Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 JUNE/JULY 2019 35 BY EJ HOLLAND Notre Dame scored a monster victory on the recruiting trail when four-star Phoenix Pinnacle offensive lineman Tosh Baker gave the Fight- ing Irish a verbal pledge May 8. Baker picked Notre Dame over offers from Alabama, LSU, Michi- gan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas and several other major programs. For Baker, the decision to pick Notre Dame was an easy one. "Notre Dame is a great school," Baker said. "The tradition is huge. I love the offensive line culture they have. I visited twice, and hung out with the offensive line twice. They are all great people. "I have a strong connection to both the players and the coaches." Baker made two unofficial visits to Notre Dame, and the Irish started to surge in his recruitment this spring. Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn spent an entire day evaluating Baker at Pinnacle during the first full week of May, and he closed the deal soon after. Quinn coached former NFL first- round pick Joe Staley at Central Michigan, NFL All-Pro Jason Kelce during his years at Cincinnati, and he was at Notre Dame from 2015-17 before taking over the offensive line job. During that time Quenton Nel- son earned unanimous All-America accolades, while both Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey earned con- sensus All-America honors. Quinn's background is one reason why Baker believes he can truly de- velop under his guidance. "The relationship I have with Coach Quinn is very strong," the Ri- vals100 tackle stated. "He's a father and a football coach, and he brings both to the football field. That's huge. He's a great coach, and I feel like I could learn a lot from him. He's done a lot of great things with the offen- sive linemen at Notre Dame." Pinnacle head coach Dana Zupke has worked with some of the best prospects the state of Arizona has ever produced. Zupke was quick to say that Baker has an opportunity to excel at Notre Dame and beyond. "Besides the obvious physical at- tributes, he's very athletic and intel- ligent," Zupke said. "He's very cere- bral. He's like an extra coach on the field. Usually, my O-line coach will get to him, and he already knows what he needs to correct. "He's always working at his craft. That really sets him apart. He really thinks like a coach and tries to make himself better. "Based on what the college guys tell me and what I know about him, he's got that length and athleticism to be a big-time left tackle. As long as he stays healthy, I think the sky is the limit for him. I think he is a Sunday player." Notre Dame got an extra boost in this recruitment from commit Drew Pyne. The two have a close friend- ship and could be a dynamic quar- terback-left tackle duo in South Bend in the near future. "I talk to Drew Pyne all the time," Baker said. "I spent some time with him on my visit. He's a great dude and a great athlete. He's an even bet- ter person. He's just a solid person." Now that he is a part of the Notre Dame family, Baker is excited to see what the future holds, especially in the trenches. "I know there are some new defen- sive line commits, and that's going to make the offensive line even bet- ter," the Pinnacle standout explained. "Getting after it in practice is going to make the games even easier." Baker is the 10th member of Notre Dame's nationally ranked recruiting class. He is the first offensive lineman to give the Irish a verbal pledge this cycle. The 6-8, 275-pound Baker is ranked as a four-star recruit, the No. 2 player in Arizona, and the No. 9 offensive tackle and No. 51 overall prospect in the country, per Rivals. Should his ranking hold, Baker would become the highest-ranked offensive lineman to choose Notre Dame since Tommy Kraemer (No. 41) in the 2016 class. Former five-star re- cruit Quenton Nelson (No. 29) from the 2014 class would be the only other offensive tackle to rank higher than Baker. ✦ FILM ANALYSIS Strengths Already an elite pass blocker at the prep level, Tosh Baker has all the necessary traits to develop into a dominant pass blocker in college as well … Has a broad frame with the potential to easily eclipse 300 pounds and maintain his athletic skills … Shows impres- sive foot quickness, agility and balance on the football field and as a basketball player … Change of direction is easy and fluid when his technique is correct … Athleticism allows him to be effective in the run game, especially on pulls, traps and when working up to the second level. Areas For Improvement Still on the light side for his frame, so he'll need to add bulk … Lacks a strong punch, so adding weight room strength should improve his playing power … At times narrows his base and plays too high … Has to clean up his over- all technique in all areas. — Bryan Driskell COMMITMENT PROFILE TOSH BAKER Fighting Irish Beat Out Heavyweights For Arizona Lineman Rivals rates Baker as a four-star talent, the No. 2 prospect in Arizona, and the No. 9 offensive tackle and No. 51 overall player nationally. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM "I love the offensive line culture they have. I visited twice, and hung out with the offensive line twice. They are all great people. I have a strong connection to both the players and the coaches." BAKER ON NOTRE DAME

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