Recruiting Reset: Notre Dame continues QB streak in 2016 class

RECRUITING RESET

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Not long ago, Notre Dame appeared to be headed into its 2015 season with no clear quarterback targets in the 2016 recruiting class.

That all changed in less than a week.

Behind the scenes, Irish offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mike Sanford maintained relationships with multiple quarterback prospects. He just needed to find one with mutual interest. Ian Book filled that void.

A visit on July 29 convinced Book to flip his commitment from Washington State to Notre Dame. Now the Irish can shift their focus to 2017 quarterbacks.

COMMITMENT

• Ian Book, 6-1, 195; El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Oak Ridge: Notre Dame has signed at least one quarterback in every recruiting class since head coach Brian Kelly joined the Irish. The streak doesn’t appear in jeopardy to end anytime soon.

However, Book doesn’t bring with him the hype of recent Irish quarterback recruits. For the first time since the 2010 class, Notre Dame has landed a quarterback who didn’t earn a spot in the Elite 11 Finals, a national quarterback competition led by Trent Dilfer. Book’s recruiting profile is more similar to Tommy Rees and Luke Massa (both in 2010) than Malik Zaire (2013) and Brandon Wimbush (2015).

But Book, a three-star prospect, has long had Sanford’s stamp of approval. Sanford, then Boise State’s offensive coordinator, offered Book a scholarship last September. The two kept in contact as Sanford made the move to Notre Dame and it led to the Irish adding him to their class earlier this month.

Book has been a productive high school quarterback. He threw for 4,583 yards and 48 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons, but his lack of elite size, arm strength and athleticism left him as an under-the-radar recruit. When Book committed to Washington State in April, it was his only scholarship offer from a school in a Power 5 conference.

Notre Dame’s coaching staff was left with fewer options after missing on a number of quarterbacks earlier in the recruiting cycle. But adding a player like Book, who isn’t afraid of competition, will provide the Irish with needed depth moving into 2016.

Rivals ranks Book as the No. 18 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 26 at the position.

2017 TARGET

• Hunter Johnson, 6-3, 193; Brownsburg (Ind.) High: Sanford has made Johnson the No. 1 priority at quarterback in the 2017 class. Not many can argue with that.

Johnson, ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in his class by Rivals and 247Sports, has been to Notre Dame multiple times this year and could return later this month. A busy summer for Johnson has included visits to Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina State and Tennessee.

Keeping Johnson in the state of Indiana would give the Irish needed momentum early in the 2017 class. Some recruiting pundits believed Notre Dame could skip a quarterback in the 2016 class to make the depth chart more inviting for Johnson. But even with Book on board, Johnson isn’t likely to be swayed by the presence of a 2016 quarterback ahead of him. Someone with his talent shouldn’t be afraid of any competition.

MISSED TARGETS

Malik Henry, 6-3, 180; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: Henry became one of Notre Dame’s top targets under former quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur. He visited South Bend for the Irish Invasion last summer and the Michigan game in September. But in November he committed to Florida State.

The California product transferred to IMG Academy in January, but left the school in June. His destination for his senior season remains unknown. Rivals rates Henry as a five-star recruit and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 4 pro-style quarterback.

Jacob Eason, 6-5, 205; Lake Stevens (Wash.) High: An Irish legacy wasn’t enough to pull Eason to Notre Dame. His father, Tony, played wide receiver for the Irish in the ‘80s. The two visited campus last June. A month later, the five-star quarterback committed to Georgia.

Both Rivals and 247Sports peg Eason as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as the second-best prospect regardless of position. Rivals ranks Eason No. 4 overall.

Shea Patterson, 6-2, 195; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: Notre Dame landed a visit from the five-star quarterback but couldn’t make a mark in his recruitment. Patterson withdrew his previous commitment to Arizona before visiting South Bend for Notre Dame’s game against Michigan last September. Patterson gave his next verbal commitment to Ole Miss in February.

In the end, a little recruiting gamesmanship may have helped Ole Miss. Patterson’s older brother, Sean, joined the Rebels as their associate director of recruiting operations this year. The younger Patterson, who played his first three season at Shreveport (La.) Calvary Baptist, transferred to IMG Academy this summer.

Rivals ranks Patterson as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback.

Dwayne Haskins, 6-3, 198; Potomac (Md.) Bullis: Sanford made Haskins his top priority immediately after arriving at Notre Dame. Haskins, who visited South Bend last summer, returned to spend time with Sanford and the Irish coaching staff in March.

But the spring push wasn’t enough to pull the four-star recruit away from his home-state school. Haskins committed to Maryland in May. 247Sports slates Haskins as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him fourth at the position.

Matt Fink, 6-3, 185; Glendora (Calif.) High: Much like he did with Book, Sanford carried his previous relationship with Fink from Boise State to Notre Dame. Fink’s first scholarship offer came from Sanford and the Broncos last October. Sanford eventually extended him an Irish offer in March.

Fink, a three-star recruit, chose to stay in California. USC offered him in late March and he committed to the Trojans a week later. 247Sports slates Fink as the No. 14 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 23 at the position.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Three-star quarterback Ian Book committed to Notre Dame on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)
Notre Dame quarterback hopeful Hunter Johnson runs a drill Friday June 19, 2015 in South Bend. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ

This is the first story in a series evaluating Notre Dame's 2016 recruiting class.