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Recruiting: Irish add three commits over nine-day stretch

| Thursday, April 10, 2014

As Irish coach Brian Kelly has reiterated this spring, the quarterback is the centerpiece of the offense, in college football at large and certainly at Notre Dame.

This spring, there’s senior quarterback Everett Golson and sophomore Malik Zaire contending for the starting spot under center.

In the recruiting world, too, quarterback Blake Barnett, who pledged to the Irish in late November, provided an initial boost to Notre Dame’s class of 2015.

“I think everything in this whole Brian Kelly program revolves around the quarterback,” Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank said. “I think that Brian Kelly’s whole offensive identity is very quarterback-driven, so you’ve got to have a great one.”

Barnett is currently the No. 3 quarterback in the nation, according to ESPN. The 6-foot-5, 191-pounder would join an Irish quarterback contingent of Zaire and incoming freshman DeShone Kizer.

“[Barnett] certainly has all the tools to be a fantastic quarterback,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN-affiliated Irish Sports Daily. “I’d say he’s probably more physically gifted than either of DeShone Kizer or Malik Zaire.

“But physical talents only really take you so far. So much of quarterback is what’s upstairs. He’s certainly a smart kid, but I think that was a huge pickup for Notre Dame early in the process.”

Offensive lineman Jerry Tillery was the first member of the class of 2015 to commit to Notre Dame. The 6-foot-7, 312-pounder, who Frank describes as an “amazing athlete” for someone his size, committed to the Irish in June. Roughly six months later, fellow lineman Tristen Hoge, a four-star prospect and ESPN’s No. 5 guard, pledged to Notre Dame.

After Hoge’s commitment, the Irish went three-and-a-half months without hauling in another commit. That changed March 28 when Texas safety Prentice McKinney became the fourth commitment in the class and set off a string of three pledges in nine days.

Texas receiver Jalen Guyton joined McKinney two days later, netting the Irish a pair of players from the Lone Star State, where area recruiter Kerry Cooks has pulled in three commits in each of the past two classes after Notre Dame nabbed only three combined in the 2011 and 2012 classes.

“When you look at what Kerry Cooks has done so far last year and this year, he’s really stepped up to become one of Notre Dame’s best recruiters,” Frank said.

Nevada safety Nicco Fertitta became commit No. 6 when he joined the fold Saturday. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder hails from Bishop Gorman High School, the same school that produced Irish junior tackle Ronnie Stanley. Frank said Notre Dame is pursuing two of Fertitta’s teammates — tight end Alize Jones and receiver Cordell Broadus. Jones (a UCLA commit) is ESPN’s No. 1 receiving tight end and Broadus is the No. 6 receiver.

At running back, Notre Dame has offered nine 2015 prospects, per Irish Sports Daily. The Irish didn’t land a running back in the class of 2014, and Frank said that position has been a focus for Notre Dame.

“I think right now if there’s an area of concern in recruiting, I think it would be running back,” Frank said. “They need to get two because they didn’t get one last year. So far, a lot of the elite players aren’t leaning toward Notre Dame at this point. But I also think this is kind of a wait-and-see process.”

The Irish will host a group of visitors for Saturday’s Blue-Gold Spring Game. Ohio linebacker Justin Hilliard, ESPN’s No. 2 outside linebacker, headlines the group of uncommitted 2015 visitors.

“He’s exactly what you’re looking for. He’s an elite player who’s been here an umber of times,” Frank said. “I expect him to make a decision fairly soon. I wouldn’t say it’s coming this month or this weekend or anything. But he’s seen Notre Dame a bunch. He’s seen a bunch of schools.”

For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out Mike Frank’s irishsportsdaily.com. Email Mike at [email protected] and tell him The Observer sent you.

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

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