Freshman Focus: Rashad Kinlaw

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There’s so much we don’t know about Rashad Kinlaw. A prospect that missed a large portion of his final two seasons of high school football, Kinlaw nonetheless caught the eye of the Irish coaching staff, who offered the New Jersey product a scholarship early in the recruiting process.

What Kinlaw will bring to campus should be interesting. With a highlight reel that consists mostly of quarterback scrambles, Kinlaw has only a sophomore season that gives you a clue he has some aptitude for the cornerback position — his six interceptions that year came on just 32 defensive snaps.

Numbers like that — seemingly illogical production — makes Kinlaw one of the most exciting sleeper prospects in the class. Outside of that and some YouTube clips, we’ll have to wait until Kindlaw shows up on campus to know more about him, down to even the simplest things like his actual height and weight. (Depending on the recruiting website, Kinlaw is anywhere from 6-foot-2 to 5-foot-11.)

Let’s take a closer look at the promising athlete that the Irish project at the cornerback position:

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

It’s hard to get much respect on the national recruiting scene when two broken legs eat up most of your junior and senior seasons, but Kinlaw still had a nice, albeit regional, offer list, with Boston College, Penn State, Rutgers and Temple offering from the Northeast, with offers from Iowa, N.C. State, and Nebraska sprinkled in as well.

Somebody must have seen Kinlaw play from USA Football, as the multi-threat athlete played at wide receiver during summer exhibitions before breaking his leg again, costing him most of his senior season.

Viewed as one of the elite athletes in New Jersey, Kinlaw was nonetheless a three-star prospect by most recruiting services, though he has the opportunity to be one of the underappreciated players in the ’13 recruiting class.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

There’ll likely be a significant learning curve for Kinlaw as he transitions to cornerback for the first time in his career. That change could take some time, and with a trio of veterans locking down the top three spots on the depth chart, there’s no need for Kinlaw to come in and immediately contribute.

That said, if the Irish are looking for recruits that can step in at wide receiver, Kinlaw seems like a good candidate because he’s so explosive with the ball in his hands. A compact athlete with all sorts of athleticism (his high school coach said he ran two low-4.4 forty-yard dashes for former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano at a Rutgers camp), Kinlaw could be a guy similar to Matthias Farley and CJ Prosise where they get him to campus and see where he fits then.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

Kinlaw’s inexperience at cornerback is one of the things the Irish coaching staff thinks he has going for him. Just like KeiVarae Russell, there are no bad habits the Irish staff will need to break Kinlaw of, and Kerry Cooks and Bob Elliott are getting a mold-able athlete.

“We love his size, his length, his athleticism,” Brian Kelly said on Signing Day. “We think it’s an untapped resource for us in that we’re only going to get him better and better physically, and he has the speed, he has the ability to play the ball. We think he’s going to fit well at the cornerback position for us.  He was somebody that we identified early in this process and felt like he would be a great addition to this class.”

While he’s a life long Notre Dame fan, Kinlaw is far from a profile recruit for the Irish, coming out of a Absegami program that doesn’t have much of a relationship with Notre Dame. Combine that with a fairly serious ankle injury that required two surgeries to properly repair, and Kinlaw’s one of the great mystery prospects in this recruiting class.