Notre Dame DE target Josh King sizing up his options

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

ADDISON, Ill. — When Josh King steps onto a scale, the reading will vary greatly depending on the time of year.

This winter King trimmed down to wrestle in the 220-pound weight class. By the fall, the four-star defensive end prospect will bulk up to 240 pounds.

King has yet to start his transformation as wrestling season has bled into the spring. He will finish up at a national dual event later this month in Virginia. Then he’ll shift his complete focus to football.

“Wrestling and football goes hand in hand,” King said. “It’s key for me.”

At 6-foot-6, King looks more basketball player than star football recruit with only 220 pounds on his frame. But staying at the lower weight helped him run all the way to a 45-1 record and a Class 3A state championship in Illinois this February.

While King tinkers with his weight, college football coaches see an ideal frame for a pass rusher. Heading into his senior year at Darien (Ill.) Hinsdale South, King said he probably won’t cut back down to 220 pounds and will instead wrestle as a heavyweight next season. The decision would likely allow for an easier transition to the size needed to compete on the defensive line in college.

But King said no coach has indicated that he needs to stay above the 220 weight class following his next football season. That’s likely because no coach wants to alienate one of the top defensive end prospects in the country before getting him to sign with their school. And the line of coaches is sizable.

Offers from USC, Oregon and LSU made King’s recruitment a national one, but his visits have favored schools in the Midwest. The start of 2015 has included visits to Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State.

Notre Dame, which has hosted King in the past, remains in the mix, but King isn’t ready to name any leaders. He also remained mum on any visit plans for the summer.

“The best thing about Notre Dame I’m liking is that it’s so close to home,” King said.

Associate head coach Mike Denbrock stopped by King’s school last week. The next step for the Irish will be forming a relationship between King and new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore, who King has yet to meet.

“It will be really important, honestly,” King said. “If I’m going to be in that spot, I have to like the coach.”

Following a junior season with 70 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss and five sacks, King earned the status of one of the top defensive ends in the country. Both Rivals and 247Sports peg King as the No. 4 strongside defensive end in the 2016 class.

King showed flashes of dominance Sunday at Nike’s The Opening Regional in the Chicago area. His quickness at the snap and understanding of leverage was clear in pass rushing drills. He struggled at times when offensive linemen locked him up with a good punch.

His performance earned him a spot as one of the top four defensive ends to compete in the final one-on-one pass rush group. He left confident in some of the lessons learned.

“This camp lets us go up against some of the best players in the country,” King said. “You can’t really ask for any better competition.”

The competition for King’s commitment figures to be just as tight.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Defensive end target Josh King gave his verbal commitment to Michigan State. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)