Notre Dame is in the process of signing some serious offensive talent in the class of 2017. All American Brock Wright is already on campus. Fellow All American tight end Cole Kmet will join him this summer. The Irish added four star offensive linemen (Aaron Banks, Josh Lugg, Robert Hainsey), running back (CJ Holmes), and wide receiver (Jafar Armstrong) as well. It’s hard to argue, however, with quarterback Avery Davis being the most important offensive recruit in this year’s class.
Notre Dame’s ever fluid quarterback depth chart under Brian Kelly saw another off-season of upheaval this year with Deshone Kizer leaving early for the NFL and Malik Zaire deciding to go the graduate transfer route. That left Notre Dame with just junior Brandon Wimbush and sophomore and Ian Book on the depth chart. While Wimbush was a consensus 4-star prospect and Under Armour All-American, Book was just a 3-star prospect. After those two? Montgomery Van Gorder could have been the 3rd stringer if had been invited back for a 5th year.
That’s the extent of what the Notre Dame quarterback depth chart could have looked like in the fall had Davis not stuck with his commitment to Notre Dame despite a number of reasons he could have looked around. Here are just a few.
- Notre Dame was coming off a disastrous 4-8 campaign that saw five in-season or post season decommitments
- Mike Sanford, Davis’s primary recruiter, left the Notre Dame program to be head coach at Western Kentucky
- New Baylor head coach Matt Rhule came calling with a scholarship offer in December
- Davis’s high school head coach joined Rhule on staff at Baylor
- Oh, and Notre Dame had perhaps the #1 quarterback in the class of 2018 – Phil Jurkovec – firmly committed more than a year before he can sign a LOI of his own
Recruits have jumped ship for much, much less – just look at all of the decommitments Notre Dame experienced this year alone.
Davis didn’t waver in his commitment to Notre Dame. Jurkovec’s commitment didn’t scare him away over the summer. A little in-season turmoil and the loss of Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator didn’t chase him. Having his high school coach land at Baylor couldn’t pry him away either.
Thankfully for Notre Dame, Davis signed his letter of intent this morning. The undersized Texas native will be on the depth chart in week one in some capacity whether it be Wimbush’s backup or the third stringer. As we saw in 2015, a third stringer in the spring can end up playing a very prominent role.
Davis was an Under Armour All-American because he is a playmaking quarterback with a track record of winning. If he was just a few inches taller, we are talking a much differently ranked quarterback. Instead, Davis was listed at 5’11” on recruiting services (it will be interesting to see what Notre Dame’s official release lists him at) and wasn’t as heavily recruited as his resume suggests he should have been.
In many ways, Davis is like former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson out of high school. Golson was under sized and raw, but could make plays with his legs and had a big arm. Golson was able to redshirt and learn in 2011 before he jumped into a starting role in 2012. Davis might not have that luxury given Notre Dame’s depth chart even though in an ideal world he would have it. While Davis has all of the tools, he is still pretty raw and that was evident during the Under Armour practices and in live action.
Don’t mistake Davis for a project or a reach though. The kid can flat out ball. In his final prep game Davis did everything he could to will his Cedar Hills squad to a playoff win over DeSoto throwing for 463 yards and rushing for another 109 in a 55-41 loss in AT&T Stadium. Davis accounted for all six of his team’s touchdowns in the loss (4 passing, 2 rushing). On the season he threw for 2,876 yards with 37 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Davis will bring all of that talent with him when he arrives on campus in the summer and starts working with Brian Kelly, new offensive coordinator Chip Long, and new quarterback’s coach Tommy, excuse me Tom, Rees. Given the mentoring Rees did with Everett Golson during the 2012 season, this will be an interesting pairing and an early test for the young quarterback’s coach. For all of Brian Kelly’s talk earlier this week about remaining very involved in the Notre Dame defense, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Kelly doing the most tutoring of Wimbush as he prepares to be the starter for the Irish.
In many ways, there was every reason for Avery Davis to jump at a late offer like the one that came from in-state Baylor. Davis didn’t bite though. Hell, he didn’t even nibble. Davis didn’t even look around at other programs. He held steadfast in his commitment to Notre Dame and will be at most two plays away from action this fall even if he is unable to beat out Book for the backup spot. If he hadn’t, Montgomery VanGorder could have been the one two plays away from game action.
All things considered, it’s hard to consider anyone else the most important offensive recruit in this year’s class. All things considered, it’s almost impossible not to root pretty hard for a kid like that.