Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2021

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

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26 FEBRUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY MIKE SINGER N otre Dame signed a 26- man class in December, which was ranked No. 9 in the country by Rivals as of mid-January. Just like you'd find in a high school yearbook, Blue & Gold Il- lustrated has dished out several superlatives for the Fighting Irish signees. Class MVP: Blake Fisher This one is pretty ob- vious, and no, it's not because he's the highest- ranked player and lone five-star prospect of the class. For this superlative, I'm looking at how much the staff valued the recruit, how important he is to the class and the impact for Notre Dame on a national scale. Fisher, the nation's No. 6 offensive tackle and No. 25 overall prospect in the land per Rivals, was the biggest offensive line target for Notre Dame in the 2021 class. Despite Fisher lean- ing towards Michigan early in the cycle, the Irish were able to lock him up early. In an interview with BGI following his pledge, Fisher stated that he was going to "bring in the dudes" with him, and he was the ringleader of Notre Dame's 2021 class. How many of Notre Dame's signees wouldn't have picked the Irish if not for Fisher? We have no way of knowing that, but during a year where in-person relationships couldn't be built with coaches, Fish- er's role as a recruiter was so impor- tant in creating a brotherhood among the commits. He is also one heck of a prospect, too, which didn't hurt his chance to be picked the class MVP. Those at Notre Dame tell BGI that Fisher is so talented that the Avon (Ind.) High product doesn't even understand yet how good he can be. Best Athlete: Tyler Buchner La Mesa (Calif.) Helix Charter 's Tyler Buchner, who Rivals ranks as the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback and No. 111 overall player nation- ally, is coming to Notre Dame with so much fanfare and excitement be- cause of what he did on the field a year ago. Just think about that. In a day and age where people have short memories, the Irish faithful are still jacked up about what Buchner showed in 2019. He wasn't able to display his excel- lent athleticism running the ball and ability to make plays through the air this fall with California not playing high school football in 2020, but you better believe that all eyes will be on Buchner in the spring of 2021. Although he played fairly weak competition as a junior, his numbers were bonkers. Buchner completed 267 of 402 passes for 4,474 yards with 53 touchdowns and six inter- ceptions for a QB rating of 137.2. On the ground, he rushed 128 times for 1,610 yards and 28 scores. Most Underrated: Ryan Barnes Rivals ranks Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard's Ryan Barnes as the nation's No. 62 cornerback and with a 5.6 recruit ranking, which is the mid-level three-star designation. He didn't have the opportunity to improve his stock as a senior because Maryland did not have fall football, but his junior tape shows excellent cover ability and traits that will translate well at the college level. Barnes is a sleeper pick to play in Notre Dame's secondary in 2021, a la Clarence Lewis this past season. Mr. Versatile: Khari Gee In talking with sources in South Bend, the staff feels that College Park (Ga.) Woodward Acad- emy safety Khari Gee is a player who can make an immediate impact as a true freshman. Gee, a four-star pros- pect and the No. 28 safety in the country according to Rivals, was asked to play some cornerback to help his team this fall. It's a position he won't play at Notre Dame, but he could man up against bigger receivers in red-zone situations. He could also grow into a rover. Or he could stay slim and be a Kyle Hamilton-esque free safety. His best fit, though, may be at strong safety where he can play all over the field. Regardless, Gee is an extremely versatile player. Instant Impact: Lorenzo Styles Jr. Pickerington (Ohio) Central's Lo- renzo Styles Jr. should be too good to keep off the field. He should be at least given the opportunity to be Notre Dame's starting punt returner next fall. Our favorite aspect about Styles' game is how smart he is. He's clearly a former NFL player's son and a stu- dent of the game. He complements his explosiveness and twitchiness with making smart decisions. Look for Styles, who is rated as the No. 6 wide receiver and No. 51 over- all prospect in the nation by Rivals, to get plenty of playing time this fall. Other Superlatives Hidden Gem: Merrillville (Ind.) High cornerback JoJo Johnson Favorite Interview: Clarkston (Mich.) High offensive guard Rocco Spindler ✦ Notre Dame's best athlete in the class is La Mesa (Calif.) Helix Charter's Tyler Buchner, who Rivals ranks as the nation's No. 6 dual-threat quarterback and No. 111 overall player. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM Notre Dame's Class Of 2021 Superlatives

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