The only surprise was the timing.
On Thursday night Cal graduate Avery Sebastian committed to Notre Dame sight unseen as the program’s next fifth-year transfer, giving the Irish an extra body at safety. Just yesterday, Sebastian said he hadn’t planned his off-season visit to South Bend.
“I have officially committed to the University of Notre Dame!” Sebastian posted on Twitter. “Extremely blessed & excited to be apart of the Notre Dame family! GO IRISH”
Despite never having seen the program in person, Notre Dame had been running strong with Sebastian since the coaching staff first reached out before National Signing Day.
Sebastian decided to leave Cal after his graduation in December and the Irish staff quickly began its recruitment of the strong safety. In recent weeks Sebastian has spoken with both Cody Riggs and former high school teammate Isaac Rochell. He’s also researched two potential graduate programs at Notre Dame within the Mendoza School of Business.
“Notre Dame itself as a brand is untouchable,” Sebastian told Irish Illustrated on Wednesday. “It would be an amazing place to land. With the academics and athletics, that is a big thing about Notre Dame that really intrigues me.
“I could mimic Cody Riggs’ schedule as he went through Notre Dame. And Isaac Rochell has had nothing but great things to say about it.”
Sebastian lived in Florida for part of his upbringing and met Riggs long before he transferred from the Gators to Irish. Sebastian played his senior year at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in Georgia, teaming with a sophomore Rochell.
Sebastian, who tore his Achilles tendon the first game of his junior season, recovered enough to play seven games during his senior year and start once. He finished with 21 tackles and one interception. He’s been training at home in Georgia since leaving Cal.
“I’ve been able to give my body a rest and it needed it to get back to 100 percent,” Sebastian said. “I’ve been training, ready to make an impact in the fall. I’m healthy, all stretched out, feeling good.”
Sebastian will join the Notre Dame program this summer, entering a depth chart short on safeties. Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate return as the only healthy bodies at the position during spring practice. Drue Tranquill is coming off a torn ACL suffered in the home finale against Louisville. Nicco Fertitta and Mykelti Williams will enroll this summer.
Like Riggs, Sebastian will enter the program fighting for playing time behind two established starters. However, both defensive back positions were hurt by injuries and suspensions last year, highlighting the need for quality depth. That’s where Sebastian should be able to help if healthy.
“Notre Dame is a great place with a great team coming back this fall,” Sebastian said. “Coach (Brian) Kelly is looking for little pieces that will help gel the team together, get them to a national championship. I think I can be one of those pieces.
Sebastian said he could have returned to Cal after graduating with a degree in sociology with an emphasis on business and media. Instead, he wanted a fresh start for his final year of eligibility.
During his Cal career Sebastian played for two head coaches and three different defensive coordinators. The Golden Bears went 16-33 during that span with just one winning season.
“Learning a fourth defense is going to be a challenge, but I should be able to adjust way better,” Sebastian said. “The transition has to be quick. I have the tools and the coaches at Notre Dame have a lot of experience to help you. I really think I could reach my potential at a school like Notre Dame.”