Versatile 2019 CB K.J. Wallace finds immediate fit, old friend at Notre Dame

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

It was not the campus.

It was not the facilities.

It was not the coaching staff.

It was not the culture.

K.J. Wallace chose Notre Dame for the forest, not a specific tree.

“The campus was beautiful … the facilities, all those things,” Wallace told the Tribune on Tuesday, after the 2019 cornerback verbally committed to Notre Dame on Sunday night. “You’re going to find that stuff everywhere, but for me, what really set it off was just the combination of it. It was a really good balance of big-time ball and a good education, and that’s what I’m really looking for in a college.”

Wallace — a 5-foot-10, 182-pound cornerback — found what he was looking for in his first visit to Notre Dame, which came last weekend for the program’s prolifically attended junior day.

It didn’t take very long, either.

“Like 30 minutes into the tour I was like, ‘Man.’ My whole rationale behind it was that I’m not going to find anywhere better,” Wallace said. “They’re only taking two DBs in my grade, so I don’t want to miss this. This is something I want to be a part of.”

Of course, Notre Dame’s limited defensive back availability is due in large part to its 2018 class, which already features five DB signees … and one very old friend.

Wallace, a standout at The Lovett School in Atlanta, played little league football at the same park as 2018 Irish safety signee Derrik Allen, as well as five-star Clemson quarterback signee Trevor Lawrence and Minnesota running back signee Nolan Edmonds.

“We had dudes there,” Wallace said with a laugh.

Wallace — ranked by 247Sports as a four-star prospect and the No. 20 cornerback in the 2019 class, as well as a three-star recruit and the No. 48 athlete by Rivals — is the latest dude to leave Georgia for Notre Dame, joining a group that includes Allen, tight end Tommy Tremble and former Irish standouts Isaac Rochell, Stephon Tuitt and TJ Jones.

He chose ND over the likes of Auburn, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Penn State, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Not Georgia — not that Wallace particularly cared.

“I never really fell into that (Georgia fandom), because I was born in Virginia,” Wallace said. “I moved here when I was six. I never really looked at Georgia like that. It was kind of whatever to me.”

Regardless, Wallace — who joins defensive tackle Jacob Lacey and quarterback Cade McNamara in Notre Dame’s 2019 class — will get a crack at his home state power during his freshman season in South Bend, when the Irish travel to Athens, Ga., for an early test on Sept. 21, 2019.

But what position will Wallace be playing when he gets there?

“I played safety this year, so I feel like now I’m more versatile,” said Wallace, who was recruited by Notre Dame as a cornerback. “I played corner my first two years in high school, but I played safety this year because of injuries and things like that.

“I think my versatility is a big part of my game along with my speed and my footwork at the line. I feel like since I played safety this year, being more physical in general helped me out a lot. I was a tackler this year.”

That translated both on tape and on paper, as Wallace — who feels his most natural position is cornerback or nickelback — recorded 63 tackles and one interception during his junior season, according to MaxPreps. The two-way Lovett standout added a passing touchdown, 171 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, 40 catches, 537 receiving yards, six receiving scores and 396 kickoff return yards for good measure.

That production garnered attention from multiple coaches at Notre Dame, which offered Wallace on Jan. 16 but began communicating with him “four or five months ago.”

That connection yielded a visit to campus, followed by a prompt commitment.

“I really like the coaching staff,” Wallace said. “Coach (Brian) Kelly is a good guy, but my favorite is (cornerbacks coach Todd) Lyght and (defensive backs coach Terry) Joseph and (running backs coach Autry) Denson, too.

“They’re younger guys, and I feel like I can relate to the coaching staff more than I could at other places. It’s just a good fit.”

Wallace arrived for an unofficial visit and unexpectedly found a fit. Now, he can sit back and watch Notre Dame’s 2019 class fill in around him.

“It’s a relief. I’m excited,” Wallace said. “I’m just glad to kind of wrap things up.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

2019 cornerback K.J. Wallace verbally committed to Notre Dame on Sunday (photo courtesy of Rivals).