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Irish flip blue-chip LB Josh Barajas

May 30, 2014, 1:10 PM EDT


One of Notre Dame’s top linebacking prospects is in the fold after the Irish out-dueled Penn State. Josh Barajas, one of Indiana’s best prep players, has verbally committed to Notre Dame, backing away from a pledge to James Franklin and the Nittany Lions.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, Wisconsin and other top schools. He had been one of Notre Dame’s top linebacking targets until he made a surprise commitment to Penn State after a visit.

But the Irish coaching staff didn’t give up on Barajas. According to Andrean High School coach Phil Mason, defensive line coach Mike Elston stayed in contact with the coach, continuing his recruitment until Barajas realized he was a better fit at Notre Dame.

Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated explains:

The move to Notre Dame began when Barajas reached out to Mason in mid-May to express second thoughts about his decision to commit to Penn State. Barajas was unclear if Notre Dame would still be interested in taking his pledge after hosting him for a junior day in early March, at which point it seemed the Irish held a strong lead for his services.

“He said, ‘Coach, do you think Notre Dame would still be interested in me?'” Mason told Irish Illustrated. “Coach (Mike) Elston has stayed in contact with me throughout the process. I will give Notre Dame a lot of credit. They stayed very professional. They didn’t do anything to persuade him. They stayed very much out of the picture and let Josh make the decision.”

Barajas plans to visit South Bend this summer, likely heading to campus for the Irish Invasion camp. He’s an early Top-250 prospect on just about every recruiting board, though several services will get a better look at him in the coming weeks as some national camps begin.

For the Irish’s recruiting efforts, Barajas is a huge get. He’s the new prototype outside linebacker for Brian VanGorder, a speed player who will add bulk to an already nice frame. With the Irish still in a battle with Urban Meyer for Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard, landing Barajas is a huge step towards filling the position with some of the top players on their recruiting board.

After reading various reports, it’s pretty obvious that both Barajas’ family and his high school coach were in Notre Dame’s corner. Mason told the following about how the change of events went down:

“He called Penn State last night and he called Notre Dame this morning,” Mason said. “My conversation with Josh was, ‘Josh, this is it. You’ve got to be sure now.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Coach, I’m sure.’

“I said, ‘Good. I’m not sure how you couldn’t be. I would have done anything to play at that university. I think when you say college football, if Notre Dame isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind, I don’t know what it is.’”

Barajas is Notre Dame’s ninth commitment in the 2015 class. He joins safeties Nico Fertitta and Prentice McKinney on the defensive side of the ball.



  1. ndirish10 - May 30, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    Has the size, football speed, squares up to shed blocks, aggressive, a bit of an attitude when delivers a hit almost showboating…love it!!! Welcome aboard Barajas!

  2. onward2victory - May 30, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Whoa!! I didn’t know he was reconsidering!

    This is the type of surprise headline I can get used to (as opposed to the ones we saw in 2013)!

    • 4horsemenrideagain - May 30, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      you’re not kidding about that. you would think that given the rash of unexpected announcements that went the other way over the last 2 years , there just have to be a few more of this kind of out-of-the-blue surprise to even it out.

  3. kansasirish - May 30, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    I went back and watched Jaylon’s senior season tape and he’s quicker but doesn’t hit like this kid. That said two great athletes! Gonna make great teammates and this term is used too loosely but maybe book-ends?

    Go IRISH!

  4. gtizzo - May 30, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Nice pick up! They say commits come in bunches, hope this is one of many the Irish get before the season.

  5. spunhead73 - May 30, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    I love the fact he chose ND over OSU. Buckeyes are the most overrated team in the country every year.

  6. domerboyirish - May 30, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Great work as always Kieth, but I do have a question. What are we defining as Blue Chip? I saw the headline and immediately thought we picked up a consensus Top 25 kid. The two recruiting services I checked had him between 160 and 210. He looks like a solid 4 star player, and one hell of a pick up, and I’m thrilled that he is going to be Irish, but I personally would not classify him as Blue Chip.

    I’m opening this up for discussion. What does everyone else think when they hear Blue Chip thrown out there?

    Keep up the great work on player reviews!

    • shaunodame - May 30, 2014 at 3:55 PM

      When I hear “Blue-Chip” I think of a kid who is in the Top 5-10 at his position. Sometimes more or less depending on things like position and overall class depth.

      • domerboyirish - May 30, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        FYI, Rivals currently has him ranked 14th at his position. Of course that is subject to change.

      • mediocrebob - May 31, 2014 at 8:59 AM

        When I hear ” blue chip ” I think of Nick Nolte and Shaq. And then I start thinking about that movie and it reminds me of OSU bc I feel like all of their athletic programs are probably run somewhat like the fictional Western basketball program.

    • dudeacow - May 30, 2014 at 5:28 PM

      247 Composite has him as the no. 2 ILB in the country.

    • domerboyirish - May 30, 2014 at 5:55 PM

      Just to be clear, my definition of Blue Chip is a ‘can’t miss’ prospect which I view as a five star player. Essentially that might be the Top 20 of every kid at every position. Guys like Jaylon Smith, Manti Teo, Greg Bryant, Max Redfield are what I think of as Blue Chippers.

      • nudeman - Jun 1, 2014 at 6:20 PM

        Ishaq was a 5 star. Crist was a 5 star. Lynch was a 5 star.
        Two proved to be colossally overrated (Crist and Ishaq) and the other had major maturity issues

        On the other hand, Samardzija was one of many 3 stars who made it big.
        And that LB from Buffalo U (Mack?) who went in the top of the 1st round was a 2 star, I think

        I look at the star system as interesting but hardly infallible.

      • domerboyirish - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:44 AM

        No doubt the star system is no way of predicting future success BUT that really wasn’t the point. Nude, how would you define a Blue chip player?

      • nudeman - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        I don’t know, domerboy. The knee jerk reaction would be that he’s got to be a 5 star or a very very highly rated 4 star. But putting definitive labels like that on 17-18 year olds whose bodies haven’t come close to maturing and whose mental toughness and maturity are such unknown elements … that’s why there are so many misses.

        I’d sure like to know the inside story of Crist. He seemed to have it all – arm, height, pedigree from a good CA school. He didn’t play badly at all his first year under Kelly. 15 TDs and 7 INTs. Then something happened. I don’t know if Kelly just wore him down, didn’t like him personally, whatever. But I’d guess there was some true antipathy there for him to have been yanked after one poor half then essentially banished for good. By the time he got to Kansas he was just terrible. Not the same guy at all. If anybody has any legit insight as to what went on, I’d love to know.

  7. domer77blowsgoats - May 30, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    In other news, Toomy Reeses still sucks – Love, Nude

    • ndirish86 - May 30, 2014 at 6:59 PM

      Keith can we get a Laugh Out Loud button added to the site?

      • nudeman - May 31, 2014 at 12:45 AM

        You’re easily amused.
        I’m guessing you just LOVE Adam Sandler movies.

  8. ndgoose - May 30, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    After watching the highlight video, I would say he is a TE prospect and not so much a ILB prospect. Played more DE than LB.

    • shaunodame - May 30, 2014 at 11:39 PM

      The kids probably been playing LB/DE his entire life. Recruiting sites have probably watched more tape on him then you can believe. Yet you get through one single 8 minute Highlight Reel and you’re already calling for a position change?! Gimme a break. I’m not buying what you’re selling ke-mo sah-bee

  9. upthera44 - May 30, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    looks like a mean hitter. darn promising

  10. golfboy66 - May 30, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    Great to have an athlete like Josh in the fold, even better to see a flip go our way. Here’s hoping we can continue to add stud defensive prospects to the next recruiting class. If we’re ever going to be a consistent 10+ win team with hopes of annually competing for national championships we need elite balance and strength on both sides of the ball. After several highly ranked recruiting classes in a row shouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that this is coming together? Waiting patiently……still.

  11. bostonjan - May 30, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    Give us Barabas…err…Barajas!…Sorry folks, couldn’t resist some weak Friday night humor. Can you imagine the student body chanting his name during a game and it inadverently sounding like a scene from a Passion Play? Seriously glad to hear about his commitment. Sounds like a RKG

  12. nudeman - May 30, 2014 at 11:59 PM

    Patrick Kane is God.

    • tlndma - May 31, 2014 at 8:02 AM

      You better hope he doesn’t rest on the 7th game. :) What a great series.

  13. yaketyyacc - May 31, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    Blue chip! didn’t Army laugh when it heard that a “blue chip” team was coming to play in 1913.
    Barajas, are we going to be cheering about you. you have already showed good decision making by choosing ND over The……

  14. disenter - May 31, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    First time poster here, although I’ve been reading for a few years.
    I remember how excited us Irish fans were after ND got another kid to flip from Penn State. I hope this one turns out better than Ishaq has. I’m liking how this recruiting class is shaping up, holding my breath until February though.

    • nudeman - May 31, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Good ol’ Ishaq. We haven’t had an Ishaq rant here in a while. Sigh …

  15. andy44teg - May 31, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    I don’t get why you’d want to go to PSU in the first place. Aren’t they still banned from post season play or did that get lifted??

    • nudeman - May 31, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      Last year they had their penalties moderated somewhat. I don’t recall the specifics, but they gained back some of their scholarships and maybe had a year chopped off their post season ban. In any case, it prob has no more than another year or two, max.

      But the other issue there is the integrity of the coach (Franklin?). Apparently he doesn’t have the greatest reputation and there was some smarminess that he left behind at Vandy the program stinking like a fraternity bathroom the morning after a kegger.

  16. bernhtp - Jun 1, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    I’m starting to look forward to the end of the off-season doldrums. So far – knock on field turf – we’ve gotten through this time without the usual bad news such as five-star transfers, suspensions for academic misjudgment, arrests, etc. In fact, good news seems to be coming our way during this typically bad period such as the surprise commitment of Barajas.

    As we recover from the past dark year without an athlete leading the offense, it’s time to look forward to what once was and what will be again this fall.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 1, 2014 at 11:28 PM

      Nice video bern. We actually are going to have a QB who can not only run, but juke some linebackers out of their jockstraps. I love that scramble for the TD against Pitt. You know, I love summer at the shore but watching this video makes me pine away for the fall already.

  17. newmexicoirish - Jun 1, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    This is a great, and somewhat unexpected pickup! It was particularly gratifying to hear the comments from his high school coach on how the Irish coaches handled his recruitment. I don’t want to denigrate any other schools, but I’m not sure they handle theses situations with the same professionalism. At any rate great job by Mike Elston.

    Keith, speaking of recruits, are the Irish able to speak to Ty Isaac? Last I heard USC had some policy that transfers could not speak to schools that played against them (USC) but USC may have missed a required deadline to implement the policy? Do you know what Isaac’s current status is?

    Thanks and Go Irish!!

  18. dillonbigred - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    I appreciate this page so much more after going to Bleacher Report. The Barajas article there has over 300 comments, with the idiots fans on both sides firing off about rapes, child molesters, BK is a murderer, etc. All this over a high school junior choosing a school. The writer thought Kelly was needling PSU by tweeting “We are ND”, and that got the PSU fans worked up. Never mind that I heard that cheer at my first ND game in ’71, I guess “We are… ” is PSU property.

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