Freshman Focus: Cole Luke

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If Notre Dame was looking to solidify the cornerback position during the last recruiting cycle, they found their headliner in Arizona’s Cole Luke. With size, speed and technique that ranks among the best in the country, signing Luke was the type of recruiting surprise that Irish fans have started to get used to under Brian Kelly.

Playing for former Irish quarterback Steve Belles at the powerhouse program at Hamilton, Luke had his choice of elite programs before surprising many by leaving the Southwest and heading to South Bend.

While the top of the depth chart is pretty well stocked, wearing the No. 3 jersey usually means something special for the Irish. Let’s take a closer look at one of the newest cornerbacks on campus.

RECRUITING PRESTIGE

Put simply, Luke’s offer lists is one of the more impressive in the country. With official visits to Texas and Oklahoma, and interest from a dozen other elite programs, there’s no wonder that Luke is among the top prospects at his position, and one of the top players in Arizona.

Depending on the recruiting service, Luke is a fringe Top 100 player, though listed in just about everyone’s top 150. Long, lean, and skilled cornerbacks that play at elite programs tend to be highly sought after. His offers and the rankings reflect that.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

After talking to people in and around the program, most expect Luke to make his way into the two-deep depth chart almost immediately. While Bennett Jackson, KeiVarae Russell and Lo Wood seem to be a solid 1-2-3, after that Luke is just as likely to see the field as untested players like Josh Atkinson or Jalen Brown.

How the coaching staff expects to utilize nickel and dime packages will likely be determined by how prepared the youth infused into this secondary will be come late August. But there’s every belief that Luke is one of the more technically skilled prospects in this class, and he’s got pedigree for days.

While he’s not the biggest guy physically, you expect Luke to be ready athletically almost immediately, though whether he needs time to grow into college football like Eilar Hardy or immediately make an impact like KeiVarae Russell remains to be seen.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

The sky is the limit for Luke. When you look at the opportunities that come after Bennett Jackson leaves the program, Luke has the opportunity to fight for a spot in the starting lineup — or defending in the slot — from the start, with the boundary cornerback job up for grabs in 2014.

There’s so much to like about Luke. The staff believes he’s a versatile cornerback, a guy that can play comfortably in a Cover 2 or walk up and play press man coverage. He’s got great football lineage, with his uncle Darren Woodson putting together a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl winning career as one of the most versatile defensive backs in football. Woodson helped guide Luke through the recruiting process, and as it’s happened with a lot of pro athletes’ family members, that’s come up golden for Notre Dame.

Still, projecting a cornerback’s career at Notre Dame hasn’t exactly been the easiest process. Elite recruits like Darren Walls and Gary Gray walked winding roads throughout their careers in South Bend, and “future stars” like Clifford Jefferson remind you how star rankings don’t always predict the future. But Luke is an immediate talent infusion to the cornerback position, and while guys like Devin Butler and Rashad Kinlaw have some learning to do, Luke comes in with a head start.