• Class: Junior (Eligibility: 3)
• On The Depth Chart: After initially aligning as an outside linebacker in Brian VanGorder’s defense, Barajas has moved inside to Mike Elko’s Buck linebacker, where he played briefly near the end of the Blue-Gold Game behind Greer Martini and Te’von Coney.
• Post-Spring Status: Descending
Ranked 51st on the Scout 300 list and the fifth best outside linebacker nationally, Josh Barajas was considered one of the top prospects in Notre Dame’s freshman Class of 2015.
Named to the 2014 Indiana Class 3A all-state team by the Associated Press, Barajas led Andrean High School (Merrillville, Ind.) to a 15-1 record and a runner-up finish in the 3A playoffs as a senior when he recorded 98 tackles, seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss and an interception for the Fighting 59ers.
Barajas missed his mark physically, however, when Notre Dame’s pre-season camp opened in August of 2015, and ultimately preserved a year of eligibility. He went into August of 2016 much better prepared from a conditioning standpoint, but failed to make a significant dent on the depth chart.
He played in nine games on special teams for the Irish in ’16 but was not credited with a tackle. With a clean slate this spring under new defensive coordinator Mike Elko and linebackers coach Clark Lea, Barajas did not appear to make much progress. Illness sidelined him for a week during the spring.
BARAJAS AT HIS BEST
Barajas has yet to experience a noteworthy game-day play or moment in a Notre Dame uniform, although his ascension to special teams work as a red-shirt freshman was significant progress over his first season. Barajas was credited with two tackles late in last month’s Blue-Gold Game.
“Very active, athletic linebacker. A winner. He was part of four teams that played in the state championship…We’re looking for a guy that can play on the outside, run and give us length and size. Josh can certainly do that.”
– Brian Kelly on Feb. 4, 2015 signing day
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Barring a rash of injuries at linebacker, Barajas does not have a path to playing time at any of the linebacker positions. A role on special teams appears to be his destiny. He’ll enter the 2017 season still seeking his first tackle.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
The arrival of talented athletes such as Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Jafar Armstrong, and Jordan Genmark Heath all could threaten Barajas’ bid to remain a regular member of Notre Dame’s special teams. Barajas’ third season in the program this fall looks like a make-or-break campaign.
Anthony McDonald, a four-star prospect out of Sherman Oaks, Calif., arrived at Notre Dame in the fall of 2008. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder preserved a year of eligibility as a freshman, and then became a regular part of Notre Dame’s coverage teams in 2009-10 with 21 tackles in 23 games. He completed his career with 24 tackles in 27 games.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
With three years of eligibility remaining, there remains plenty of time for the 6-foot-2, 239-pound Barajas to become an integral part of Notre Dame’s linebacker future. But Barajas needs a great summer and a pre-season camp that turns the heads of Brian Kelly, Elko and Lea in order to gain a foothold and move up the depth chart with another wave of linebackers arriving in the Class of 2017.