Mike Mickens Has Overhauled Notre Dame Cornerback Recruiting


Back in 2016 the Notre Dame coaching staff landed an outstanding group of cornerbacks (Julian Love, Troy Pride Jr., Donte Vaughn), and that class fueled a stretch of top-notch cornerback play in 2018 and 2019. What followed that group on the recruiting trail left the Irish in a shaky spot at cornerback in 2020 and are why the unit is a question mark heading into 2021.

Notre Dame failed to sign a cornerback in 2017, there is just one cornerback left from the 2018 class (TaRiq Bracy), none of the 2019 cornerback signees are left at cornerback (Cam Hart moved from wide receiver) and the 2020 class remains a question mark outside of Clarence Lewis.

Current position coach Mike Mickens took a patchwork unit that included a grad transfer from NC State and got the most out of the position group in 2020. There is optimism about the 2021 unit, but there is no question that Notre Dame desperately needed a huge boost in cornerback recruiting.

That is exactly what Mickens has done in just 16 months at Notre Dame.

Led by Mickens, the Notre Dame defense signed four cornerbacks in the 2021 class. It wasn't a group that possessed overly impressive recruiting rankings, but the talent was certainly there.

Mickens beat programs like Clemson and Georgia to land Ryan Barnes. He beat out Florida, Clemson, Florida State and Miami for Philip Riley. USC ultimately flipped Riley, but Mickens and the staff worked hard to get him back in the fold.

Washington has been a huge thorn in Notre Dame's side when it comes to recruiting defensive backs, but Mickens beat the Huskies for Chance Tucker in the 2020 class. Notre Dame also added unheralded in-state cornerback JoJo Johnson last season.

Notre Dame kicked off the 2022 cornerback class by beating Oregon and other programs for Top 200 standout Jaden Mickey. In the last week along Notre Dame beat Penn State, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma for Jayden Bellamy and then beat Florida and Alabama for Devin Moore.

That's seven cornerbacks in two classes, and the Irish are fighting to add one more. Arizona cornerback Benjamin Morrison is trying to decide between Washington and Notre Dame. The Irish were in great position for Morrison for some time but the Huskies have battled back. Notre Dame will need a comeback to win this one, but they are battling.

Mickens and Notre Dame have completely restored the cornerback position in a short period of time.

Here's what makes the cornerback recruiting even better. Not only does it boost a defense that ideally wants to be able to go with three corners at a time, the depth, length and versatility of the cornerback signees should help ease some of the recruiting woes we've seen at safety in recent seasons.

In just over 16 months Mickens has shown that he can go toe-to-toe with top programs and land prospects that it has struggled to consistently land for quite some time. That's certainly a great sign for the future of the Notre Dame secondary, and it's showing that the hire of Mickens was a home run by head coach Brian Kelly.

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