Notre Dame football recruiting: WR Brent fares well at camps

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

The national camp circuit treated Justin Brent well this summer.

A year after committing to Notre Dame, the wide receiver prospect from Speedway, Ind., was given two chances to compete with the country’s best high school football players in consecutive months.

In June, Brent headed to Chicago for the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge at Soldier Field. Earlier this month, Brent trekked to Nike Headquarters in Beavertown, Ore., for The Opening. He left both events with some free swag — Under Armour from Rivals and Nike from The Opening — and praise from recruiting analysts.

Last summer, Brent’s travels were limited. He participated in a Nike Football Training Camp in Champaign, Ill., but most of his camp work came during campus visits to Louisville, Ohio State and Notre Dame. After Brent chose the Irish last July, he shut down his recruitment, and the attention from other programs and recruiting analysts faded.

Brent looked at the invitations to the national camps this summer as an opportunity to prove himself to others outside of the Notre Dame coaching staff.

Mission accomplished.

He moved up 59 spots in the overall rankings on 247Sports.com after The Opening. Brent now sits as the No. 63 prospect in the 2014 class and the No. 7 wide receiver. Updated Rivals.com ranking won’t be released until mid-August.

Brent excelled in 7-on-7 competitions, catching passes and finding ways to get open against elite defenders. He paired those performances with measurables of 6-foot-1, 197 pounds, a 4.52-second time in the 40-yard dash, a 4.13 shuttle and a 36-inch vertical at The Opening. Brent’s name started popping up on lists of dream teams, top performers and biggest surprises for various recruiting services covering the camps.

“They really didn’t get a chance to see me last year, and I didn’t end up with 30 offers because I committed so early. It was good to show that I’m still pretty good,” Brent said. “They were able to take notice and I was able to compete with the best of the best. It was awesome.”

Not a follower of the national recruiting scene, Brent didn’t really know many of the prospects he was competing with or against at the camps. He just knew that the invitation alone meant they had to have a similar skill level as him.

“When I didn’t go to these national camps previously, I didn’t get a chance to know who these guys are. I’m going up against them thinking they’re just normal people like me,” Brent said. “Maybe that played in my favor. It was just like I was going up against another guy. When I was doing that, I was succeeding. I didn’t really get to know who I was going up against. Somebody might have been a four-star; somebody might have been a five-star. I wouldn’t have even known.”

Brent did get to better know a couple of his fellow commits. Running back Elijah Hood shared a room with him in Chicago and quarterback DeShone Kizer introduced himself at The Opening.

“We hit it off quick,” Brent said of the new relationship with his future quarterback.

The coaching advice at both camps proved valuable. Being able to work with Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas at The Opening was a highlight.

“I learned more about technique with some routes — what works and what doesn’t work. Against different coverages, what works and doesn’t work,” Brent said. “That’s something I definitely took away from it.”

The nuances of route-running will have to be sharpened while putting in some overtime this season. Hoping to be a more useful threat for his Speedway High School team, Brent will play running back, safety and returner for the Sparkplugs as a senior.

Last year’s quarterback graduated and double and triple coverage is sure to follow Brent this season against Class 2-A competition. The position switch will guarantee him more touches, while the option of lining up wide will still remain. Brent caught 54 passes for 992 yards and 13 touchdowns as junior.

Brent said the biggest test he’ll face as a running back is the increased physicality. He’ll be taking hits 30 times a game compared to 5-10 as a wide receiver.

“I’m a big guy. I lift every day, so I’ll try to get that taken care of,” Brent said. “Being a little thicker will help me out a little bit.”

If all goes well, a month or two after Brent finishes his final high school football season, he’ll finish up his final semester of high school too. With the help of school administrators, Brent’s set up a plan to graduate early in order to enroll at Notre Dame in January 2014.

“There’s a really good chance that it’s going to happen,” Brent said. “I’m getting ready for that to get me out there early. The principal and everybody are working things out because they’re all for it too. Hopefully we get that done. I’m excited.”

Florida CB offered

Tyrek Cole, a 2015 prospect from Miramar, Fla., reported a Notre Dame offer this week. The 5-10, 170-pound recruit ranks as the No. 7 cornerback in the 2015 class and No. 62 player overall, according to 247Sports. ESPN slates Cole as the No. 5 cornerback and No. 53 overall. Florida, Florida State and Miami are among the schools on his double-digit offer list.

Justin Brent