Notre Dame football working ahead with 2016 QB recruits

South Bend Tribune

Matt LaFleur is looking ahead.

With a verbal commitment from 2015 quarterback Blake Barnett already secure, Notre Dame’s first-year quarterbacks coach has the luxury of focusing on the 2016 class.

LaFleur’s spring travel itinerary included a number of stops to evaluate 2016 quarterbacks. Last week, two more prospective signal-callers — Florida’s Xavier Gaines and Maryland’s Dwayne Haskins — reported Irish offers, bringing the total to four in the class.

Malik Henry of California and Jawon Pass of Georgia previously reported offers.

Of the four, CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming points to Pass as the best prospect. Lemming believes that Pass might be the best overall recruit in 2016.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder shined in his sophomore season at Columbus (Ga.) Carver. Pass completed 165 of his 246 attempts for 2,197 yards and 23 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He also rushed for 404 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I think Pass is the best one,” Lemming said. “He's got a great arm and a great feel for the game. He reminds me of Cam Newton when he came out of high school. He's not there yet, but he has that kind of potential. He can run. He can throw. He's a terrific all-around athlete.”

247Sports rates Pass as a four-star prospect, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and No. 15 prospect overall in the 2016 class. He holds offers from more than 10 schools, including Texas A&M, Clemson and Miami. Ohio State joined the list Monday.

Watch highlights of Pass here.

Lemming ranks Gaines, a 6-2, 210-pound quarterback from Frostproof, Fla., close behind Pass.

In 10 regular-season games as a sophomore, Gaines threw for 1,185 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also accumulated 547 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

“What impressed me more than his overall athletic ability was his ability to get people to follow his lead and be a leader, which is what quarterbacks need to do,” Lemming said. “He's very personable, but also very athletic.”

247Sports slates Gaines as a four-star prospect, the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and No. 95 overall in 2016. His offers of more than a dozen schools include Florida State, Auburn and Ohio State.

Lemming anticipates Henry and Haskins making his first Top 100 for 2016. Henry, a 6-2, 174-pound prospect from Westlake Village, Calif., already received top honors from 247Sports as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the class. He completed 158 of his 262 passes last season for 2,362 yards and 21 touchdowns. He added 99 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Haskins reported an offer from the Irish last Wednesday. The 6-2, 185-pound quarterback completed 72 of his 128 passes for 1,130 yards and 14 touchdowns last season at The Bullis School in Potomac, Md. His offer list, which includes Ohio State, Florida State and Maryland, is already nearing 20.

The offers extended show a due diligence made by LaFleur and the Irish staff to recognize potential fits early in recruiting cycles. So how important are these offers to 2016 quarterbacks?

“Super important because everyone else is,” Lemming said. “Notre Dame has to keep up with the Joneses if they expect to land these guys.”

With the reported Notre Dame offers in the 2016 class reaching two dozen, the Irish have made a strong first step in the cycle.

“Up until this year, Notre Dame really lost about a third of the top prospects in the country because they weren't in on them early enough,” Lemming said. “But I don't see that happening this year. I see Notre Dame right in the middle of everything nationally. This group that they have right now seems to be a very strong group recruiting with all nine coaches.”

More offers reported

The work continued through the end of last week for Notre Dame’s coaching staff. The spring evaluation period, which runs until the end of May, produced several more reported offers from 2015 and 2016 prospects. Here’s a rundown:

• DE Charles Omenihu, 6-4, 217; Rowlett (Texas) High: A Texas commit, Omenihu reported an offer Wednesday from Notre Dame. The three-star prospect verbally committed to the Longhorns in February and holds recent offers from Oregon, Florida and Nebraska. 247Sports slates Omenihu as the No. 24 weakside defensive end in the 2015 class and the No. 58 prospect in Texas. Rivals ranks him No. 93 in the state.

Watch highlights of Omenihu here.

• DL Albert Huggins, 6-2, 279; Orangeburg (S.C.) Wilkinson: A four-star prospect, Huggins reported an offer Thursday from Notre Dame. The 2015 recruit holds offers from more than a dozen schools, including Alabama, Florida State and South Carolina. Rivals ranks Huggins as the No. 3 strongside defensive end and No. 20 overall in the class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 9 defensive tackle and No. 50 overall.

Watch highlights of Huggins here.

• DE Michael Barnett, 6-4, 248; Dorchester (S.C.) Woodland: A four-star prospect, Barnett reported an offer Thursday from Notre Dame. The 2015 recruit previously held a verbal commitment to Virginia Tech, but withdrew it in February. He holds offers from more than a dozen schools, including Alabama, Florida State and Clemson. 247Sports slates Barnett as the No. 10 strongside defensive end and No. 235 overall in the class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 18 strongside defensive end.

Watch highlights of Barnett here.

• ATH Jerome Baker, 6-1, 205; Cleveland Benedictine: A four-star prospect, Baker reported an offer Friday from Notre Dame. The 2015 recruit holds an offer list of nearly 20 schools, including Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. As a junior, the two-way player rushed for 1,400 yards and tallied 120 tackles at linebacker. Rivals ranks Baker as the No. 2 athlete and No. 28 overall in the class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 5 athlete and No. 51 overall.

Watch highlights of Baker here.And here.

• ATH Porter Gustin, 6-5, 237; Salem (Utah) Hills: A four-star prospect, Gustin reported an offer Friday from Notre Dame. The 2015 recruit has seen his offer list blow up since the start of April with USC, Florida State and Stanford among the 20-plus offers he now claims. As a junior, Gustin played linebacker and five games at quarterback. He recorded 78 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception and as a quarterback threw for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns. 247Sports slates Gustin as the No. 4 outside linebacker and the No. 33 prospect overall in the class.

Watch highlights of Gustin here.

• CB Mook Reynolds, 6-0, 165; Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford: A Virginia Tech commit, Reynolds reported an offer from Notre Dame on Friday. The 2015 recruit verbally committed to Virginia Tech in February and also holds offers from North Carolina, Tennessee and Duke. 247Sports slates Reynolds as a four-star prospect, the No. 18 cornerback and No. 201 overall in the class. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 41 cornerback.

Watch highlights of Reynolds here.

• WR Dionte Mullins, 5-11, 179; Miami Gulliver Prep: A 2016 prospect, Mullins reported an offer from Notre Dame on Tuesday. The Irish joined the likes of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State among the schools to have offered him. 247Sports slates Mullins as a four-star recruit, the No. 13 wide receiver in the class and No. 80 overall. Watch highlights of Mullins here. Targets missed A trio of 2015 recruits with Notre Dame offers recently announced verbal commitments. On Sunday, cornerback Jaylon Lane of Nacogdoches, Texas, committed to Oklahoma State. The 6-1, 180-pound prospect received an offer from the Irish in March. 247Sports and Rivals both rate Lane as a three-star prospect. 247Sports slates him as the No. 32 cornerback. On Tuesday, defensive tackle Jacob Daniel of Clovis, Calif., committed to USC. The 6-5, 300-pound prospect received an offer from the Irish in February. He had previously committed to head coach Steve Sarkisian at Washington before the coach left to take the same position at USC. 247Sports slates Daniel as a five-star prospect, the No. 6 defensive tackle and No. 30 overall in the 2015 class. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect, the No. 9 defensive tackle and No. 83 overall. Defensive lineman Sterling Johnson, a three-star recruit, committed to Clemson late Tuesday night. The 6-5, 285-pound prospect from Clayton, N.C., received an offer from the Irish earlier this month. Rivals ranks Johnson as the No. 22 defensive tackle in the class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 29 strongside defensive end. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

First-year quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur will now have to work at recruiting a 2015 quarterback to replace Blake Barnett. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)