Gavin Wimsatt used a remote-controlled drone to show college football coaches the progress he made last offseason.
One camera positioned behind Wimsatt captured him passing to wide receivers from his perspective. The drone’s camera followed Wimsatt from a bird’s-eye view, adding another element to the video production of his throwing session.
The highlight video, which Wimsatt posted via Twitter on Sept. 17, alternated between shots from the drone and on-field cameras. Without being there in person, coaches could evaluate him from different vantage points.
“I got a lot of reactions,” Wimsatt said. “They liked how the video was made and the different camera angles.”
Notre Dame extended a scholarship offer to the Owensboro (Ky.) High product and two other quarterbacks in the 2022 recruiting class: Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic’s Steven Angeli and Martin (Tenn.) Westview’s Ty Simpson.
Until last August, the Irish had not offered a 2022 quarterback. They took longer to examine quarterbacks in this class compared to recent recruiting cycles. The biggest reason why? Not since last March have coaches been able to hold in-person evaluations of recruits.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompted the NCAA to perpetually extend the recruiting dead period. Earlier this month, the Football Oversight Committee recommended the NCAA Division I Council to extend the dead period again from its temporary April 15 deadline to May 31.
There are no college recruiting camps. Coaches can’t attend practices or games. More than a dozen states didn’t even have a high school football season last fall. In some cases, recruits could only show their talent to college coaches by sending them highlight/training videos.
So having creative tapes like the one Wimsatt helped produce can go a long way.
“There’s a difference between evaluating on camera and evaluating in person or through a workout tape,” Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said. “The great thing about the time right now is all of these kids — and credit to their high school coaches or their trainers — they’re putting together Pro Day-type videos where it’s a field-level, behind the quarterback, bird’s-eye view of the whole field and you’re able to see different angles of the throw. It almost gives you a live audition.”
The 2022 quarterback Notre Dame lands could set the tone for this recruiting class. Here’s a closer look at the three quarterbacks who hold Irish offers, why they would appeal to Rees and where they are in the recruiting process.
Gavin Wimsatt, 6-3, 200; Owensboro (Ky.) High
Being a multi-sport athlete is an attribute Rees said he looks for in quarterbacks.
Wimsatt started for Owensboro’s basketball team as a sophomore, averaging 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He’s not playing for them this season but plans to run track this spring.
“The more you see a kid playing basketball, playing baseball, competing in another realm, it’s invaluable,” Rees said. “If you are a Division I quarterback at a high school, you should be good enough to be in the top seven of your high school basketball team. You should be a good enough athlete. You should be playing baseball. You should be doing something else.
“What that can also do is you may not be the star on the basketball team. You may be a role player. That teaches you how to be a different type of teammate. That teaches you about being selfless. It teaches you how to compete and take ownership of a different role.
“Ultimately that’s going to help you where you are the star.”
Wimsatt shined as a junior last football season, passing for 2,349 yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for 443 yards and six scores. Then last month, he included Notre Dame in his top nine school list. Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Oregon, Rutgers, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss also made the group.
Rees developing a relationship with Wimsatt played a major role in his interest with the Irish.
“He’s a great coach, great person,” Wimsatt said. “He actually played quarterback at Notre Dame, so that makes him different. He knows what everything looks like through a quarterback’s eyes. Even outside of football, because he was in that position at one point.”
Before he could commit to the Irish, Wimsatt said he needs to see the campus. He has yet to visit Notre Dame. Look for Wimsatt to explore coming to South Bend within the next few months. He plans to announce his verbal commitment before next football season.
“They are a quarterback friendly school,” said Wimsatt about Notre Dame. “Comfortable, I feel like I could fit into their offense. They are traditionally a really good football school. I just thought it would be one of the best places, along with the other eight schools.”
247Sports: Four stars, No. 2 dual-threat quarterback, No. 40 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, No. 54 overall
Steven Angeli, 6-2, 210; Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic
While Angeli has not released a top school list, Notre Dame is perceived to be his favorite. He also visited South Bend for the first time in December.
The Irish pursued Angeli even before he became a full-time starting quarterback on varsity. Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Oregon and LSU were among other schools to offer Angeli by last September. Until last season, Angeli split reps as the starter at Bergen Catholic.
But Angeli shined at recruiting camps and looked the part when he came to schools for visits and camps.
“He’s got all the physical abilities to really be a big-time quarterback,” said Adam Friedman, the East Coast recruiting analyst for Rivals. “He’s got a strong arm. He’s more mobile than people give him credit for, and he’s a tough runner. He’s not necessarily going to pull away from people. But he’s a tough and smart runner when he needs to be.
“That strong arm has only gotten stronger since last season up to this season. He’s got all those tools that are really attractive in a quarterback. In a camp setting, he throws an accurate ball with good timing. It’s a very catchable ball.”
As a junior last season, Angeli totaled nine touchdowns and completed 68 of 115 passes for 919 yards. He only played six games, though. Angeli having limited experience contributed to him being lower than Wimsatt and Simpson in the recruiting rankings.
Angeli would not have received an offer if Rees did not believe he could develop well. Rees said he learned how to test quarterbacks from his time dealing with draft prospects as an offensive analyst for the San Diego Chargers (now Los Angeles) in 2016.
“Being able to teach a concept or two or a formation and take the sheet away and see how the retention was of those quarterbacks,” Rees said, “and seeing how well they can process it and be able to verbalize it back to you. When you start to find those layers out about players, you are able to start differentiating guys that are similar in their physical traits and where they are, but this might give the one guy the edge over another.”
247Sports: Three stars, No. 16 pro-style quarterback, No. 418 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 13 pro-style quarterback
Ty Simpson, 6-2, 185; Martin (Tenn.) Westview
Simpson seems to bring everything Rees wants in a quarterback.
“He’s got the athleticism,” said Jarod Neal, Simpson’s head coach at Westview. “He’s got the arm strength that everybody talks about and wants. He’s got a very high football I.Q He sees things differently than other people. His hunger to want to be great, he’s our best player and our hardest worker. That says something about him. Most people, if they are a good player, they will slack off sometimes. But he doesn’t.”
Offering Simpson too late in the recruiting process, though, should keep Rees from securing his verbal pledge. Simpson added his Notre Dame offer on Jan. 22. He plans to announce his commitment on Friday. Clemson is perceived as Simpson’s favorite. Alabama, Texas A&M, Texas, Ole Miss and Tennessee are also in the mix.
Simpson had been one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in the 2022 class for more than two years. By the end of 2018, the four-star quarterback already held offers from Michigan, Baylor, Indiana and five SEC programs.
247Sports ranks Simpson as its No. 5 dual-threat quarterback and No. 90 overall player in the class. Rivals pegs him as its No. 3 pro-style quarterback and No. 36 overall.
The Irish losing Simpson won’t matter as much if they land Wimsatt or Angeli. Notre Dame also might extend offers to other 2022 quarterbacks. Austin (Texas) Westlake’s Cade Klubnik and Medina (Ohio) High’s Drew Allar are a couple quarterbacks to watch.