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 IrishSportsDaily.com 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.