Notre Dame suffered its first post-spring roster casualty on Wednesday when junior linebacker Josh Barajas announced he was transferring to Illinois State. The one time four-star linebacker out of Indiana was never able to crack the two deep at Notre Dame and was looking like a distant third at best heading into his junior campaign. With that writing on the wall, Barajas decided to pursue his collegiate career at the FCS program.
Even with the departure of Josh Barajas, Notre Dame is still very deep at linebacker heading into 2017 and beyond. With the switch to Mike Elko’s 4-2-5 defense and the introduction of the ROVER position, there are only two traditional linebacker spots in the lineup for the Irish. Notre Dame will have eight players to fill out the depth chart at those two positions.
As of now, Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini look like the starters at MIKE and BUCK – though I will continue to argue that getting Tevon Coney on the field with Morgan makes a lot of sense. Behind Morgan the Irish will have:
- Jonathon Jones (S0) – 2016 Scout Team Defensive player of the year who already passed Barajas before his transfer
- Jamir Jones (So) – Still think Jones could end up as a pass rusher and not a MIKE long term with his size
- David Adams (Fr) – Incoming frosh who will need a year in the weight room after playing through injury as a high school senior
At the BUCK position, the depth behind Martini looks like:
- Tevon Coney (Jr) – Spent most of 2016 as a starter and should still be on the field a lot
- Asmar Bilal (Jr) – Could find a home at ROVER as well
- Drew White (Fr) – Incoming frosh
Barajas spent the spring at BUCK which made little sense at the time given his size and more natural fit at the MIKE position. With Jones surging though, opportunity there seemed low. Things didn’t look much better at the BUCK position though where he was fighting with Coney and Martini. Even if Bilal ended up at ROVER, best case for Barajas was going to be 3rd on the depth chart at either position this fall.
Even More Depth on the Way
Notre Dame will graduate Morgan and Martini after this year which could have opened up opportunity for Barajas next year but given he was unable to make a mark at either position, it was also just as likely he could have been passed up by younger players again next year. Notre Dame already has commitments from Ovie Oghoufo and Bo Bauer for the class of 2018 and could add to that haul. That gives Notre Dame eight linebackers for the depth chart again in 2018 as well unless Bilal ultimately plays at the ROVER or if Jamir Jones ends up moving to rush end.
The writing wasn’t just written on the wall for Barajas, it was etched in stone. For whatever reason, the one time elite high school recruit wasn’t able to put it all together. That said, his departure will likely have minimal, if any impact on Notre Dame this fall or next. It’s still possible that Barajas turns his career into something at the FCS level. He won’t have to sit out this fall since he isn’t transferring to a FBS program and still has three years of eligibility after redshirting in 2015. It did not, however, appear as though he had a chance to get things turned around at Notre Dame.
It’s unfortunate that one of the most highly rated linebacker recruits of the Brian Kelly Era never panned out and will end his Notre Dame career without ever recording an official tackle as a member of the Fighting Irish. That said, Notre Dame actually has quite a bit of depth and talent built up at both linebacker positions and enough hybrid players on the roster to man the ROVER position until they are able to fully recruit prospects tailor-made for the position such as incoming freshman Jeremiah Owusu.
Notre Dame Roster Back to 85 Scholarships
Barajas joins Malik Zaire (grad), Colin McGovern (grad), Corey Holmes, and John Montelus (grad) as transfers since the end of the season and with his departure the roster currently sits at 85 scholarships – right at the NCAA limit. Barajas’s transfer also opens up a roster spot in the class of 2018 where numbers are already looking pretty tight. As it has forever been the case since UHND.com has started, however, what the numbers look like now will be far different than what they will look like next winter.