In-state LB recruit Barajas visiting Notre Dame on Saturday

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

Josh Barajas has only heard stories about Jaylon Smith.

Transferring to Andrean for his junior season, the Valparaiso, Ind., product missed out on a chance to play against the future Notre Dame linebacker by a year.

Even as a sophomore, Andrean probably could have used Barajas to try to slow down Smith, who tallied 158 yards and a touchdown on just 12 offensive touches in a 35-21 win in the Class 2-A state semifinal. Smith finished his high school career the following week with his fourth state title at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers.

“I heard all about Jaylon Smith,” Barajas said with a laugh.

With Smith no longer an obstacle and Barajas in his first season with Andrean in 2013, the 59ers worked their way to a 15-0 record and a state championship of their own

Smith made himself the undisputed best prospect in the state for the 2013 class and Barajas may be on his way to doing the same in the 2015 class.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound linebacker ranks as the No. 1 prospect in the state according to 247Sports. The recruiting website also ranks him as a four-star prospect, the No. 3 inside linebacker and the No. 145 recruit in the 2015 class regardless of position.

He’ll visit Notre Dame on Saturday as part of its junior day for recruits. He has yet to receive an offer from the Irish but may learn more this weekend.

“An offer from Notre Dame would be big,” Barajas said.

Schools started lining up for Barajas back in December when Purdue became the first to extend an offer. He has since received offers from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

If the Irish join the fray, it would mean a lot to Barajas, who has never been to Notre Dame’s campus since moving to Indiana in seventh grade.

“Notre Dame's high on my list — being in state, close to home and the strong program in general,” Barajas said.

Defensive line coach Mike Elston has manned the recruiting efforts for Notre Dame with Barajas. With conversation nearly on a weekly basis, Elston has made a strong impression with the young linebacker.

“He's a cool guy. I really like him,” Barajas said. “He seems like a real down-to-earth, family-oriented person.”

Barajas transferred to Andrean following a sophomore season at Chicago’s Mount Carmel, which won a 2012 state championship. As a junior at Andrean, he proved himself as a defensive stalwart with 90-plus tackles, five sacks and two interceptions. In the state championship game, a 35-27 win over Brebeuf Jesuit, he finished a disruptive effort with eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and four pass breakups.

College coaches have been drawn to the 6-3 frame of Barajas and a 40-yard dash time in the 4.6-second range. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 outside linebacker prospect and No. 191 overall.

“They like my longer length and being able to run and playing out in space and getting off blocks,” Barajas said. “Being a longer length I think helps a lot.”

The Irish will take a closer look at Barajas this weekend in what could be the first real step in his Notre Dame recruitment. For Barajas, his eventual commitment will come down to relationships.

“My position coach and the impression he makes on me is important,” he said. “That's going to be the guy that I'm going to be spending the most of my time with. The overall team relationship as far as feeling like a family, just more than teammates is important too. And definitely with the coaches being more like father figures, having a stronger relationship and bond than just being coaches.”

Watch junior highlights of Barajas here.

TJames1@SBTinfo.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Andrean linebacker Josh Barajas, a four-star prospect, will visit Notre Dame for the first time on Saturday (Photo courtesy of Mike McArdle/The Times of Northwest Indiana).