SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame defensive tackle commit Gabriel Rubio knew offensive tackle Blake Fisher would verbally pledge to the Irish.
Both 2021 college football recruits forged a relationship when taking an unofficial visit to South Bend during the polar vortex phase in late-January. So when Fisher announced his commitment hours after Rubio made his decision public on Saturday, it did not catch Rubio by surprise.
What caught Rubio off guard was Fisher's agility at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds. The Avon (Ind.) High product put his skills on display, along with Rubio, in Notre Dame’s Lineman’s Challenge. Saturday’s football recruiting camp featured dozens of offensive and defensive linemen from across the country.
“For his size and his weight, he can move really, really quickly,” Rubio said of Fisher. “Most guys are either going to be a short, stockier type of guy that could move really quickly or a bigger, lumbering kind of guy who is not very fast off the ball. But he’s got both talents equally.
“He’s quick off the ball, he’s aggressive and he’s downright relentless.”
The position drills and one-on-ones held inside the Loftus Sports Center was a small sample size. Most of the recruits in attendance were far from finished products and still had two or three years of high school remaining. Without pads, they could not embrace full contact or drive another into the ground.
But for what it’s worth, Fisher and Rubio dominated the camp. Notre Dame named them MVPs for the offensive line and defensive line, respectively. Their commitments placed ND’s 2021 recruiting class at No. 2 nationally per 247Sports.
“I felt like I did great during the second session,” Rubio said. “But during the first session outside, I was still trying to work out some chinks in the armor I had. Just trying to knock off that rust. I think it was time to get back into the scheme of things.”
Fisher looked physically imposing before ever participating in a drill. Once he competed, not many recruits could handle his strength, athleticism and quickness. Fisher’s quick feet lived up to the hype as well. He was not afraid to exert maximum effort despite not wearing pads.
Rubio bested his opposition on five consecutive one-on-one matchups. He flashed quickness and versatility. The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder needs to polish his technique and add more strength and muscle. Rubio would prove himself further by becoming more productive. The Saint Peters (Mo.) Luther product recorded just 44 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two blocked extra points as a sophomore.
Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston first saw Rubio when he came to campus for last June’s offensive-defensive line camp. At that point, Rubio did not hold any Division I offers. This time around, Elston exclusively worked with Rubio throughout the camp and offered instructions.
“I’m just trying to remember what coach Elston is trying to get across and his way of teaching,” Rubio said. “The camp was more of a teaching day instead of a showcase because I already have my spot secured.”
Yesterday, was truly a blessing! Not only did I enjoy my new family but I was blessed to be named one of the two top performers at Notre Dame Lineman’s Challenge Camp. It feels great to be part of the family!!!! #Goirish☘️🤝 #GoldRush21☘️🤝 pic.twitter.com/YcKsbJX9Vn— Blake Fisher🙏🏽 (@bfisher_54) June 16, 2019
I’m never afraid of posting my progress! I’m never perfect! At Notre Dame I was asked to work speed series moves against a couple of the best OL in the country! ☘️☘️☘️ #GoIrish #PawsUp pic.twitter.com/typf6nYZrz— Gabriel Rubio (@GRubio68) June 16, 2019
Fort Collins (Colo.) Fossil Ridge’s Trey Zuhn and Richfield (Ohio) Revere’s Ben Christman, both 2021 Irish recruiting targets, were among participating offensive linemen. Besides Rubio, none of the participating defensive linemen held Irish offers.
Aurora (Colo.) Cherokee Trail’s Sam Hart, a 2021 tight end, and Lakeland (Fla.) Christian School’s Cade Denhoff, a 2021 defensive end, garnered Notre Dame offers following their camp performances. While Denhoff is not rated on 247Sports or Rivals, Hart ranks as the No. 14 tight end and the No. 361 overall player as a three-star recruit.
Valparaiso (Ind.) High defensive end Cooper Jones could eventually land a Notre Dame offer. Jones looked raw, but at 6-6, 245 pounds, he appeared skinny with room to grow physically. He impressed in a few one-on-one matchups and could develop into a strongside defensive end.
Lakeville (Minn.) South’s Riley Mahlman, a 2021 offensive tackle, did not live up to the hype in his portion of one-on-ones. The 6-foot-8, 270-pounder did not look comfortable and lost a few matchups. Notre Dame has not offered Mahlman, a four-star recruit ranked as 247Sports’ No. 20 offensive tackle and No. 148 overall player.
After an amazing visit I am so thankful and excited to say I have just received an offer from Notre Dame!! Thank you so much @CoachBrianKelly @CoachChipLong @CoachJeffQuinn @coachjajczyk @warriorqbcoach @SICATHLETES #GoIrish pic.twitter.com/tnuqBAamCB— Sam Hart (@sam_hart82) June 15, 2019
After a GREAT visit and camp I am honored and blessed to announce that I have received an offer from the University of Notre Dame!!!#AGTG #GoIrish @coachd_dub @joneal39 @OBallcoach @H2_Recruiting @DaRealMarc @247Sports @Rivals @HamiltonESPN @NDFootball pic.twitter.com/HOMOCzWhU1— Cade Denhoff (@cade_denhoff) June 15, 2019
Great getting on campus at Notre Dame for lineman’s challenge camp!! Can’t wait to be back this fall for a game to take in the full experience. Thank you @CoachJeffQuinn @NDFootball @SixZeroAcademy pic.twitter.com/LTNCeN09eK— Trey Zuhn (@TreyZuhn) June 16, 2019
The following former Notre Dame defensive linemen attended Saturday’s camp: Stephon Tuitt (Pittsburgh Steelers), Romeo Okwara (Detroit Lions), Isaac Rochell (Los Angeles Chargers) and Sheldon Day (San Francisco 49ers). Former Irish offensive linemen Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher — who are both now on the Chicago Bears roster — were also in attendance.
The following players were among Irish offensive linemen that attended camp: Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hainsey, Aaron Banks, Jarrett Patterson, Josh Lugg, Andrew Kristofic, Cole Mabry, John Dirksen and Dillan Gibbons.
The following players were among Irish defensive linemen that attended camp: Khalid Kareem, Kurt Hinish, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Jacob Lacey, Hunter Spears, NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Kofi Wardlow. Safety Jalen Elliott and cornerback Troy Pride Jr. were also in attendance.