In the film room...Austin Mack
• Assets: A physically-mature power receiver with the agility to make twisting, difficult catches look simple while maintaining the balance to stay on his feet after the tough catch. Excellent lower-body strength allows him to break tackles with ease against high school competition.
Glue-stick hands. Regularly makes difficult/diving grabs. Watches the football into his hands. Outstanding ability to make adjustments to football in-flight. Excellent stop-start ability with razor-sharp cuts. Consistently shows separation skills while employing evasive off-the-snap maneuvers via quickness and strength. Sets up defenders well in pass routes. Even switches football to sideline hand mid-run. Also shows the ability to be productive on jet-sweeps
Comes off as a humble, hard-worker. A no-frills performer. Uses each rep effectively and efficiently. Trainer uses words like positive attitude, work ethic and determination when describing his strengths.
• Room for improvement: Not a blazer per se. More quick than flat-out fast, but nothing close to a glaring shortcoming. Coming off right shoulder (labrum) surgery.
• Schools of interest: Notre Dame. Big Ten: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana; SEC: Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt; ACC: North Carolina; Pac 12: UCLA; Other: Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Ohio U., Toledo, Akron.
• Early line: During his junior season, Mack made two trips to Notre Dame, two trips to Ohio State and stops at Michigan and Michigan State. Schools pursuing Mack are on a fast track with the Bishop Luers product declaring June 7 as the date he’d like to have a decision made.
He recently was in Columbus for the Buckeyes’ national championship celebration.
“It was great,” said Mack to Scout’s Allen Trieu. “Being able to witness history was great, especially seeing all three of the quarterbacks standing up on the stage together.”
Notre Dame certainly is in the running, due in part to the fact that Mack hails from the same high school as Irish star linebacker Jaylon Smith. Regarding Notre Dame, Mack told Scout’s Anna Hickey in December, after Notre Dame’s four-game losing streak: “Some look at it like I might be able to come in and get more playing time. They throw the ball a lot, which I really like.”
Michigan made up some ground this past week when defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin stopped by Bishop Luers.
“Michigan is still on my interest level,” said Mack to Scout’s Josh Newkirk on Feb. 7. “I haven’t really been in too much contact with them even after signing day. We’ll just see what happens.”
The recruiting transition from the Brady Hoke to the Jim Harbaugh regime remains in flux.
“I was a Brady Hoke recruit,” Mack said. “I don’t even know I’m going to be a Jim Harbaugh recruit yet. I’m going to keep in contact with Durkin and call him to see what’s happening.”
Trips to Michigan State, North Carolina (Feb. 21), and an early-summer excursion to Stanford could be in order.
• ND’s 2015 wide receiver recruiting: In addition to Mack, the Irish have made early targets out of five-star Tyler Vaughns (La Puente, Calif.), and four-stars Donnie Corley (Detroit), Justin Layne (Cleveland), Ahmir Mitchell (Egg Harbor City, NJ) and Tre Nixon (Viera, Fla.).
• ND’s 2016 wide receiver depth chart: The changing of the guard will be arriving by the fall of ’16 with Amir Carlisle and Chris Brown gone after 2015, Will Fuller, C.J. Prosise and Corey Robinson in their final years of eligibility, and Justin Brent and Corey Holmes possessing two years. In their second years in the program will be Miles Boykin, Equanimeous St. Brown, Jalen Guyton and C.J. Sanders.
• Summary: There is a lot to like about Austin Mack the more you watch him in game competition, and then add the 7-of-7 stuff and camp work. Impressions just keep getting better and better. He is a blue-collar worker on the football field who just keeps making productive play after productive play.
He isn’t flamboyant and he doesn’t have superior speed per se. But he is a strong, consistent, dynamic performer who will beat you with his overall physical maturity, his great hands, and his ability to effortlessly twist and turn to make the most difficult catches look easy, and then stay on his feet and get to the end zone.
With an early-June decision listed as his self-imposed deadline, there is no time to waste. Ohio State was tough enough to beat with Urban Meyer having success with the Buckeyes. Now he’s added an impressive national-title performance against Oregon, which will only make head-to-head recruiting battles that much more difficult. So until further notice, the edge goes to the Buckeyes for their specific targets, unless there is an inclination to another school.
Notre Dame has a way of being one of those schools in which a recruit has a specific inclination to attend. Mack clearly carries himself like a young man who would be a fit for Notre Dame. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a fit several other places, including a much different atmosphere at Ohio State.
Bottom line: This is a worthy four-star prospect coming out of Fort Wayne, Ind., who should be able to dictate his level of success as a senior at Bishop Luers, especially since they come up with creative ways to get him the football. His physical superiority over the competition is somewhat reminiscent of the way Josh Barajas carried himself on the other side of the ball as a senior at Andrean High School.