4-star linebacker Joshua Burnham continues Notre Dame's hot recruiting streak

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Joshua Burnham shares a birthday with St. Patrick’s Day.

The four-star linebacker recruit wanted to celebrate this year, his 17th birthday, by announcing his college commitment. Burnham did so fittingly by picking Notre Dame on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior shared his pledge to the Irish over his other top two schools, Michigan and Wisconsin, in a ceremony at Traverse City (Mich.) Central.

"I'd like to continue my athletic and academic career at the University of Notre Dame," Burnham said during the ceremony, which was streamed live on CBS Sports HQ.

247Sports slates Burnham as the No. 6 outside linebacker and No. 85 overall in the 2022 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 5 inside linebacker and No. 141 overall.

Notre Dame offered the versatile Burnham last June under former defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Clark Lea. The Irish continued the pursuit with new defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Marcus Freeman. Senior defensive analyst Nick Lezynski kept in touch with Burnham throughout the process to ease the coaching transition.

“Notre Dame’s an amazing place,” Burnham said on CBS Sports HQ. “The culture there is unreal. I feel like it was the best fit for me.”

In addition to chasing down ball carriers on defense, Burnham played quarterback last season for Traverse City Central. He threw for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 903 yards and 18 touchdowns as the focal point of the offense. Defensively, Burnham totaled 67 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one interception.

Burnham was so heavily involved on both sides of the ball that his junior season highlight video on Hudl runs 29 minutes long.

“He’s outstanding,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He has good height, length and he’s in on every play. When you watch his film, he’s a playmaker. He seems to be around the ball all the time. He has good instincts and athletic ability. He probably would benefit from a year of weight training at Notre Dame.”

In his 42 years of covering high school recruiting, Lemming has never traveled to Traverse City to see a prospect. He drives all across the country every year to produce his Prep Football Report, but he rarely heads into northern Michigan. That will change soon this spring when Lemming makes a trip specifically to meet Burnham.

Notre Dame’s coaching staff became acquainted with the linebacker talent in Michigan for the 2022 class. Burnham joined four-star linebacker Nolan Ziegler from Grand Rapids (Mich.) Catholic Central in Notre Dame’s recruiting class. Coincidentally, Ziegler’s 17th birthday was also Wednesday.

Both Burnham and Ziegler turned down offers from the in-state Wolverines.

“I grew up in the state of Michigan — I didn’t really want to make that my limit,” Burnham said on CBS Sports HQ. “I definitely wanted to be open to everything. That’s exactly what I am.”

The Irish are looking to add more linebacker help to their 2022 class with four-star recruits Niuafe Tuihalamaka of Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany and Sebastian Cheeks of Evanston (Ill.) High near the top of the priority list.

“Burnham and Ziegler are two of the better linebackers in the country,” Lemming said. “If they can get Niuafe Tuihalamaka or Sebastian Cheeks, that would be their best linebacker group in years.”

A streak of four new commitments in March has pushed Notre Dame’s 2022 class into the top five nationally. The 11-player Irish class moved up to No. 2 on 247Sports and No. 4 on Rivals. Ohio State, ranked No. 1 by both sites, is the only other team with 11 commits.

The strong start in the 2022 class allowed Notre Dame to ramp up its efforts in the 2023 class, which it did by extending at least 28 new offers Wednesday in a pot of gold-themed event on social media for St. Patrick’s Day.

A pledge from Burnham put a wrap on quite the recruiting party for Notre Dame, which even included Twitter videos of head coach Brian Kelly and other Irish coaches dancing.

“It’s been a really fun day,” Burnham said on CBS Sports HQ. “I’m really excited. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now, so I’m happy that it’s finally here.”

Watch Burnham's junior highlights below.

Four-star linebacker Joshua Burnham, left, committed to Notre Dame on Wednesday. Burnham also played quarterback in his junior season at Traverse City (Mich.) Central.