CB Landen Bartleson, 6-1, 185; Danville (Ky.) Boyle County.
The numbers: Bartleson turned 109 carries into 768 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in his junior season at Boyle County. On defense, Bartleson recorded 34 tackles, six pass breakups, two interceptions and two tackles for a loss. He also made nine catches for 85 yards. The Rebels (13-1) lost to Corbin (13-2) in the KHSAA Class 3A state semifinal.
The rankings: 247Sports — Three stars, No. 38 ATH, No. 475 overall. Rivals — Three-star cornerback.
First impression: It’s easy to understand why recruiting sites had Bartleson ranked as a running back until recently. Almost the entirety of his junior season film consists of plays from him at the position. Bartleson has done some impressive things, but it’s hard to pinpoint where he best projects in college. With his play at running back, Bartleson reminds me a bit of former Irish defensive back Nick Coleman, who also played running back in high school.
Strengths: Bartleson has some intriguing traits, but it took a bit of digging to get a better sense of him. I included his sophomore film because it shows more of what he can do as a defensive back — even if it's outdated. He’s a physical player and willing tackler. Pinpointing Bartleson’s speed is a bit challenging, but he’s fast enough to outrun defenders and chase down ball carriers. He changes direction well coming out of a backpedal. He doesn’t intercept a lot of passes, but he puts himself in position to break them up. As a running back, Bartleson shows good vision, anticipation and is tough to bring down. He works well in small spaces because of his shiftiness.
Proof of prowess: (Soph 3:09) Clearly, Bartleson handles his change of direction better than the receiver. Even though Bartleson leaves his straight backpedal, he’s able to adjust when the receiver cuts and falls, spot the ball and cut in front to intercept the pass. He returns the interception for a touchdown with ease.
(Soph 6:18) Bartleson does an excellent job of fighting off a block from a receiver to help stop the run. He shoves the receiver out of the way and delivers a nice hit on the quarterback for a sure tackle.
(Bonus): Below is footage of Bartleson tracking down Wan’Dale Robinson, a four-star Nebraska recruit in the 2019 class. Robinson has reported 40 times in the 4.2-4.4 range. Bartelson has a head start in being able to hit top speed sooner, but it’s an impressive display of speed regardless. The play described is the first one shown.
Competition level: In 2018, Boyle County took on six of the top 36 ranked teams in Kentucky, according to MaxPreps. Bartleson routinely matched up against some of the best teams in the state, but also some of the best prospects too. In a 40-14 win over Lexington Catholic, Bartleson and the Boyle County defense limited 2020 Kentucky quarterback commit Beau Allen, a four-star recruit, to just 100 passing yards.
Bartleson stepped up against top recruits as a running back too. Against North Hardin defensive lineman Octavious Oxendine, a four-star 2020 recruit, Bartleson rushed 14 times for 163 yards. Four-star linebacker Jared Casey, a 2019 Kentucky signee, recorded 13 tackles and two TFLs for Ballard against Boyle County’s offense, but he couldn’t prevent Bartleson from rushing for 108 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries.
Kentucky doesn’t produce a lot of Power Five prospects, but there are high-level players in the state. In the 2019 class, Rivals rated eight recruits at the four-star level and eight more as three-star recruits. Currently, the 2020 class has six four-star recruits and 11 three-star recruits.
Left to prove: Will cornerback be Bartleson’s only position at Notre Dame? It’s hard to tell with the film available. That’s not on him, though. I just have a hard time making bold statements on cornerback play that’s from nearly two years ago at this point. Clearly the Irish coaching staff likes his projection at cornerback, but I have to imagine his position flexibility is a bonus. Maybe he can play nickelback at the college level. He’s listed at roughly the same size as Clarence Lewis, but Lewis looks taller and longer. All told, Bartleson remains a bit of an enigma at this point. Hopefully there is more clarity to come in his senior season to help explain the specific things Notre Dame covets about him. If his speed is legit, there’s reason to be intrigued.