David Perkins, a versatile local product from South Bend, became the 10th verbal commitment in Notre Dame’s recruiting class of 2012 on Tuesday when he selected the Irish over the likes of Tennessee, Iowa, and Michigan State.
Despite being just a few miles down the road from Notre Dame, Perkins was not always at the top of the Irish coaching staff’s radar. In fact, it wasn’t until last week that Brian Kelly extended an offer to the the multi-talented prospect. Once Perkins had that offer, however, it didn’t take him long to decide he would be staying close to home.
Part of the reason the Irish staff was slow to extend an offer stemmed from the fact that Perkins doesn’t have a clear cut position at the next level. His athleticism is off the charts, but where he projects best at the next level is sure to be debated from now until Perkins reports to campus. The Notre Dame staff has told Perkins they like him at running back and outside linebacker, but he could also project as a defensive back, wide receiver, or even a defensive end.
It may seem odd to see defensive end in that list of positions, but it was Perkins’ performance at a Nike camp in Columbus recently while lining up at defensive end that opened up a lot of coaches eyes. Perkins was virtually unblockable at the camp from the same defensive end position he played for Washington High School last year. His frame will likely make a move to defensive end at the college level unlikely, but the pass rushing skills he has shown makes it easy to see why the Irish coaches like him at outside linebacker in Notre Dame’s 3-4 defense.
Perkins performance on the field this past fall is another indication that he adds some serious pass rushing skills to this year’s class. Perkins racked up 16 tackles for loss and 13 sacks while from his defensive end position.
Should Perkins end up at linebacker, he would be the first commitment at the position for Notre Dame this year and the first defensive commitment outside of the secondary in this year’s class. Notre Dame’s other defensive commitments – Tee Shepard, Ronald Darby, CJ Prosise, and Nick Baratti – all reside in the defensive backfield. After the haul Notre Dame had at both linebacker and defensive line, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
Perkins’ will be coached again this year by a coach who knows a thing or two about playing in a 3-4 defense at Notre Dame. Washington High is coached by former Notre Dame defense lineman Antwon Jones. Jones, a member of the Fighting Irish from 1996-1999, told the South Bend Tribune that his prized pupil reminds him a lot of former Notre Dame outside backers Bert Berry and Kory Minor – fairly high praise considering Berry went on to have a standout NFL career.
While most of the early chatter about Perkins focuses on his potential on the defensive side of the ball, his skills as a running back shouldn’t be discounted. During his junior season he gained 765 yards on the ground while carrying the football just 82 times. Perkins also hauled in 12 passes for 176 yards and scored a combined seven touchdowns (3 rushing, 4 receiving). Given Notre Dame’s lack of depth at running back, it’s safe to say he’ll at least get a look at the position once he arrives on campus next summer.
The commitment of Perkins continues a trend in recruiting that has been prevalent since Brian Kelly took over at Notre Dame – versatility. Perkins can play on either side of the ball and can play a number of positions on both sides. That kind of versatility is something we have seen a lot of from recruits that Kelly and staff have targeted. That philosophy should allow for Notre Dame to avoid some of the numbers crunches that plagued the Irish for years of recruiting classes that, while full of great prospects, had holes that forced young players into prominent roles before they may have been ready.