Incoming freshman Josh Barajas enters Notre Dame with great expectations. Viewed as one of the state of Indiana’s top prospects, the Irish won a tough recruiting battle with Penn State, flipping Barajas back to the Irish—a place where he looked like a perfect fit all along.
With length and speed, Barajas needs to add some bulk to his frame. And while he’s not quite at the level of a Jaylon Smith when it comes to freakish traits, Barajas has the type of playmaking skills that have many thinking he could be the next great linebacker to come through the pipeline.
Brian VanGorder’s system demands an outside linebacker with both speed and length. Barajas looks to have both of those traits, and he’ll look to use them as soon as possible.
6’3″, 220 lbs.
Freshman, No. 30, OLB
U.S. Army All-American. Consensus 4-Star player. All-State Indiana, with 247 viewing him as the state’s top prospect. Barajas more than held his own in San Antonio, his first national exposure as a football player.
Had offers from Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Oregon among others.
Athletically, Barajas fits the sweet spot in the size-speed-athleticism matrix. And from the sound of Brian Kelly’s signing day comments, he profiles nicely when you compare him to athletes like Nyles Morgan and Jaylon Smith, not exactly bad comps.
“I think he possesses a lot of the same physical traits: Speed, the ability to arrive with a violent collision. He’s just a physical player and that size and power is a unique trait. It’s very similar to what you mentioned in Nyles and Jaylon,” Kelly said.
“So he’s got similar traits, similar qualities, and we’re going to progress him just like we did with those two guys. We’ll see how much he can handle, and as much as he can handle is as much as we’ll give him.”
Again, even the best freshman middle linebacker recruit in the country struggled and looked lost at times last year. But the fact that Barajas is an edge player might be an advantage to seeing the field early.
When a team returns the majority of its defense, it’s always difficult to see how a freshman fits into the equation before ever actually seeing him on the field. But in Barajas’ case, his versatility could be a great piece in sub-packages, and certainly could lead to him seeing the field on coverage units.
While he doesn’t have the look of a pass rusher, you’ve got to wonder if the departure of Bo Wallace might allow the Irish staff to kick the tires on Barajas as a hand-on-the-ground pass rusher. It’s a move that got Kolin Hill on the field as a freshman, and most believe that Barajas is at least as good of an athlete.
Ultimately, the 2015 season looks like one where just about every freshman defender will be hoping to earn a bit role in the larger unit. That’s likely the plan for Barajas, who needs to gain some weight before he’s big enough to survive in the trenches.
THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB