Waller adds Irish to finalists as QB carousel keeps spinning

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Notre Dame spent almost seven months sitting on the sidelines of quarterback recruiting. But Blake Barnett‘s departure from the Irish 2015 signing class has put Notre Dame in the middle of everything — and it looks like the Irish might be the ones to trigger the national dominoes to start falling.

Barnett’s surprise departure from the headliner of the Irish 2015 class may have come as a shock to fans and fellow recruits, but Notre Dame’s coaching staff moved quickly and confidently as they reopened their board.

In a matter of 48 hours, Notre Dame identified and targeted three elite prospects to replace Barnett:

Deondre Francois 
Jarrett Stidham 

Travis Waller

All three are top 10 targets at their position, as viewed by Rivals.com. And all three seem interested in hearing more from Notre Dame in the very near future.

For Francois, the offer was welcome news. The IMG Academy quarterback who just came off an MVP performance at the Rivals 5-Star challenge, has pushed back his planned commitment from The Opening to the beginning of his season. That’ll let him get to South Bend and take in what Notre Dame has to offer.

“It will shake up my recruitment a lot because having Notre Dame, an independent school, an up an coming program and me coming in after Everett Golson having a chance to compete for the job would mean a lot,” Francois told 247Sports.com’s Tom Loy. “I feel like I fit well in that offense.”

Stidham is a Texas Tech commit that’s arguably the top dual-threat quarterback in the country. The Notre Dame offer has caught his interest and turned Texas Tech fans into the same group that chastised Barnett for stepping away from his lengthy commitment. (FYI, that never helps.)

Stidham hasn’t scheduled any visit to South Bend, nor stepped away from his commitment, but the Irish’s pursuit has certainly opened his eyes to the possibility of a new college.

Perhaps the biggest mover of the past week has been Waller. With Notre Dame after the Servite quarterback, the Irish are back in Orange County chasing a signal-caller that’s at a higher profile school than Barnett and a place where the Irish already have in-roads.

It didn’t take long for Waller to put the Irish in his top four, with Notre Dame now battling Northwestern, Ohio State and Alabama. (Those offers don’t sound like a consolation prize.) Noted quarterback guru Steve Clarkson caught up with Bob Wieneke of the South Bend Tribune and had this to say about his most recent pupil.

One of the things that Clarkson pointed out is how Waller has played against big-time competition, listing national powers Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman as teams Servite has tangled with.

“And he’s been a dominant player in those games,” Clarkson said.” He’ll fit in at any system. He’s what I like to call a pro-style athlete. He can operate out of a pro system but also is your new-wave spread quarterback. He’s very gifted athletically. he’s extremely accurate as a passer.”

Clarkson said Waller is hopeful to make a visit to ND soon and expects a decision within weeks. A top four or five could be announced this weekend.

“He’s a great kid, he’s an outstanding football player,” Clarkson said. “If Notre Dame is fortunate enough to get him, they’re not going to be … they’re not going backwards that’s for sure. The kid’s one heck of a football player.”

Clarkson has worked with Barnett in the past, so that last comment should raise an eyebrow or two.

While the loss of Barnett had Irish fans reeling, it certainly didn’t take long for Notre Dame’s staff to get back on their feet and chase after some targets that some recruiting services like even better than Barnett.

That says quite a bit about the machine that Brian Kelly’s built, and the positive response from all three targets should be seen as a positive as well.