QB Barnett steadfast in commitment to Notre Dame

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

When quarterback Blake Barnett verbally committed to Notre Dame in November, he gave his pledge to a slightly different coaching staff.

Gone is who would have been his future position coach and offensive coordinator in Chuck Martin. Now the Irish have hired former Washington Redskins assistant Matt LaFleur to coach quarterbacks and promoted wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock to offensive coordinator.

None of those tweaks has affected Barnett’s commitment to the Irish. He knows that a big part of what he’s buying into is head coach Brian Kelly.

“It's still coach Kelly's offense, which I understand completely,” Barnett said. “I've talked to coach Denbrock several times. I don't have any issue with that whatsoever. It all works out.”

Kelly, Denbrock and LaFleur all traveled to Barnett’s high school (Santiago) in Corona, Calif., in January to meet with his head coach. Since then, Barnett has been able to build a relationship with his new future position coach in LaFleur.

"He’s been on Twitter a lot so I've been able to get in contact with him,” Barnett said. “I called him a couple of times and talked to him on the phone. It's nice to get the relationship built up before I head out to South Bend.”

Barnett is still only a junior, so his time at Notre Dame may seem far away, but his plans to enroll early leave him only a little more than a year away from his first spring practice. LaFleur’s experience with coaching Robert Griffin III in the NFL has Barnett excited to see how that knowledge can be transferred to him.

“I understand that he's a great coach,” Barnett said. “He's been able to coach RGIII, which I would say is a comparable quarterback to me in terms of playing style. I wouldn't think it would be that much of a difference for him to coach me than it would be with RGIII. I think that will benefit both of us.”

Barnett will get his first chance to receive some instruction this summer when he visits Notre Dame for its summer camps.

Following his commitment to Notre Dame, Barnett’s stock has risen in the eyes of recruiting analysts and other college football programs. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder earned the first invite to the Elite 11 quarterback competition’s national finals in January, Rivals ranked him as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country and 247Sports slated him as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback.

Now other schools, most notably Michigan and Alabama, have extended offers to Barnett to test his commitment to Notre Dame.

“I make them all aware of the fact that I'm still committed to Notre Dame,” Barnett said of the coaches reaching out to him. “Most of them are very understanding of that. They just normally say if anything drastic was to happen and I wasn’t sure of my decision, I should let them know.”

Barnett said he only regularly communicates with Notre Dame’s coaching staff, with most other schools sticking to mail and the occasional message to express their interest. But the mail from Notre Dame? That has taken the form of an Irish-branded wallpaper in his bedroom.

The interest from other schools flatters Barnett — he denied that any specific offer was more special than the others — but he remains firmly committed to Notre Dame.

"It's reassuring that if something ridiculously drastic were to happen and I wasn't in the situation that I am in now,” Barnett said, “that I would have options that would still allow me to play college football at the competition level that I'd like to.”

February offers

The Irish coaching staff immediately shifted from the 2014 signing day to continuing to extend offers to 2015 prospects this month. Here’s a look at prospects reporting offers from Notre Dame in February:

RB Eric Swinney, 5-10, 190; Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek: A four-star prospect, Swinney holds offers from Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Ohio State, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 5 running back and No. 65 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 9 run-ning back and No. 104 overall.

ATH Shawn Burgess-Becker, 6-1, 185; Coconut Creek (Fla.) Monarch: A four-star prospect, Burgess-Becker holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Miami and LSU, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 athlete and No. 73 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 16 athlete and No. 123 overall. Burgess-Becker projects as a wide receiver or defensive back.

DT Jacob Daniel, 6-5, 300; Fresno (Calif.) Clovis North: Daniels holds offers from USC, Washington, Ohio State and Stanford, among others. 247Sports slates him as a five-star prospect, the No. 6 defensive tackle and No. 27 overall. Rivals ranks Daniel as a four-star prospect, the No. 9 defensive tackle and No. 83 overall.

CB Holton Hill, 6-2, 175; Houston (Texas) Lamar: Hill holds offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, among others. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect, the No. 19 cornerback and No. 215 overall. Rivals ranks Hill as a three-star prospect and the No. 28 cornerback.

WR Calvin Ridley, 6-1, 170; Coconut Creek (Fla.) Monarch: Ridley holds offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Miami, among others. Rivals ranks him as a five-star prospect, the No. 2 wide receiver and No. 11 overall. 247Sports slates Ridley as a four-star prospect, the No. 6 wide receiver and No. 93 overall.

S Deionte Thompson, 6-2, 174; Orange (Texas) West Orange-Stark: a four-star prospect, Thompson holds a verbal commitment with Alabama. 247Sports slates him as the No. 4 safety and No. 61 overall. Rivals ranks him as the No. 2 safety and No. 97 overall.

S Calvin Brewton, 5-11, 180; Miami (Fla.) Central: Brewton holds a verbal commitment with Florida State. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect, the No. 7 safety and No. 139 overall. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and as the No. 20 safety.

CB PJ Mbanasor, 6-2, 182; Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson: Mbanasor holds a verbal commitment with TCU. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect and No. 245 overall. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 34 cornerback.

CB Marcus Lewis, 6-1, 185; Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga: A four-star prospect, Lewis holds offers from Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Michigan State, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 9 cornerback and No. 76 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 18 athlete and No. 141 overall. Lewis, who attends the alma mater of freshman cornerback Devin Butler, previously held a verbal commitment with Virginia Tech.

ATH RayRay McCloud III, 5-9, 175; Tampa (Fla.) Sickles: A four-star prospect, McCloud holds offers from Florida, Kentucky, Miami and Ohio State, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 10 athlete and No. 105 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 15 athlete and No. 122 overall. McCloud projects as a running back, slot receiver or defensive back.

S Prentice McKinney, 6-2, 180; Dallas South Oak Cliff: A three-star prospect, McKinney holds offers from Boise State, Maryland, Michigan and Oklahoma, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 25 safety and the No. 63 prospect in Texas. 247Sports slates him as the No. 35 safety and No. 66 in Texas.

WR KJ Hill, 6-1, 180; North Little Rock (Ark.) High: Hill holds offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Oklahoma State, among others. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect, the No. 11 wide receiver and No. 133 overall. Rivals ranks Hill as a three-star pros-pect and the No. 37 wide receiver.

WR Alex Ofodile, 6-3, 185; Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge: a four-star prospect, Ofodile holds offers from Missouri, Florida State, Oklahoma and Penn State, among others. 247Sports slates him as the No. 8 wide receiver and No. 98 overall. Rivals ranks him as the No. 15 wide receiver and No. 118 overall.

ATH Ryan Newsome, 5-9, 170; Aledo (Texas) High: a wide receiver and return specialist, Newsome holds offers from Baylor, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas Tech. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect, the No. 23 wide receiver and No. 209 overall. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 45 athlete.

WR Michael Chigbu, 6-2, 210; New Orleans Holy Cross: Chigbu holds offers from Arizona State, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, among others. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect, the No. 22 wide receiver and No. 206 overall. Rivals ranks Chigbu as a three-star prospect and the No. 49 wide receiver.

DE Darian Roseboro, 6-4, 265; Lincolnton (N.C.) High: A four-star prospect, Roseboro holds offers from North Carolina State, Auburn, Clemson and Ohio State. Both Rivals and 247Sports slate Roseboro as the No. 8 strongside defensive end. Rivals ranks him No. 45 overall and 247Sports has him at No. 143.

DB PJ Locke, 5-11, 185; Beaumont (Texas) Central: A three-star prospect, Locke holds offers from Baylor, Northwestern, Michigan State and SMU, among others. 247Sports slates him as the No. 53 safety. Rivals ranks him as the No. 67 prospect in Texas.

DT Darvin Taylor, 6-2, 295; Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale: A four-star prospect, Taylor holds offers from Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami and South Carolina, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 defensive tackle and No. 125 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 15 defensive tackle and No. 153 overall.

TE Chris Clark, 6-6, 245; Avon (Conn.) Old Farms: A four-star prospect, Clark holds offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and Auburn. 247Sports slates Clarks as the No. 4 tight end and No. 170 overall. Rivals ranks him at No. 176 overall.

DT Kahlil McKenzie, 6-3, 310; Concord (Calif.) De La Salle: A four-star prospect, McKenzie holds offers from USC, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and UCLA, among others. 247Sports slates him as the No. 10 defensive tackle and No. 60 overall. Rivals ranks him as the No. 16 defensive tackle and No. 24 overall. McKenzie is the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Tyler James: 574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

When Notre Dame was recruiting 2015 quarterback commit Blake Barnett, the Irish staff designed a fake magazine cover with him positioned among ND's seven Heisman Trophy winners. (Photo provied/The Press-Enterprise)