Whether he ultimately aligns at wide receiver, where he is a Scout Top 300 prospect, or safety, which is where the Irish apparently will give him a first look, Notre Dame verbal commitment No. 10 – Isaiah Robertson – is a first in the Class of 2017.
The Irish have verbal commitments from:
Robertson, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder out of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., would be the first wideout to join 2016 freshmen Kevin Stepherson, Chase Claypool and Javon McKinley or the first safety to mix with 2016 freshmen Devin Studstill, Spencer Perry, Jalen Elliott and D.J. Morgan.
The word out of Notre Dame is that Todd Lyght has designs on inheriting Robertson, who has more prep playing experience at wideout, but some pretty unique characteristics that the Irish would like to develop on the back end of the defense.
Robertson has great length, and his style of catching the football – whether it’s as a receiver on an end-zone fade or as a break-on-the-ball safety – looks like it will translate well to the next level. He swallows the football with what looks to be two very long, strong hands, quality ball skills, and impeccable timing to high point the football.
Robertson has nice instincts at safety despite his relatively short time at the position. He anticipates routes and reads the quarterback into mistakes through the air. His length allows him to get to passes the average safety simply would not be able to reach.
His range against the run is quite impressive, a la Spencer Perry, although he’s not as physical and strong as Perry, who looked like a budding outside linebacker coming out of high school whereas Robertson seems to be more of a prototype safety.
Robertson has exceptional horizontal range against the run. His ability to get from the middle of the field to a tackle opportunity outside the hashes is top level.
He’ll need to fill out his long frame to have the physicality to play the position, although he certainly doesn’t shy away from squaring a ball carrier up and lowering the boom. He also has the footwork and change of direction necessary to be a pass-defending safety.
Robertson is a very attractive wide receiver prospect as well. He’s not a burner per se, but he does have a very quiet running motion with a beautiful long, loping stride in the open field. His speed is deceptive, and that’s a byproduct of a very economical running stride that doesn’t involve a lot of unnecessary moving parts.
His best quality as a receiver is the ability to high point the football with excellent body control. He is an end-zone, fade-route master with two hands simultaneously securing the football after elevating himself and propelling his body backwards.
Robertson shows quality footwork, whether it’s eluding a would-be tackler in the open field, or reacting to the jukes of an opposing receiver.
Precise route-running is not something that has been asked of Robertson at this juncture of his career. He’s so long and athletic, it’s a matter of getting the football in his hands and letting his gifts/instincts take over. He catches a lot of step-back screens and uses the blocks of his fellow wideouts to ad-lib his way through traffic and up the field.
There are aspects of his game/athleticism that call to mind incoming freshmen such as the above-mentioned Perry, Chase Claypool’s weaving ability through traffic, and Javon McKinley’s big-play capabilities downfield.
Although he’s pretty raw as a safety, there are enough tools and instincts to take a Notre Dame fit like Robertson 10 out of 10 times.
How high is his upside? He’s a good enough athlete to be a multiple-year starter on either side of the football. If his ability to learn is commensurate to his instincts, the Irish have landed a real gem.