It is only May, and National Signing Day is a full five months away, but as of Thursday afternoon, the top running back recruit in the class of 2020 has committed to Notre Dame. Consensus four-star Chris Tyree (Thomas Dale High School; Chester, Va.) chose the Irish over Oklahoma, Alabama and, well, everyone else. Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford, Florida and LSU all offered the No. 1 all-purpose back, per rivals.com rankings.
With both top-end speed and quick acceleration, Tyree has been timed at sub-4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He is quite able in the passing game, a fact underscored by his time at cornerback in high school. He also has the quick hips of a cover corner, which help create some shiftiness when carrying the ball. That helps Tyree avoid defenders squaring him up in attempts at tackling him, allowing him to slip many arm tackles.
He will need to add muscle to power through tackles at the collegiate level, rather than simply relying on evading good tackling form.
Landing a running back of Tyree’s ability is a rare occurrence at Notre Dame. In Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s nine recruiting cycles, six backs have signed as four- or five-star prospects; none of them were considered the top running back in their class and none are on the roster currently. Only Greg Bryant, a 2013 five-star and the No. 19 recruit in the country, per rivals.com, rated higher than Tyree, currently listed at No. 60.
That list is marked by the off-field struggles which played a role in players not fulfilling recruiting expectations. An academic suspension led to Bryant’s departure from Notre Dame. C.J. Holmes (2017 four-star) and Will Mahone (2012 four-star) were both dismissed following legal issues. George Atkinson (2011 four-star) spent enough time in Kelly’s dog house to declare early for the NFL draft, then going undrafted. Tarean Folston (2013 four-star) also jumped to the NFL with eligibility remaining, a torn ACL costing him his junior year.
Only Dexter Williams (2015 four-star) played four years for the Irish, though he went through multiple off-field incidents before breaking through this past fall, and only then after serving an unspoken four-game suspension.
All that said, it can be argued none of them had the talent of Tyree, and certainly no current prospect should be condemned by the transgressions of his predecessors.
He will join a roster headlined by Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones, if both return next season. A breakout 2019 could spur Armstrong to jump to the NFL, a possibility largely due to the position’s natural shelf life, and Jones will be a fifth-year in 2020, needing to agree with the coaching staff his return is in both his best interests and Notre Dame’s.
Aside from that elder duo, the Irish running back room currently sits sophomores Jahmir Smith and C’Bo Flemister, and early-enrolled freshman Kyren Williams.