Five-star LB Baron Browning wants to return to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Baron Browning will make some cuts in his top 10 soon. Following last month’s visit to South Bend for the Irish Invasion, Notre Dame’s spot on the list should be safe.

The five-star linebacker enjoyed his time on campus so much that he already is planning to return for an official visit in October when Notre Dame plays Stanford.

“I had a good time at ND,” Browning said. “The ND visit went better than I expected it to go. I didn’t really know what to expect because I had never really been to the Midwest except when I visited Ohio State.”

The Irish already have three linebackers committed in the 2017 class, but when someone as talented as Browning shows interest, the coaching staff pays close attention. Browning’s visit to Notre Dame included conversations with head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and linebackers coach Mike Elston.

“I had a great time up there sitting down and meeting with the academic advisors and counselors, sitting down with coach Kelly and coach VanGorder and coach Elston,” Browning said. “Coach Elston showed me how he planned on using me exactly like how they used Jaylon Smith, being that Will linebacker that can do everything. Someone that they can move around.”

“VanGorder was telling me how he would develop me, coach me up and how he can help me become a better young man off the field. Talking to coach Kelly, he said it’s really not a hard sales pitch for ND. It’s almost like one of those decisions that you really want to come here or not. The brand speaks for itself.”

The last five-star linebacker to sign with Notre Dame was Smith, who went on to win the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker in his final season last year. Notre Dame has used his career as a model for a number of linebacker recruits, but Browning is among the few that could actually be considered in the same class as Smith.

During testing at The Opening Finals at Nike World Headquarters, Browning finished the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds and jumped 37.4 inches vertically. His Nike Football Rating score, which is calculated through several athletic measurements, ranked 14th among participants and just one spot below fellow linebacker Dylan Moses.

The 6-foot-3, 232-pound product of Kennedale, Texas, is in a battle to be the best linebacker recruit in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 1 outside linebacker and No. 6 regardless of position in the class. 247Sports slates Browning as the No. 2 outside linebacker behind Moses and No. 11 overall.

Browning respects the career of Smith, but he also wants to create his own legacy.

“I took it like a grain of salt, I guess you could say,” Browning said of the Smith comparison. “I’m not a big hype guy. You can compare me to him, but I know I’m my own person. I’m more so worried about being the best me that I can. Of course it’s an honor to be compared to him, but I’m my own person. At the end of the day, I’m going to focus on what I could do to accomplish some of the things he did.”

Browning isn’t ready to say which six of his previous top 10 (Texas, Oklahoma, TCU, LSU, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC and UCLA) will make his next round of cuts, but he did name Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State and UCLA as likely locations for official visits. He’s slowly working his way to a decision, which he plans to make on Nov. 29, his father’s birthday.

“The main thing for me is my mom and dad always instilled in me that getting a degree is more important than playing football,” Browning said. “With those six, I guess I can get a good degree and they can help me as far as networking, meeting people while I’m there for jobs after football. Just a good brand itself.”

Hainsey announcement

Notre Dame offensive line target Robert Hainsey will make his commitment announcement Sunday night on ESPNU.

Hainsey said the segment, which will be taped earlier in the day, should air around 9 p.m. ET during the broadcast of the seven-on-seven tournament at The Opening Finals.

Hainsey, a 6-5, 276-pound lineman at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, will pick from among Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State.

247Sports slates Hainsey as the No. 6 offensive guard in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him No. 11 at offensive tackle.

Below are highlights from Browning's junior season via Hudl. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Baron Browning uses his cell phone during the Irish Invasion at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, June 18, 2016. ND Insider Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA