Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

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

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60 MARCH 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MIKE SINGER There was nothing good about Notre Dame's blowout loss to Michi- gan last fall. There was a silver lin- ing though, since it actually played a small role in the Irish landing a new commitment. The sopping conditions in Ann Arbor didn't help Notre Dame's chances to win against the Wolver- ines, but it may have been divine intervention for the Irish in its pur- suit of Bolingbrook (Ill.) High class of 2021 safety Justin Walters, who was in attendance for the game. "All of the college games I went to during the season were cold and rainy, except for the Notre Dame [versus New Mexico] game," Walters said. "I took that as a sign from God that this was the place to go." Walters' plan was to stretch his re- cruitment well into the spring and take all five of his official visits before committing before his senior season. But clearly, he changed his time line and announced his pledge to the Irish Feb. 2. He visited Notre Dame last September and returned to cam- pus Feb. 1 for a prospect recruiting event. "Ever since I went to that New Mexico game, I knew in my heart that it was the place," Walters explained. "Everyone talks about 'when you know, you know,' and I knew. "When I went on the [Feb. 1] visit, I was thinking to myself and talking to my parents when we got home. We were just saying, 'Why waste these other coaches' time and waste my time taking other visits when in all of our hearts we know where I'm going to go?'" With Walters knowing what his choice would ultimately end up be- ing, combined with Notre Dame hav- ing limited num- bers in the 2021 class, he knew it was time to make the call. "Coach [Terry] Joseph told me t h a t h e ' s o n l y taking two safe- ties in the class, and when two do commit, they're 100 percent com- mitted to them a n d w o n ' t re - cruit any more s a f e t i e s , " Wa l - ters said. "So I thought I might as well jump on that opportunity and take that spot while I can and be done with it." Walters came to his decision soon after getting back from his Notre Dame visit and called Joseph that night. He called head coach Brian Kelly the next morning. "I told Coach Joseph that I felt like Notre Dame was the right fit for me and to lock me in; I'm committed," Walters said. "He was hyped. He wanted me bad. Coach Kelly is a re- ally good coach, too. He really cares about more than just football." Walters is listed at 6-1 and 170 pounds by Rivals, and is rated as a three-star recruit, the No. 8 prospect in Illinois and the No. 14 safety in the country. Recruits don't get to see as much of Notre Dame during a game day visit as they do for a normal recruit- ing trip. It was important for Walters to experience a Notre Dame game last fall in addition to learning more about the educa- tion the university offers during his February visit. " E v e r y t h i n g about Notre Dame really impressed me," Walters said. "I was able to learn s o m u c h m o re about the school, t h e a c a d e m i c s alon g w ith th e football program, and I feel that Notre Dame just fits me so well." On the gridiron, you don't see too many safeties like Walters anymore these days. " H e h i t s l i k e n o b o d y w e ' v e ever had here," Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow said. "He hits more like a linebacker. We've never had a defensive back come down and smack like that." With how big of a hitter Walters is, it's important that heading into his senior year, and then college at Notre Dame, that he strengthens his upper body to avoid injury. "We're focusing a lot on his shoul- ders and neck, because he's 175 pounds," Ivlow said. "If he's going to be that come-downhill guy, you've got to make sure that he has a coat of armor, and a lot of kids do neglect their necks and shoulders." Walters isn't too shabby in pass coverage either. "His height helps him a lot," noted Ivlow. "He's about 6-2. He's com- pletely adequate in coverage, but in high school, we focus first on stop- ping the run and the pass last." Walters selected Notre Dame over Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Michi- gan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Ne- braska, Wisconsin and others. ✦ FILM ANALYSIS "[Justin] Walters is a prospect we have only seen on film so far, yet he still starts off ranked among the top 15 prospects at his position. The difference between where he is at and rising to four-star status is us getting a chance to see him live and answer a few remaining questions. "We have no questions about his toughness. Walters is the type of safety who puts fear in wide receivers when they come across the middle of the field. There is also little concern about his instincts for the position; his read and reaction time is excellent. "Size, speed and movement skills do not look to be a concern, but those are elements you cannot get a true feel for until you're able to pair up in-person evaluations with film evaluations." — Rivals national analyst Josh Helmholdt COMMITMENT PROFILE JUSTIN WALTERS 2021 Illinois Safety 'Knew In His Heart' Notre Dame Was The Place For Him Walters, a 6-1, 170-pounder from Bolingbrook (Ill.) High, committed to the Irish after a campus visit Feb. 1. Based purely on game film, Rivals rates him as the No. 8 prospect in Illinois and the No. 14 safety in the country. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND

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