It seemed too good to be true in November.
It was heartbreaking in February.
It’s at least promising again in May.
Robert Beal, the 6-foot-3½, 230-pound defensive end/outside linebacker from Norcross, Ga., has run a vast majority of the gamut with Notre Dame.
It’s time to see if the Irish can complete the journey.
Scout’s No. 99 overall prospect, No. 8 defensive end and No. 3 defensive end from the South has reportedly placed the Irish back under consideration after de-committing from Notre Dame in February, at least in part to his sister Shyla’s denial by the University’s admissions department.
Anna Hickey of Scout/Irish Illustrated reported Monday per sources that Beal’s family will no longer actively pursue the siblings attending the same college.
Beal’s sister is a track-and-field athlete.
While this may not even get Notre Dame back among Beal’s top choices – Alabama, Georgia, Florida State and Texas are considered the frontrunners at the present time – it at least gets the Irish engaged in the conversation, along with a “second tier” group that includes North Carolina and Tennessee.
Why is Beal so important to Notre Dame? There are plenty of reasons. The Irish continue to struggle in their quest to find difference-making defensive players off the edge. Beal’s de-commitment left Notre Dame with no clear-cut, big-time pass rusher lined up in the recruiting class of 2017.
Currently, the leading returning sack men along the defensive line are senior Isaac Rochell with 3½ and fifth-year senior nose tackle Jarron Jones with 2½, and that’s with Jones missing 12 out of 13 games in 2015.
Pass-rushing potential exists with junior defensive end Anthony Trumbetti, although he recorded just the second sack of his collegiate career in his 26th game since arriving at Notre Dame – versus Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl four months ago.
Early-entry freshman Daelin Hayes is perhaps the most talented pass rusher on the roster, although he arrived this spring trying to overcome chronic shoulder issues.
Beal has the skill set to be a dynamic pass rusher on the next level due largely to his overall physical maturity heading into his senior year of high school, which is expected to be at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where Beal reportedly will transfer next month.
That could prove to be significant for Notre Dame with early-entry freshman safety Spencer Perry and freshman running back Tony Jones Jr. on the roster this fall. Both are IMG Academy products.
There’s a physical maturity to Beal’s game that is the exception to the rule on the prep level. This is a true three-down defensive end with the strength to play big end but the coveted quarterback-chasing capabilities of a rush end.
You can place him in a three-point stance or an upright position as an outside linebacker off the edge. Like Daelin Hayes, Beal has the defensive presence to rush the quarterback from a variety of alignments.
As a junior in high school, Beal showed college-level characteristics with his hands. He maximizes his length and plays even longer than his 6-foot-3½ listing indicates. He’s a fast-twitch athlete with top-notch change-of-direction capabilities.
Beal has the strength to overpower as a pass rusher but also shows quality discipline and fundamentals getting off blocks and getting to the quarterback. He has combative hands to get off blocks, understands his gap responsibilities, stays square to the football as a run defender, and shows the maturity in his game to avoid allowing offensive linemen to cross his face. Beal does a great job of keeping his eyes up and reacting to quarterback/running back ad-libs.
Beal can rush the passer, lower his shoulder to physically challenge a blocker, and then show quick recovery to get after the quarterback immediately upon disengaging from the blocker. He doesn’t abandon his wide base defending the run, which is part of what makes him a hands-down, every-down player.
This is an exceptional prospect who has at least opened the door back up for Notre Dame. Will it be enough? It’s important that the Irish make inroads, particularly in light of the recent decision by Joshua Kaindoh, who visited Blue-Gold Game weekend and announced a verbal commitment to Maryland shortly thereafter.
Other four-star defensive end prospects offered by Notre Dame include Corey Malone-Hatcher (St. Joseph’s, Mich.), Zachary Carter (Tampa, Fla.), Hunter Echols (Los Angeles), D.J. Johnson (Sacramento, Calif.), Ryan Johnson (Mobile, Ala.), Logan Rudolph (Rock Hill, S.C.) and Jordan Williams (Virginia Beach, Va.). The Irish also have an offer out to five-star Chase Young (Hyattsville, Md.), who attends DeMatha Catholic.
To say the Irish are the frontrunner for any of those prospects would be a stretch.
Notre Dame is back in the mode of courting Robert Beal. It’s a far cry from his verbally-committed status from November, but a significant improvement over the news from a couple of months ago that Beal no longer was considering Notre Dame.
In other words, Beal is a big deal for Notre Dame once again.