NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL: Irish sign 19 during early signing period

Head coach Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish had 17 players sign letters of intent to play at Notre Dame during the early signing period Wednesday.

SOUTH BEND — When it comes to recruiting, college programs are always trying to stand out.

Notre Dame did that Wednesday with how it announced its early signing period signees. The official Notre Dame football Twitter account sent out videos narrated by the recruit’s parents, explaining why they thought their son was destined to be “Irish Bound” — the slogan Notre Dame has used for recent signing days.

The videos were widely praised on social media.

“In a world where we’re trying to be creative and a little bit different, I think we did that today without looking silly,” Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Brian Polian said. “The folks over at FIM (Fighting Irish Media) that came up with that idea and executed, it was really excellent.”

In total, 19 players — 18 high-schoolers and one graduate transfer — signed their letters of intent to play at Notre Dame starting with the 2020 season. Nine of the players will enroll early at the university and begin classes in January.

Of the 19 players, 15 states and two different countries – the United States and Germany — were represented. The player joining Notre Dame from Germany is Alexander Ehrensberger, a 6-foot-7, 238-pound defensive end.

“Our staff really grinded hard on this class,” Polian said. “We joke all the time — we’ll go from Hawaii to New Jersey to find the right people. Well, this year we did go from Hawaii to New Jersey to find the right people.”

It wasn’t just the number of commitments Notre Dame picked up but the fact none of them decommitted as well. The only player in the class that was in doubt was Ramon Henderson, a three-star defensive back from Bakersfield, Calif., who announced his commitment Wednesday afternoon.

“I think having this process be one where you’re on them earlier and have identified them earlier — it feels like we’ve been recruiting these guys a lot longer,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “Having a longer time and a relationship with them, that makes a bigger difference to me.”

As of Wednesday night, Notre Dame’s 2020 class ranked ninth in the country, according to 247 Sports. Here’s a look at three guys that could have an immediate impact for the Fighting Irish:

Chris Tyree, running back, Chester, Va.

One of two five-star recruits, Tyree brings a speed element to the Notre Dame offense. He was the top-ranked running back in the country, according to 247 Sports. He ran the 55-yard dash in 6.30 seconds in high school, a number that hasn’t been seen around Notre Dame since the days of Raghib “Rocket” Ishmael.

On the field, Tyree rushed for 3,930 yards, 41 rushing touchdowns and had three receiving touchdowns as well in his four seasons at Thomas Dale High School.

At 5-9 and 175 pounds, size and durability could be a concern. Kelly is confident the weight training staff at Notre Dame will make Tyree the optimal weight for him to perform at.

“We’ll develop him, naturally, from that number and continue to build a coat of armor on him once he gets in here,” Kelly said.

Jordan Johnson, wide receiver, St. Louis, Mo.

The other five-star recruit for Notre Dame, Johnson capped off his senior year of high school with a perfect 14-0 record and Class 6 MSHSAA state championship season at DeSmet Jesuit High School.

In three years of high school action, Johnson had 1,958 yards and 27 receiving touchdowns. He’s the top-ranked recruit from the state of Missouri and No. 4 wide receiver in the class of 2020.

Isaiah Pryor, safety, graduate transfer from Ohio State

Unlike most grad transfers who only have one year of eligibility remaining, Pryor has two. He graduated from Ohio State in just three years, and given he redshirted this season in Columbus, he’ll able to play for the Irish in both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Pryor was the No. 63 overall recruit in the class of 2017 and the No. 8 safety. He only played in four games for the Buckeyes this season, though, recording one tackle. He had 31 tackles in 2018 and 13 in 2017.

With the graduation of safety Jalen Elliott and potential loss of Alohi Gilman to the NFL, the 6-2, 200-pound Pryor will have a chance to start next year for the Irish opposite freshman safety Kyle Hamilton.

“You have to have a connection and somebody very familiar,” Kelly said in regard to recruiting grad transfers. “(Tennessee Titans defensive backs coach) Kerry Combs, who was on my staff — I’m very close with Kerry — and he recruited (Pryor) and coached him, was a strong advocate for him.”

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360.

Follow him on Twitter at

@AustinHoughTGN.

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