Notre Dame’s long-awaited 16th commitment – the second time through – gives the Irish a much-needed second safety in the Class of 2017 with the versatility to move closer to the line of scrimmage.
Jordan Genmark-Heath, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder from 15-0 and California state champion Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, pledged to the Irish Thursday, giving Notre Dame a safety tandem in the class with long-committed free safety prospect Isaiah Robertson.
Genmark Heath is a physically mature, physical football player who helped lead the Dons’ state championship squad, which featured five offspring of former NFL players: Notre Dame/NFL quarterback Rick Mirer and Notre Dame/record-setting NFL kicker John Carney, College and Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes (Arizona State), multi-Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Allen (Arizona State), and long-time NFL safety John Lynch (Stanford).
Genmark Heath is not one of those NFL offspring, but he certainly fits the part. He’s not a burner per se, which is what offers a projection a bit closer to the line of scrimmage if necessary in Mike Elko’s Notre Dame defense. But when he got his powerful frame moving, he ran away from the prep competition in southern California.
This kid is a hitter. The power in his hips/lower body is evident by the way receivers/running backs go flying backwards upon contact. He drives through the ball carrier with excellent pad level. He projects as an in-the-box safety, although his ball skills – particularly on the offensive side of the football – should serve him well on the back end of a defense.
Genmark Heath’s athleticism showed itself as a receiver and occasional ball carrier during his prep career. He made numerous leaping, acrobatic catches look easy. His light-on-his feet footwork on offense made him an elusive target to hit, and a bull of a runner when it was necessary to take on would-be tacklers.
While I agree with Irish Illustrated editor Pete Sampson’s physical comparison to former Irish safety Elijah Shumate – a linebacker in high school – what should separate Genmark Heath from the Irish alum is his ball skills.
Shumate was a one-way safety. He was intent on physical contact and never could quite mesh the balance between physicality and playing the football in the air. Genmark Heath’s background as a receiver makes him more of a two-way safety.
While appropriately listed as a three-star prospect, his physical maturity and power-filled game should give him a chance to excel on the next level while giving the Irish defense versatility to play a couple of roles.
As the 16th verbal commitment of the Irish, perhaps this will give Notre Dame some recruiting momentum over the final week of the recruiting campaign. They need it. There’s still work to be done.