Notre Dame football recruiting: Barnett followed his instincts by picking the Irish

South Bend Tribune

Blake Barnett made up his mind before bringing his family to Notre Dame this past weekend.

A week before Barnett made his second visit to South Bend, he knew he wanted to offer his verbal commitment to the Irish. He brought his family along – both his parents, step-parents and step-sister – for the big moment and made the decision official on Sunday in a conversation with head coach Brain Kelly.

Barnett nixed offers from Arizona, California, UCLA, West Virginia and others to become the second 2015 prospect to pledge a commitment to Notre Dame.

“It felt like the place I wanted to be and the place that was right for me,” Barnett said. “I didn't think there was any sense in waiting for something else to happen if that was the place I wanted to go. I also think that you're first instinct is normally the best, and this was the place I wanted to be.”

The fit in Kelly’s spread offense appears natural for Barnett. As a junior at Corona (Calif.) Santiago High School, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Barnett proved to be a dual-threat quarterback. Through his first nine games, Barnett totaled 2,039 yards passing for 20 touchdowns and 624 yards rushing for 12 touchdowns.

Conversations with Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin reaffirmed to Barnett that his skill set would be maximized in Notre Dame’s offense.

"I think the whole offense is great,” Barnett said. “It's similar to my offense as far as it’s somewhat of a spread. Coach Kelly also let me know that they would fit the offense under the quarterback's criteria. They would work around him. I think that works out well because he can put some pass plays in and even let me run a little bit too.”

Much like the last two California quarterbacks to sign with Notre Dame -- Dayne Crist and Jimmy Clausen -- Barnett works with quarterback coach Steve Clarkson. Barnett credits his improvements this season to the past few months of working with Clarkson.

"Coach Clarkson has helped me a lot this season,” Barnett said. “We've been working a lot on my mechanics. He's helped with my footwork and helped with my recruiting as well.”

Barnett knows he’s far from a finished product. He’s already identified areas to work on in the offseason.

“I could shorten my release, which would make me get the ball out a little quicker. I think that will help,” Barnett said. “I also would like to work on throwing on the run. I've done fairly well at escaping the pressure, but executing while moving outside of the pocket would help.”

Barnett’s shown the ability to run past defenders with 4.7 speed in the 40-yard dash, but becoming a more complete passer will allow him to thrive beyond high school. He ranks as a four-star prospect and the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the 2015 class according to 247Sports.

While focusing on continued improvement on the field, Barnett is also making plans to help recruit more prospects to join him at Notre Dame. Less than two days after committing, he and fellow 2015 commit Jerry Tillery gave birth to the social media nickname for the Irish recruiting class. Following the previous two classes named #IrishMob13 and #GoldenArmy14, Barnett and Tillery settled on #ShamrockSoldiers15.

"Jerry and I had been talking for a while and we knew that Notre Dame likes a nickname,” Barnett said. “We tried to think of something and that's what we came up with."

The two have slightly less than 15 months to convince fellow recruits to join their class by signing day in 2015.

”We both have banded together and said we're going to start recruiting guys,” Barnett said. “We're going to progressively try to get some of the top recruits for Notre Dame that the coaches want.”

Santiago quarterback Blake Barnett passes against Eisenhower in Rilato on November 4, 2013.