Irish commits turn heads

Scout.com analysts Jamie Newberg and Chad Simmons were impressed with Notre Dame’s commitments during the week at Under Armour, with Shaun Crawford making a strong case to rank among the event’s best defensive backs.

If Notre Dame’s commitments weren’t the best at their positions during the Under Armour All-America week, they at least played their way into that conversation.

For quarterback Brandon Wimbush and kicker Justin Yoon, that meant showing their own brands of accuracy. For linebacker Tevon Coney, that meant proving he could do more than hit in the tackle box. And for cornerback Shaun Crawford, that meant flashing an explosiveness that makes the 5-foot-9, 170-pound prospect unique.

Mission accomplished for all four according to Scout.com analysts Jamie Newberg and Chad Simmons, who spent the week in Florida tracking the Under Armour All-America practices and exhibition.

While the commitments’ performances were more rankings confirmations than revelations, Crawford may have come closest to a rethink of his status in the Scout300.

“He’s a little pack of dynamite,” Newberg said. “He’s small, but I don’t get too caught up in height, weight, speed. If a kid can play, he can play. I love his instincts and think he could play all four positions in the secondary.”

Crawford doesn’t have the measurables of Kevin Toliver  (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) or Minkah Fitzpatrick (6-foot-1, 194 pounds), but that fact seemed to fade after the snap. Newberg said Crawford ranked behind those two corners, plus five-star Iman Marshall, but the Irish commitment at least earned mention within that group during the week.

“It was exciting watching Crawford because it wasn’t just one splashy play, it was a bunch of plays that he made,” Newberg said. “There were some big corners who are cut perfectly, but watching Crawford he’s almost in that group. He had a great week.”

For Simmons, it didn’t take long for Crawford to play bigger than his size.

“He didn’t jump out in drills early on, but at the end of one of the first days he had this nice interception in man-to-man against a much bigger, taller receiver and took it back 25 yards,” Simmons said. “He wasn’t a kid to wow you physically … didn’t nail the eye test, but he definitely reads quarterbacks well and has good ball skills.”

For Wimbush, the week reinforced his ranking as an elite quarterback but not a prospect at the top of his position heap. Kyler Murray (Texas A&M) and Deondre Francois (Florida State) were the consensus top quarterbacks at the event, with Wimbush and former Notre Dame commitment Blake Barnett (Alabama) forming the next group.

Wimbush started the Under Armour game and went 3-of-6 passing for 44 yards and an interception. Mobility in the zone read scheme wasn’t part of Wimbush’s game plan during the week, although that figures to be a priority once he arrives at Notre Dame.

“He’s got a strong arm and he’s got a long release, maybe more from just being a baseball player,” Newberg said. “Once he tightens that up, that’s really the one negative I saw in him. I think Notre Dame got a really good quarterback.”

Coney was the biggest flashpoint among Notre Dame’s commitments relative to his three-star ranking versus his SEC offer list. There were questions about Coney’s lateral speed and if he could play sideline-to-sideline or just tackle-to-tackle.

The Under Armour week didn’t recast Coney as a speed linebacker, with the position difficult to evaluate in all-star settings where hitting is limited, but the Palm Beach Gardens product did enough to intrigue analysts. He was a late addition to the game after another linebacker dropped out.

Coney will enroll at Notre Dame next week.

“He held his own, got turned loose on a few blitzes and moved well, probably above average for the linebacker position,” Simmons said. “But he’s not a kid that jumped out. There were guys who were better in coverage and Coney is definitely a kid who’s better moving forward than backward.”

As for Yoon, Notre Dame’s kicker commitment had the best game of all the Irish commitments, connecting on all three field goals, including a 47-yarder. With Kyle Brindza’s career complete, the Nashville transplant could be called into action early.

“I wouldn’t say he has Sebastian Janikowski strength in his leg, but we’re talking about a guy who should be consistently accurate from 50 yards in,” Newberg said. “I’ve seen guys with stronger legs than Yoon, but if you’re not kicking it straight it doesn’t matter.

“Yoon had a good week.”

That meant he fit right in with the rest of Notre Dame’s commitments.


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