In the third quarter of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Notre Dame linebacker commit Asmar Bilal dove on a loose ball at midfield after East running back Jordan Scarlett put it on the ground.
“When the defensive lineman stripped it out, I was there on the recovery,” Bilal said. “I was hoping to house it, but somebody tripped me up. I was there at the right place, right time. It was seeing the ball come out and being able to make the play.”
The recovery capped a productive week for Bilal, who ranked among Scout’s Top 5 performers on defense following Tuesday’s practice. He was also named captain for the West on Saturday, building on his senior season when he captained Ben Davis High School to a state championship.
“They told me in the tunnel that I was captain,” Bilal said. “I don’t really talk that much, so I mostly lead by example.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound linebacker projects on the weak side at Notre Dame but aligned on the strong side during the Army Bowl. West linebackers coach Josh Dabbs, who’s the defensive coordinator at Serra High School in Gardena, Calif., credited Bilal’s adaptability.
“He’s super athletic and can cover running backs out of the flats very well,” Dabbs said. “In nickel, we put him man-to-man against all of the backs, and he competed very well. I had a bunch of weak side guys on my roster, so I had to move some of them around, and Bilal had the versatility to get moved to strong side.”
Dabbs also spoke highly of Irish linebacker commit Josh Barajas, who projects as a strong side linebacker at Notre Dame.
“Barajas did great,” Dabbs said. “His instincts between tackles are great, he really locks the run game down. We put him at MIKE and nickel today, and we also had him spying the quarterback when (Ohio State commit) Torrance Gibbon was playing.”
Barajas registered two tackles on the game.
“I think I did alright,” Barajas added. “I think I got a little lackadaisical when we were ahead, and I didn’t play as much as I wanted to do. I thought I did okay. At the beginning of the game, we thought we had it. But, at this level you can’t take any plays off, so that was a lesson learned, but it felt good to hang on and get the win.”
Barajas ranked among Scout’s Top 10 overall performers on the West for the week. Throughout practices he was active making tackles behind the line of scrimmage and stopping the run on the edge.
“It was a lot of fun,” Barajas said. “I talked to so many people and had so many different experiences. It was great getting closer to everybody. And, being from Indiana, I had something to prove. That definitely puts a big target on me, and I embraced that this week.”
Hoge, Tillery set to enroll
Offensive line commitments Tristen Hoge and Jerry Tillery closed out their prep careers during the West’s win. They also exited the Alamodome knowing college is barely a week away.
Both will join defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway and linebacker Tevon Coney at Notre Dame for the second semester as early enrollees in the Class of 2015. Hoge has an eye toward carrying the bond with fellow commitments to South Bend.
“We’ve truly built a bond that’s unbreakable,” Hoge said. “We’re a true brotherhood. Just the five of us this week, we were telling each other, not all of us are early enrolling. Some of them are going back to school. But it’s built the anticipation for them to come to Notre Dame. This brotherhood is going to transcend for the next four or five years.”
Tillery will undergo a transition upon arrival at Notre Dame.
Earlier this week the four-star offensive tackle revealed plans to start at defensive tackle on the college level after playing there for Evangel Christian this past season.
Tillery bounced between right tackle, right guard and left guard during the practice week. He played mostly guard during the game itself. He took some lessons from it.
“Just keep fighting,” Tillery said.
Around the Alamodome
- Four-star athlete Ykili Ross committed to USC over Notre Dame during the game telecast, part of a Trojans recruiting run during the all-star game circuit. Four-star running back Ronald Jones II also picked USC over Notre Dame during the Under Armour All-America Game broadcast.
- Former Irish receiver target Lawrence Cager chose Miami during the telecast. He also caught a 54-yard touchdown late in the second half over Notre Dame safety commitment Nicco Fertitta.
- Five-star tight end Alize Jones took the field during the game after sitting out most of the practice week with a couple nagging injuries. He didn’t register a reception.
- Running back target Jordan Cronkrite gained 16 yards on two carries for the East team.
- Former Irish defensive end target Porter Gustin registered a 28-yard interception return for touchdown in the second half.
- LSU running back commitment Derrius Guice took home Army Bowl MVP honors. He made two catches for 153 yards, both going for touchdowns. They came from 92 and 61 yards out, respectively.