The best of Devin Studstill might be under his helmet.
According to Julius Edwards, former defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Palm Beach Gardens, it’s the football intellect owned by Notre Dame’s newest commitment that sets him apart.
Edwards coached Studstill for three years before leaving last year to coach the offensive line at Palm Beach Lakes.
“First of all, he’s a student-athlete,” Edwards said. “He’s a student on and off the field. He loves studying the game. He sees the play happen before it happens. He has great instincts. He’s explosive. He has athletic genes because of his father, so he has that in his corner, and that’s a big plus.
“The biggest thing about him for me though is he’s a leader. He knows how lead on and off the field.”
Notre Dame was among Studstill’s first scholarship offers. The Irish liked what they saw so early that they offered before his junior season.
“They saw a kid that could read offenses and catch onto any defense very quickly,” Edwards said. “He can play free safety or in the box. He’s so versatile. He can play zone or man. He can drop back and cover the wide receivers in the open field or be the slot cornerback. A lot of people don’t understand that about Devin, but if he catches the ball, no one can catch him.
“I think Notre Dame is smart to like him at free safety. He can roam the field and use his instincts. That’s a great call on their part.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound hard-hitting defensive back takes pride in his work ethic, and not just on the field or in the weight room.
“He’s the type of kid that knows the importance of mental reps,” Edwards said. “A lot of kids think they’ll take the next step when they get bigger and stronger. He knows the mental reps are just as important.
“It’s always game film with him. He studies how the wide receivers run their routes and if they cut them off short. He studies what their tendencies are on third down and in the red zone. If there’s a player they go to a lot in the red zone, he wants to be matched up them.”
Notre Dame’s academic reputation gave the Irish the upper hand. Notre Dame freshman linebacker Te’Von Coney, a graduate of Palm Beach Gardens, provided reinforcement.
“Truthfully, he places academics first,” Edwards said. “That was the main thing. Notre Dame is a prestigious school. There’s a great alumni base. It carries a lot of weight everywhere. If you get a degree from Notre Dame, you are pretty much set for life.
“And then he knows Te’Von. They played together the last three years, so he knows he’ll have someone to relate to up there and someone that can show him the ropes.”
West Virginia, the program Studstill’s dad quarterbacked in the 1990s, was a finalist.
“It really wasn’t too hard for him to tell West Virginia no,” Edwards said. “His parents really let him make his own decision. They guided him, but they really let him decide on his own. He has a great family background. His dad had gone through the process before, so he gave his insight from that perspective. And his head coach really prepared him for the next level in that sense.”
Once Notre Dame identified Studstill as its top free safety prospect last spring, no coach recruited Studstill harder than Irish assistant Autry Denson.
“He’s an honest recruiter and a great guy,” Edwards said. “He comes down here and tells kids exactly like it is and what they have to do. He is a top-notch recruiter and top-notch coach. I can guarantee my kids when he comes that that’s what they’re getting.”
Studstill will enroll early at Notre Dame and will step foot on campus on Jan. 11 as an Irish student-athlete, a title he’ll fully embrace if his past is any indication of his future.
“He wants to enroll early to start getting work in,” Edwards said. “He’s ready for that next step.”