Nicky Baratti’s Notre Dame career got off to a promising start just a few months after his arrival from Tomball, Texas, where he starred as a multi-purpose player at Klein Oak High School. He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, safety and punter during his prep career.
He arrived at Notre Dame as a safety and saw action in all 13 games as a freshman, finishing with eight tackles, a pass defensed and an interception (see Best Game below). He’s played in just two games (both in ’14) the last two seasons.
Baratti needs some help to get on the field, and a healthy Max Redfield will not be dislodged from the lineup. Drue Tranquill, returning from a knee injury, could fit behind Elijah Shumate if it’s not Cal transfer Avery Sebastian, which would open up the No. 2 spot at free safety, or perhaps even a role as a dime or quarter defensive back, although that opportunity likely has come and gone. He should be able to play a prominent role on Irish special teams if his injury issues are behind him.
Any player hopes to avoid injuries, but in Baratti’s case, it is an ever-present issue after missing the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury, and then the final 10 games of the 2014 season when he got banged up after replacing Redfield (targeting penalty) in Game Three vs. Purdue. If healthy, the worst-case scenario should be special teams.
From a health standpoint, Baratti’s career path is similar to that of Dan McCarthy, the younger brother of former Irish captain and graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy, whose college career never quite launched due to injuries. With Baratti, it’s been shoulder, and with Dan McCarthy, it was neck, which dated back to his high school days at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio.
A first-team all-state class 5A performer and listed as a three-star prospect with a 4.55 time in the 40, Baratti committed to Notre Dame during spring drills in April of 2011, choosing the Irish over in-state schools Houston, Texas Tech, Baylor and Rice, as well as West Virginia, Mississippi State, Arizona State and Southern Mississippi. Injuries have prevented him from living up to his three-star status which, in retrospect, appears to have been an accurate rating coming out of high school.
Inserted into the lineup in passing situations, Baratti was defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s young weapon used in a critical situation against Michigan in 2012 – the fourth game of Baratti’s collegiate career. He made one of five Notre Dame interceptions at the goal line on a halfback pass by Vincent Smith in its 13-6 victory over Michigan.
“Much of what we expected from Nicky in terms of his athleticism is what we’re seeing. He’s fully engaged and competing…A good, tough, athletic kid.”
-- Brian Kelly