In the film room...Julian Love
• Statistics: Helped lead the Roadrunners to the state championship in ’14 with 72 tackles, five interceptions (three for TDs), 69 rushes for 780 yards and nine TDs, and 20 receptions for 547 yards and 11 TDs. Also had punt and kick returns for scores.
• Assets: Intelligent, productive, resourceful football player who finds his way to playing an impactful brand of football, whether he’s on offense, defense or special teams. A quality athlete with loose hips and good feet to go with football instincts, vision and anticipation. Willingly plays a physical brand of football. Exceptional pad level upon contact defensively.
Best physical attribute on defense is closing quickness on the football coming up from the secondary. Shot out of a cannon when transitioning from backpedal to tackle. Plays the football exceptionally well in the air. Natural pass-defense instincts. A darting runner on offense with vision and the ability to sense pressure points before they’ve arrived. Top-notch cutback ability. A slippery, change-of-direction return man with quickness if not great speed.
Exceptional competitiveness. Body language says he’s going to win next test/battle. Top-level desire and determination. The right fit for Notre Dame.
• Room for improvement: Love has been listed in the 4.6-4.7 range in the 40 by some services. That is a concern in trying to stay stride-for-stride with speedy wideouts on the deep ball. Limited cornerback experience in a cornerback’s body.
• Scholarship offers: Notre Dame. Pac 12: None; ACC: Boston College; Big Ten: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Rutgers; Big 12: Iowa State, Kansas; SEC: None; Other: Buffalo, Illinois State, Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan.
• Why Notre Dame: When Love visited Notre Dame this past weekend for Junior Day, he simply couldn’t fight the feeling.
“I thought I could hold it off, honestly,” said Love of his commitment to Notre Dame in an interview with Irish Illustrated’s Jake Brown. “But I spent about an hour here again and I knew this was my place to be.”
Love chose Notre Dame over scholarship offers from Boston College, Northwestern, Iowa, Illinois, Rutgers, Iowa State, Indiana, Kansas, Miami (Ohio), Buffalo and Western Michigan.
“Everybody knows how big of a school and how loving of a school and community (Notre Dame) is,” Love said. “It’s just a family feel. Everybody is in it to win it. The whole community, the whole country basically. It’s just a great atmosphere.”
Nazareth Academy coach Tim Racki gushed about Love.
“It couldn’t have happened with a better kid,” said Racki to Scout’s Beth Long. “It’s his dream school. His dad is a huge fan. It’s been his dream school his whole life, and he’s just so well-rounded. He’s popular with not only football players, but the entire student population because he’s so humble and grounded.
“It’s like he turns into a superhero when he puts on the uniform. He’s like Clark Kent or Superman. He knows how to lock in and just transform himself – offense, defense, special teams.
“It’s almost like he’s already seen the play happen before it happened. He knows where the runner is going to go, he knows what the tackles are going to do, and he just does the opposite and makes the play.”
• ND’s 2015 cornerback recruiting: Notre Dame has offers out to five of the top 100 players in the country that play the cornerback position, including five-star Levonta Taylor (Virginia Beach, Va.). Other top-rated cornerbacks on Notre Dame’s radar are four-stars Kristian Fulton (Metairie, La.), Trayvon Mullen (Coconut Creek, Fla.), Jack Jones (Long Beach, Calif.) and Byron Murphy (Scottsdale, Ariz.).
• ND’s 2016 cornerback depth chart: Cody Riggs is gone but KeiVarae Russell is expected back this summer at cornerback, where he’ll join junior-to-be Cole Luke in the starting lineup. Until Russell returns, junior-to-be Devin Butler is the projected frontrunner at cornerback opposite Luke. Sophomore-to-be Nick Watkins should push for a role. Arriving this summer are three freshmen – Shaun Crawford, Nick Coleman and Ashton White.
• Summary: A red flag goes up when someone indicates that the only shortcoming of a cornerback prospect is a lack of great speed. That’s seldom a good sign because if there’s a position where speed is necessary, it’s at cornerback where defenders must keep pace with receivers, who tend to be the fastest players on the field.
Having said that, it’s not like Love isn’t quick. In fact, that is one of his greatest attributes, and the rest of his game/persona is off-the-chart. This is a quality football player who seems to be thinking/reacting one step ahead of his opponent, which helps explain five interceptions as a junior, three of which he returned for scores.
Could he play offense? Slot receiver probably would be a good fit, but he has a natural feel for what opposing offenses are trying to accomplish. His anticipation of where the football will be and how long it will take him to put himself in position to make the play appears to be in the highest percentile. His best position probably is safety or that of a nickel/underneath coverage guy, but he definitely has cornerback skills as well.
Love’s list of suitors up to this point is relatively unimpressive. The newly-formed Notre Dame defensive staff, however, evaluated Love and pulled the trigger this past weekend. The Irish wouldn’t have offered or taken the commitment if they didn’t believe they saw in him the makings of a quality football player.
His 40-time suggests safety, his size suggests cornerback, his instincts and productivity indicate he’s going to help Notre Dame somewhere, more likely defense than offense, and almost undoubtedly in some capacity on special teams.
The other factor is that Love projects so readily to Notre Dame that when you’re piecing together a football program, particularly at a place where success is often tied to factors beyond the field, sometimes the deciding factor is personality/fit. Make no mistake, this is a quality football player. But the odds of him thriving on the next level are higher because he’s such a natural fit for the environment.
Julian Love appears to be all of that, and thus, he is the first defensive commitment in the Class of 2016.