Joshua Bryan chose to be patient.
Bryan, one of the nation’s top placekickers in the 2021 recruiting class, announced his commitment to Notre Dame on Tuesday despite the possibility of not playing as a freshman. The Chatworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon product flipped his verbal pledge from the University of Colorado, which promised him a starting role next season.
Senior kicker Jonathan Doerer told reporters in October that he is “most likely” returning for a fifth season at Notre Dame next year. In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA passed a new rule that allows players to preserve a year of eligibility. Without that rule, Doerer would have completed his eligibility this season.
“Going to a school like Notre Dame and sitting out one year to gain experience and knowledge under a fifth-year guy who is returning,” Bryan said, “I don’t see that as a downside or an issue. I think that’s actually invaluable for me to get that feeling before I start the next year rather than just get thrown in. Although, I could do well either way. But I feel like the first year to get everything all situated would be good for me.”
Bryan works with Chris Sailer, one of the more renowned trainers in the kicking industry. Sailer trains plenty of notable kickers. He even worked with Doerer during his high school years.
In his rating system on Chris Sailer Kicking, Sailer pegs Bryan as a six-star kicker. He also ranked him as the No. 1 placekicker in the 2021 class. 247Sports considers Bryan to be a two-star recruit, ranking him as its No. 9 kicker and No. 2,802 overall player in the class.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Bryan shows athleticism for a kicker. He plays linebacker at Sierra Canyon and totaled 123 tackles and eight tackles for a loss as a sophomore.
“Josh is simply a phenomenal high school kicking prospect,” Bryan’s profile reads on Sailer’s website. “A great athlete with big-time college potential. He hits a pure ball on field goals off the ground. He gets big-time lift on his ball and has 60+ yard range. His kickoffs are excellent, D1 ready. He drives the ball deep in the end zone with 4.0+ hang time. Also a capable punter. He is a major competitor that thrives under pressure.”
Bryan announced his commitment to the Buffaloes on Aug. 3. Irish recruiting/special teams coordinator Brian Polian showed interest in Bryan for several months. But Notre Dame chose not to offer him a committable scholarship until August, Bryan said.
“I committed to Colorado thinking that was the school I was going to go to, because Notre Dame didn’t look very promising,” Bryan said. “And then shortly after I committed to Colorado, Polian came to me and said, ‘There’s a very good chance we can give you something now.’ So I wasn’t instantly going to choose Notre Dame unless I saw what they were going to give me. But obviously they have given me the spot, so that’s why I chose Notre Dame.
“But specifically school-wise, the difference is I feel like a degree from Notre Dame is more important, more value than a degree at Colorado to me.”
The Irish needed time before knowing if they had the scholarship space to sign a kicker in the 2021 class. They now hold 21 pledges this cycle and could add a few more.
Rivals and 247Sports both rank Notre Dame’s class No. 10 nationally.
“For him to spend so much time with me and for him to want to get me there, he was really awesome about everything,” Bryan said about Polian. “He understood the whole crazy process we are all in. He would always take the time to help me or my dad out with any questions to make us feel more comfortable with the decision between ultimately Colorado and Notre Dame. The trust aspect was also there. There wasn’t any sign of disrespect or lying.”
In August, Bryan took his first trip to Notre Dame. The visit satisfied the NCAA’s dead period rules. Under the dead period, recruits are prohibited from having face-to-face contact with coaches. So Bryan trekked to South Bend on a do-it-yourself type of excursion.
The ongoing mandate, which started in March because of COVID-19, is expected to be extended again to April 15, according to a report from CBS Sports last week.
“It was more important for me to at least see the school and to get a feel for the school,” Bryan said. “The fact that I felt so comfortable and that it felt like home more than Colorado did, I felt like I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to not go there. Because that’s not even taking in the football aspect of it, which we all know is big time. They are always amazing.”
Flipping commitments from recruits pledged to other schools like Bryan has not been uncommon at Notre Dame. The Irish already landed commitments from two other 2021 recruits pledged to other schools: defensive end Will Schweitzer (Nebraska) and cornerback Philip Riley (USC).
Defensive end Kelvin Gilliam (Oklahoma), cornerback Theran Johnson (Northwestern), offensive lineman Caleb Johnson (Auburn) and running back Audric Estime (Michigan State) are the other committed recruits being pursued by Notre Dame this cycle.
The Irish are also targeting the following uncommitted 2021 recruits: running backs Byron Cardwell and Donovan Edwards, linebacker Kahanu Kia, cornerback Ceyair Wright and safety Titus Mokiao-Atimalala.
I am so excited about the way this class is coming together and we have added more great men to our family this week! Let's keep it rolling! #GoldRush21 ☘️— Brian Polian (@BrianPolian) November 18, 2020