earlier in the season. Tennessee and Clemson are two schools he keeps in close contact with. The draw to stay in the South is strong and leaving his family could be tough, but his mother was very impressed with Notre Dame and is encouraging hm to keep academics as a focus in the final decision.

Darrion Henry‍: This is the kind of recruitment Notre Dame is rarely in, let alone wins. But Henry’s high school head coach has deep ties to the staff in South Bend, having played and served as a GA under Brian Kelly at Cincinnati before taking a job on Jeff Quinn’s staff in Buffalo. Those connections have helped Notre Dame get the elite Ohio prospect on campus multiple times already, which has allowed the Irish to get in the mix and remain there. Ohio State is always a factor with elite in-state targets and this one is no different. Clemson is another school to keep a close eye on.

Jalen Logan-Redding‍: Missouri native landed his offer from Notre Dame following a strong performance at camp this summer. It was one of his biggest offers to that point as he is just starting to become a true national prospect, who has since added Iowa State and Oklahoma State offers. He also has a Missouri offer. He visited Iowa State earlier this month. The faith aspect of Notre Dame is hugely important to him and his family as are the academic statistics, especially of the graduation rate of African-American athletes.

Braiden McGregor‍: The Illinois native had been to South Bend multiple times, but the season-opener against Michigan was his first college game and it was eye-opening. The Irish are in a great spot as his family is fond of the school and Mike Elston. Notre Dame has done a fine job of making him feel both comfortable and a priority. Michigan is likely the biggest competition and he was in Ann Arbor earlier this month, although Ohio State could quickly become a factor after offering earlier this month. McGregor is expected in East Lansing this weekend as well, so Michigan State is in the mix too. He’s talked about potentially committing in January or during the spring as he’s starting to get increased clarity after previously talking about wanting to use officials to see different parts of the country.

Rylie Mills‍: After multiple early visits, Mills made the trip down from Illinois for the Michigan game in September and left impressed. He really enjoyed hearing Justin Tuck’s story and seeing the benefits of Notre Dame once football ends. Elston has done a good job of making Mills feel like an important piece to Notre Dame’s 2020 recruiting puzzle. He visited Ohio State earlier this month and Wisconsin last month, so there is plenty of legit competition for the Irish.


Mullings with Jaylon Smith

Kalel Mullings‍: The Massachusetts native landed an offer from Michigan when he was just a freshman and that – coupled with Wolverine defensive coordinator Don Brown’s ties to the Bay State – have kept Michigan near the top of his board ever since. But even though Notre Dame was more deliberate with its approach, as soon as the Irish extended an offer this spring, they became major factors as well. Mullings has already made three stops in South Bend, including one for the opening win over those Wolverines. He noticed the atmosphere at Notre Dame for a student-athlete is extremely similar to the one he’s currently in at Milton Academy. Academics are going to play a huge role in Mullings’ ultimate decision. Plenty of schools from around the country like Clemson, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Ohio State, Stanford and Northwestern have expressed serious interest as well, but we’d be at least mildly surprised if this one didn’t come down to the Irish and the Wolverines. Look for Mullings to trim his list to five within the next few months and then have a final decision late next summer.

Cody Simon‍: If you thought Shayne Simon kept a low profile during the recruiting process, meet his younger brother. Cody Simon does his talking on the field and it’s led to scholarship offers from schools like Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford, Boston College, Pitt, Maryland and Rutgers among others. Penn State seems like it’s making a big push and we wouldn’t count out Stanford either. Michigan was one school Shayne took a long look at and his mother went there, so it’ll be interesting to see if Cody has a similar interest. But if Shayne enjoys the early portion of his career in South Bend, that could be as big a factor as anything.


Mickens with his father, Ray

RJ Mickens‍: Many had the Texan pegged to stay home and he may very well end up doing so, but that's no lock. He visited Notre Dame before he was a true national prospect and returned this spring just days after receiving his offer from the Irish. Mickens’ father, Ray Mickens, had a successful NFL career, so he’s well-versed in the process and what is truly important and what’s not. Much of what Notre Dame can offer outside of football is appealing to both as well as the football program itself. Mickens hoped to get back to South Bend for a game this fall. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, but his father is going to make sure he makes all of the visits he feels he needs to in order to make the best decision. Texas A&M, where Ray Mickens played, figures to be a factor. He also made trips to Ohio State and Clemson this summer, so they both will be in the mix as well. Stanford is a school that could be a contender for many of the same reasons as Notre Dame.

Clark Phillips‍: The California prospect really wanted an offer from the Irish and after several weeks of building a relationship with Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, that offer came in September. Phillips said the offer was a big one and added, “It’s bigger than football to me.” He’s looking forward to getting to South Bend as soon as he can to get a better feel for Notre Dame as a school and a program. Education will be a major factor in his ultimate decision as will the opportunity to get on the field early and having a chance at making it to the highest level. His offer sheet also includes UCLA, Oregon, Washington, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Arizona, Arizona State, Florida and Penn State among others.

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