Barajas, Boykin leave junior day impressed

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

The stories Josh Barajas received about Notre Dame’s campus gave him certain expectations.

But when the junior linebacker from Valparaiso, Ind., made his first visit on Saturday, he finally gained a better understanding.

“It definitely passed my expectations,” Barajas said. “Everybody told me how beautiful the campus was, but see-ing it for yourself is unbelievable.”

The visit, for which he was accompanied by his father and sister, included meeting coaches and touring the campus and the football facilities. The highlight came toward the end when the Irish extended him a scholarship offer.

“I had a meeting with coach (Brian) Kelly and we were talking for about 10 minutes and then he gave me the good news,” Barajas said. “I was really surprised.”

In Barajas the Irish offered arguably the top 2015 in-state prospect. Following a junior season at Andrean High School, Barajas received such a ranking from 247Sports. Rivals slates him second-best in the state.

Defensive line coach Mike Elston has led the recruitment of Barajas for Notre Dame, and the two spent quality time speaking in person on Saturday. Barajas also met defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder for the first time.

“He was a good guy,” Barajas said. “He was different, which I like. He’s real straightforward and old school.”

Through conversations with the coaching staff, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound prospect learned his projection as an out-side linebacker in a new 4-3 defense.

Neither Kelly nor VanGorder have publicly committed to running a base 4-3 defense, but recruiting pitches like the one reported by Barajas indicate a likely evolution.

“They saw me as an outside linebacker at the Sam (strongside position) and being a third down-type of guy,” Barajas said. “They said they’re looking for third-down types of linebackers who can run — not the big, bulky guys, but more lean, fast ones.”

Barajas played outside linebacker as a junior and racked up 90-plus tackles, five sacks and two interceptions at the position. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 outside linebacker in the 2015 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 3 inside linebacker.

The visit gave Barajas thoughts of a commitment, but he said he plans to visit some other colleges before making a decision. Notre Dame has moved into his top three with Michigan and Penn State.

The Irish also offered another Junior Day visitor on Saturday — wide receiver Miles Boykin. The 6-4, 210-pound prospect welcomed the offer.

“They told me that when they give out an offer, it’s the type of offer that you can commit on the spot,” Boykin said. “That’s how much they believe in me. It definitely means a lot.”

Boykin, who stars at New Lenox (Ill.) Providence Catholic, returned to Notre Dame for the third time and re-ceived his first actual tour of the entire campus.

“It was an awesome visit,” he said. “I went with my mom. She got a chance to look at some things down there. I got a good feel for the place.”

Boykin, who had previously been told he could play a hybrid role of wide receiver and tight end, learned the coaching staff preferred him at wide receiver currently.

“They told me they’re really interested and they think I’m very athletic and can do some things that will help out their offense,” Boykin said.

Rivals ranks him as the No. 10 wide receiver and No. 114 overall in the 2015 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 41 wide receiver.

Boykin, who had been communicating mostly with safeties coach Bob Elliott, met with offensive coordina-tor/wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock and tight ends coach Scott Booker. He gathered valuable information in discussions with the coaching staff, including the estimated number of scholarships available for the 2015 class: 16.

Knowing that so few spots are open at Notre Dame, Boykin said his timeframe for a decision could be sped up. Still, he plans to visit Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois and Mississippi.

After visiting campus last weekend, highly touted linebacker recruit Josh Barajas, right, came away with both a better appreciation for Notre Dame and a scholarship offer. (Photo provided/The Times of Northwest Indiana)