Notre Dame football starts 2019 class with commitment from QB Cade McNamara

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s 2019 recruiting class started the same way Monday as its 2018 class: with a commitment from a quarterback.

Monday afternoon, junior-to-be Cade McNamara became the first 2019 recruit to verbally commit to Notre Dame’s football program.

“I have made my decision to play quarterback at Notre Dame,” McNamara announced on Twitter alongside a photo of him wearing a Notre Dame uniform and a photo with head coach Brian Kelly. “I'm all in!"

I have made my decision to play quarterback at Notre Dame. I'm all in!☘️ pic.twitter.com/JpZ9KCdENU

— Cade McNamara (@Cademac_QB) July 17, 2017

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec started the 2018 Irish recruiting class with his pledge in May of last year. Beyond sharing the same college choice and a penchant for producing monster statistics in high school, the two have little in common on a recruiting profile.

When the 6-foot-5, 202-pound Jurkovec committed to Notre Dame, he was regarded as one of the top-ranked dual-threat quarterbacks in the class and the only 2018 quarterback with a Notre Dame offer. The product of Gibsonia (Pa.) Pine-Richland committed to the Irish over offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and others following a sophomore season in which he threw for 2,560 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Pursuing Jurkovec was a no-brainer. Identifying McNamara, a 6-1, 186-pound recruit from Reno (Nev.) Damonte Ranch, as the quarterback for the 2019 class likely required more research.

The numbers were there for McNamara as a sophomore. He completed 218 of his 372 pass attempts (58 percent) for 3,577 yards and 46 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. His rushing was limited to 80 yards and five touchdowns.

Yet colleges and recruiting services hadn’t pounced all over McNamara before the Irish evaluated him. When McNamara attended a camp at Notre Dame in June, he claimed only four scholarship offers: Wisconsin, Nevada, Hawaii and San Diego State. Neither Rivals nor 247Sports had given him a star rating. He’s on the radar now, but only as a three-star recruit.

“McNamara has potential,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He’s not there yet. He’s a three-plus-star guy. He definitely has four-star potential. He has the production. What he lacks is great size. But we’ve seen a lot of guys his size make it big in college ball.”

McNamara, who did not respond to a Tribune interview request before press time, became the sixth quarterback in the 2019 class to report a Notre Dame offer when he announced it on Twitter last month. Five of them came after new offensive coordinator Chip Long and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees joined the Irish staff.

The lone holdover from former offensive coordinator Mike Sanford’s tenure was Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels, the top pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class. Daniels has yet to decide on a college with an offer list that includes Alabama, Stanford, USC and Michigan.

Long and Rees started to identify more quarterback targets in May. But they had to do it with Rees being unable to travel the country to evaluate recruits. NCAA rules prohibit him from doing so until Jan. 9 when the NCAA will allow college football programs to have 10 full-time assistant coaches.

Four-star recruits Bo Nix, Spencer Rattler and Grant Gunnell all landed Notre Dame offers in May. Rattler (Oklahoma) and Gunnell (Texas A&M) have since committed elsewhere. Nix remains uncommitted but the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix seems likely to follow his father’s path.

Notre Dame offered two more 2019 quarterbacks following camp season in June: Dylan Morris and McNamara. Morris, a four-star recruit according to Rivals, stayed in his home state with a commitment to Washington on Sunday. McNamara is the only 2019 quarterback offered by Notre Dame that hasn’t received a four-star rating from Rivals.

If it sticks, McNamara will likely serve as the first big test of Long and Rees as recruiting evaluators with the Irish.

Notre Dame has signed at least one quarterback in every recruiting class since Kelly became head coach. With a current depth chart of redshirt sophomore Brandon Wimbush, redshirt freshman Ian Book and true freshman Avery Davis and a commitment from Jurkovec in the 2018 class, the Irish are recruiting quarterbacks from a perceived position of strength.

“Notre Dame’s quarterback situation is very healthy,” Lemming said. “Jurkovec was first-team all-state last year after playing six games. That’s how good he is. They have Brandon Wimbush, who I think is a star. Ian Book, a kid out of California who was committed to Washington State, looked great in the spring game. I don’t think Notre Dame fans have to worry about quarterback for the next few years.”

Below are sophomore highlights of McNamara via Hudl.

#WeAreND

— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) July 17, 2017

That's a nice way to start the week! Go Irish!

— Brian Polian (@BrianPolian) July 17, 2017

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

Quarterback Cade McNamara, a 2019 recruit, reported a Notre Dame offer on June 28, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)