After two uneventful, enigmatic seasons at Notre Dame, linebacker Josh Barajas will try to reboot his college football career at Illinois State, the school announced on Wednesday.
"We knew a lot about Josh coming out of high school, having played at Andrean High School with (Illinois State tight end) Tylor Petkovich," ISU head coach Brock Spack said in a statement. "He was a very good player coming out of high school and landed at Notre Dame, but felt he needed a new start.
"We felt he would be a great fit for our system and give us a lot of flexibility at the linebacker position as a possible pass rusher. He can really play in space outside, but he is athletic enough to play inside or outside for us."
Because he is transferring down a level, the 6-foot-2, 239-pound junior-to-be will be immediately eligible at the FCS school and won’t have to sit out a season.
The Merrillville (Ind.) Andrean High product and Valparaiso native leaves Notre Dame with just nine career games played and zero career tackles. He arrived at ND as one of the most celebrated recruits in the 2015 class.
Both Rivals and 247Sports rated him a four-star prospect. He was the No. 180 recruit nationally regardless of position in the 2015 class and No. 13 outside linebacker, per Rivals. He ranked 108 overall and No. 8 among outside linebackers, according to 247 Sports.
Even with a coaching change (coordinator Mike Elko, linebacker coach Mike Lea) and schematic overhaul, Barajas couldn’t gain traction for playing time at either linebacker spot this past spring. He finished the spring fourth on the depth chart at weakside linebacker, ahead of only incoming freshman Drew White.
With Barajas' departure, Notre Dame currently has 85 scholarship players, which matches the maximum limit for an FBS program.
As for the linebacker position, once White and fellow freshman David Adams arrive in mid-June, the Irish will have eight players to man the two positions. Only starters Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini among them have expiring eligibility after 2017.
The Irish already have two linebacker commitments in the 2018 class and will likely add at least one more. The two already committed are Ovie Oghoufo (6-3, 209) from Farmington Hills, Mich., and Bo Bauer (6-3, 220) from Erie, Pa.
Illinois State, meanwhile, has made the FCS playoffs the past three seasons, including a run to the title game in 2014. There, the Redbirds lost, 29-27, to North Dakota State.
ISU opens its 2017 season at home, Sept. 2 versus Butler.