• Stats: Passed for 1,736 yards and 24 touchdowns while adding 271 rushing yards and three more scores as a junior for the Skyhawks.
• Assets: A loose-hipped, bouncy, agile performer whose athleticism seamlessly transitions from position-to-position and sport-to-sport. Transitions in and out of breaks/turns smoothly. Seems comfortable in a backpedal for a player who spent the majority of his time at quarterback during his junior campaign.
Shows quality ball skills and high-pointing ability on the back end of defense. Uses hands to his advantage versus receivers. Has very natural athleticism with the ability to get off the ground to make a play. Shows a degree of physicality.
Plays with good pad level and wide, athletic base. Stays square to ball carriers. Shows a taut bounce in his step.
• Room for improvement: A bit herky-jerky at times breaking laterally out of backpedal. Must learn to maintain leverage/spacing with receiver following contact. Head positioning on tackling technique falls off line. Has a tendency to be a puller and not a tackler.
• Top offers: Notre Dame; SEC: Kentucky; ACC: Louisville, Miami, N.C. State, Syracuse, Wake Forest; Pac 12: None; Big 12: West Virginia; Big Ten: Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin; Other: Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic.
• Why Notre Dame: Elliott said he didn’t intend to verbally commit to Notre Dame during the Irish Invasion. In fact, he talked as recently as late-May – when he visited Auburn – about narrowing his list down to 8-to-10 by the end of the evaluation period and possibly making a decision upon the conclusion of his senior season at Lloyd C. Bird High School.
“I went in with an open mind and really wanted to just look around, but it turned out for the best,” said Elliott to Irish Illustrated’s Steve Hare. “It just felt like home away from home. A lot of people said when you know, you know, and I felt that way. There was just something about it. I’ve been to a lot of campuses and Notre Dame was the place for me.”
Elliott used his arrival ahead of most of the other participants to take in the atmosphere.
“I got there a little early so at the beginning, I took a little bit of a different tour,” Elliott said. “I went around to the academics and I got to meet the AD, which was amazing. I never got to do that before.”
The deeper Elliott looked, the more he liked Notre Dame.
“We did a players panel and after listening to the questions that they answered, I just looked at my parents and said this is the place that I wanted to go, where I wanted to be for the next four years,” Elliott said.
“The coaches really showed how much they wanted me to be there and how much they would love for me to play at Notre Dame, and the people and the connections with the school really put it over the top.”
• ND’s 2016 safety recruiting: There remain strong indications from the weekend that Ikenna Okeke (Smyrna, Tenn.) could fall Notre Dame’s way. Chacho Ulloa (Corona, Calif.), who also attended the Irish Invasion, has narrowed his choices from five (Arizona State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Vanderbilt) to three (Notre Dame, Stanford and Arizona State).
Other safeties at the Invasion were Carlos Becker (Kissimmee, Fla.), Devin Studstill (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and Spencer Perry (Bradenton, Fla.), a current Florida Gator commit.
• ND’s 2016 safety depth chart: Elijah Shumate and Avery Sebastian will be gone from the equation by 2016, and Max Redfield will either be the most experienced Irish safety or off to the NFL. Drue Tranquill will be a junior and well established. John Turner and Nicky Baratti likely will be gone with Mykelti Williams and Nicco Fertitta entering their sophomore seasons with three or four years of eligibility.
• Summary: He played quarterback as a junior, is being recruited as a wide receiver by Maryland, is favored as a cornerback by Auburn, and is considered a safety prospect by Notre Dame.
Where Jalen Elliott ended up was supposed to be anybody’s guess, a process perhaps stretching as long as through Lloyd C. Bird High School’s fall football season. But the three-star athlete pulled the trigger Friday night, and now the first of what is expected to be several safety prospects has fallen Notre Dame’s way.
Unless you’ve spent time with Elliott on the practice field and have gotten a good feel for his athletic characteristics, it’s difficult to get an exact handle on what the Irish have gotten with his verbal commitment.
It’s clear he has the athleticism to play in a college secondary. He has the physical characteristics – loose hips, spring loaded, capable of exploding on the football, ball skills – but his technique can be all over the place. The first order of business is to not allow a receiver to gain separation after the typical hand-fighting/contact that occurs between wideout and defensive back. On some reps Friday night, it was a chasm.
His tackling technique needs hundreds of one-on-one reps. He’s probably a red-shirt season away – and then some – from having the practice experiences that translate over to game competition.
On one hand, the Irish received their first verbal commitment at the safety position; on the other hand, unless he has KeiVarae Russell-like skills that allow for a meteoric transition, Elliott likely isn’t a solution on the back end of the defense for while
But again, without more to study of Elliott playing in the defensive secondary, we’re just guessing – even more so than normal – as to what the Irish have long-term with this prospect from Virginia. Obviously, there’s a quality athlete with which to work. Additionally, Notre Dame has a much better feel for the coachability of Elliott. He appears to be a sensible, mature, open-minded young man, making the transition that much easier.
As for timetables, that’s up to the Irish coaching staff and Elliott to accelerate the transition. Every second of senior film we can get of Elliott will be enlightening.