Notre Dame commit Kendall Abdur-Rahman ready for switch to slot WR

Carter Karels | South Bend Tribune
ND Insider

Edwardsville quarterbacks coach Jason Osborn always envisioned Kendall Abdur-Rahman as a Division I slot receiver.

Notre Dame’s latest commit surrendered his free safety duties and became Edwardsville (Ill.) High’s full-time quarterback last season. Since the offseason, though, he shifted his focus to playing receiver at the next level.

“When we go to defense, he plays scout team receiver to start preparing himself,” Osborn said. “That’s how driven and hardworking he is. He is already preparing himself to make that move, even though he still plays quarterback for us.

“He’s so fluid running his routes, and then when he does get the ball in his hands, he just looks like a natural athlete.”

Abdur-Rahman began garnering interest from schools in 2017, but not as much at quarterback. As a junior, he flashed his athleticism with 886 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns across 103 carries. 

It dawned on Osborn to take action halfway through last season. Understanding the influence of Abdur-Rahman’s single mother, Osborn included her in their conversation.

“There was no negativity toward it. They were both open to it,” said Osborn about suggesting he play another position in college. “He might have even been thinking that all along. I just kind of put it out there. Then, we knew everyone was on the same page.”

Said Edwardsville head coach Matt Martin: “He was willing to give being the quarterback up to go to a place like Notre Dame. I think he was always open to the idea. He just wants to play football.”

The 6-1, 180-pounder soon secured four-star status and earned offers from mostly Big Ten schools, including Michigan State, Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern. Programs imagined him as a quarterback, running back and defensive back.

“I think that in and of itself just tells you about his versatility,” Osborn said. “Shoot, he might be the next (Jabrill) Peppers form Michigan — playing a little defensive back and wide receiver. I would not put it past him.”

The Irish, however, strictly view him as a slot receiver.

“I would want the ball in his hands,” Martin said. “That’s why we have him at quarterback. We have the ball in his hands, and he’s going to touch it every play … He can make people miss.

“He’s got great top-end speed. He’s a strong runner for a quarterback and can break arm tackles. You put all those things together, and he’s going to be pretty dynamic and make big plays.”

The Irish are loaded with physical, towering receivers on the outside. Kevin Austin, a 6-2, 210-pound freshman, is expected to replace Miles Boykin and line up across 6-4, 227-pound Chase Claypool in 2019.

The departure of Chris Finke in two seasons will leave a void at slot receiver. Freshmen Joe Wilkins, Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III have yet to see the field in 2018.

Abdur-Rahman might not be proven at the position, but the potential’s obvious.

How difficult will that change be, though?

“I think that’s the easiest transition of any position switch,” said Tom Lemming, a CBS Sports recruiting analyst. “Because it deals with athletic ability, you just have to learn — you’ve got to have good hands, but as a quarterback, I’d imagine he’s got good hands.”

Drew Pyne, a 2020 quarterback commit for the Irish, already watched some of Abdur-Rahman’s tape.

“Kendall’s commitment is another huge one,” Pyne wrote through a text. “He’s a heck of an athlete and any quarterback would feel safe throwing to him … I think he’ll fit in anywhere you put him playing wide receiver.”

Cornerback commit K.J. Wallace (2019) wrote: “It’s a good fit. I think he’s going to bring a lot of speed to the receiving corps.”

The Irish did not offer Abdur-Rahman until Feb. 6, and have not seen him play in person. Notre Dame wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander plans on attending Abdur-Rahman’s game this Friday, Osborn said.

Abdur-Rahman took an unofficial visit for Notre Dame’s spring game. He exhausted his official visit for the Michigan opener.

“I think he had an idea coming in that (Notre Dame) was the place where he wanted to be,” Osborn said. “He told me that South Bend really wasn’t that much different than Edwardsville. I think he really appreciated that.”

Meetings with academic advisors and coaches on Sunday only confirmed Abdur-Rahman’s intuition.

“That’s when he gave me the call and said, ‘Coach, this is the place. I’m ready to commit,’” Osborn said. “I don’t think it was a one-time thing. It was a longtime coming and more of an affirmation.”

It also affirmed Osborn’s hunch.

“Some coaches might see him as a safety, and I think he’d be a great safety,” Osborn said. Some might even see him as a running back. But to me, I wouldn’t put him on defense. I would put him at (slot receiver), because I want to get that kid the ball.”

Kendall Abdur-Rahman shown in a high school game on Friday, Sept. 7, committed to Notre Dame’s 2019 class on Sunday

The following recruits are expected to attend Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.

2019 target

DE Joshua Pakola*

2019 commits

LB Jack Kiser

DT Jacob Lacey

2019 prospects

K Harrison Leonard*

OL Spencer Harris

LB Zane Heemsoth

2020 commit

QB Drew Pyne

2020 prospects

OL Brady Feeney

WR Collin Sullivan

WR Lamumba Howard Jr.

2021 prospects

QB DC Tabscott

CB TreVeyon Henderson

TE Jordan Dingle

DE JC Latham

*Denotes an official visit.