Notre Dame 2021 Cornerback Big Board

Notre Dame 2021 Cornerback Big Board

IB Big Board: Cornerback

Breaking down and ranking the 2021 cornerbacks on the board for Notre Dame
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Cornerback is a significant need for the Notre Dame 2021 recruiting class, and success at that position could very well hold the key to the entire defensive class.

After losing former position coach Todd Lyght in January, the Irish went well over a month before Mike Mickens was brought in as the replacement. By that point the board was a mess, but Mickens worked very quickly to rebuild the board. The key now is for the first-year position coach to land at least two of the talented players on the board.

If Mickens can finish anything like he started Notre Dame should be in position for a strong cornerback class.

Below are grades and analysis for the Notre Dame cornerbacks on the board. If new players are added then they will be added to this breakdown.

1) Ryan Barnes, 6-2, 180, Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard

Rivals: 3-star
247Sports: 3-star
ESPN: NR
Composite: 3-star

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 150 caliber player)
Upside: 4.5

Offers: Clemson, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Oregon, USC, Penn State, Michigan, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Louisville, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, NC State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Boston College, Arizona State, Duke, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Maryland, Syracuse

NOTRE DAME COMMIT

Analysis: The first thing you should notice about Barnes is his elite size. He’s not only tall (6-2), but he has exceptional arm length. Even more important, he knows how to use that trait to excel in coverage. Barnes has fast hands and he’s quite good at the line of scrimmage. As he improves his hand play once he’s transitioned and when playing zone it will complete the package for him.

Barnes needs to get physically stronger in coverage and as a tackler, but he is more than willing to come downhill and mix it up in the run game. The effort is there, the desire is there, and once the weight room strength catches up tackling and defending the run will be a strength of his game.

If you’re someone that is obsessed with speed you probably won’t fall in love with Barnes as a prospect, but he is a high-quality all around athlete with good long speed. His length allows him to erase any lack of speed he might have. He’s a smooth athlete with fluid hips and his transitions are easy, another trait that allows him to play fast.

From a technical standpoint he’s solid, but there are some things he needs to clean up with his footwork in off coverage and with his hands once he transitions, but he has a strong foundation. Barnes plays both off and press man, and he thrives at both. In many ways he reminds me of a faster, more fluid version of Robert Blanton. Long, physical, smart and a playmaker.

Junior Highlights

2) Philip Riley, 6-0, 190, Valrico (Fla.) Bloomingdale

Rivals: 4-star
247Sports: 4-star
ESPN: NR
Composite: 4-star - No. 285 overall

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 150 caliber player)
Upside: 4.5

Offers: Notre Dame, Clemson, Penn State, Oregon, USC, Florida State, Washington, Texas, Miami (Fla.), Iowa, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Louisville, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Iowa State, Boston College, Washington State, Colorado, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon State, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, UCF

NOTRE DAME COMMIT

Analysis: Riley is listed at 6-0 and 190 pounds, and he has a strong build with long arms. Riley is the strongest cornerback on this board, and he plays a very physical game. Riley’s block destruction is already top-notch, and it’s only going to get better.

The Bloomingdale standout has fast and physical hands. He packs quite a punch, and his ability in press coverage is outstanding. Riley understands how to properly combine aggressiveness and patience. He rarely gets caught out of position and if a wide receiver wants make moves at the line Riley will tap his feet, keep his hands coiled and then jam when the receiver gets vertical. It’s impressive seeing how often he completely dominates a wide receiver at the line.

His physicality in the pass game makes him a great fit for the boundary position, but his tackling ability and physicality in the run game, combined with his length, makes him well suited for the field cornerback position.

Riley is an impressive athlete, and when his technique is right his transitions are explosive. Far too often as a junior he would lean back and lose his base, which slowed down his turns. When his technique is right you can see how clean he is, and I’ve seen film of him working out this spring that shows me he’s cleaned up his footwork in this regard, and his transitions are top-notch.

Riley shows quality route recognition. He can thrive in press looks and his potential to play off-man is strong, which gives him a great deal of positional flexibility in the base offense. He could also be an excellent fit in the slot in the nickel package due to his physicality and cover ability. The only reason he doesn’t grade out as the top corner is his speed grade is much lower. If he can improve that part of his skillset his game will truly take off at the next level.

Junior Highlights

3) Ceyair Wright, 6-0, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola

Rivals: 4-star - No. 119 overall
247Sports: 4-star - No. 67 overall
ESPN: 4-star - No. 109 overall
Composite: 4-star - No. 82 overall

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 150 caliber player)
Upside: 4.5

Offers: Oklahoma, Florida State, Penn State, Oregon, Michigan, Stanford, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Baylor, Arizona State, Duke, Boston College, Colorado, California, Arizona, Arkansas, Northwestern, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon State

Analysis: Wright is a really smooth and fundamentally sound cornerback. He’ll need to add a lot of strength, but he has the length, athleticism, instincts and technical skill to compete for early playing time wherever he goes to college.

Wright reminds me of former Notre Dame corner Troy Pride Jr. from a size and body type standpoint, although seems to have longer arms, which is important. As he improves his strength that length will serve him even better, but his hand technique is quite good for such a young player. On occasion he’ll get a bit grabby, but overall I really like how he uses his hands both at the line and in coverage.

The Loyola standout has impressive track times, running a personal best 10.84 as a sophomore and 10.92 as a junior, but he doesn’t show that kind of explosiveness on film. What he does show is quick feet, impressive agility and good closing speed. His transitions are a bit tight, but his top-level technique allows him to still quickly get out of his pedal and into a vertical run.

Wright is a smart and heady football player. He shows impressive route recognition, he plays the ball well and he’s a sound tackler. That kind of high football IQ, sound technique, length and athleticism makes him one of the better corners on the board for Notre Dame and one of the top corners on the West Coast.

Junior Highlights

4) Deuce Harmon, 5-10, 185, Denton (Texas) Guyer

Rivals: 4-star
247Sports: 4-star - No. 227 overall
ESPN: 4-star
Composite: 4-star - No. 301 overall

IB Grade: 3.5 (Top 350 caliber player)
Upside: 4.0

Offers: Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC, Texas, TCU, Baylor, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Washington State, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Illinois, Kansas

Analysis: Harmon lacks ideal size for the position, and is likely not as tall as his 5-10 listed height. I don’t see him filling his frame out much either, but one thing I do like about Harmon is that despite his lack of height and size, he does appear to have well above-average length for his size, which will help him overcome his lack of height in most instances.

What I love most about Harmon’s game is that despite a lack of size he is a physical young defender. You won’t often see a cornerback laying the wood like Harmon does on film, and he does it despite usually being the smaller player in the collision. He’s going to get everything out of the tools God gave him, and you can win with players like that even if they don’t fit the “measurables” requirement.

Although he’s not an elite runner, Harmon does have good speed, and he’s an efficient player, which allows him to max out the speed he does have. He can be a bit tight with his transitions, but he has impressive football and he’s highly instinctive. You wouldn’t think a player his size would make as many plays on the ball, and he does that against very good competition. Being so efficient and possessing top-notch agility allows him to be that kind of player.

Harmon’s athletic tools and style of play are extremely similar to that of former All-American Julian Love, who like Harmon lacked ideal size and speed, but he was a tremendous playmaker and a great competitor, and Harmon has a chance to be that kind of player.

Junior Highlights

5) Rod Moore, 5-11, 170, Clayton (Ohio) Northmont

Rivals: 3-star
247Sports: 3-star
ESPN: NR
Composite: 3-star

IB Grade: 3.0
Upside: 3.5

Offers: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa State, Georgia Tech, Duke, Kansas, Maryland

Analysis: Moore is an interesting player in that he plays safety in high school and has the game of a safety, but he’s built more like a cornerback. All that speaks to one thing I like about Moore, and that’s versatility. Notre Dame is currently recruiting him as a cornerback, but if he chose the Irish and couldn’t stick at corner, or if they sign better players he could easily slide back to safety and compete.

The Northmont defender is a sound tackler, and that projects at both safety and cornerback. He’s not a thumper and is more of a wrap up guy, but that’s okay at cornerback. With more weight room work and as he fills out his body he’ll be able to be more physical at the point of attack, but he’s already effective due to good form, the fact he goes low, wraps up well and takes good angles to the football.

Moore isn’t a top-notch athlete. He’s smooth and nimble, but he lacks explosiveness, top-level speed and his transitions aren’t ideal for a corner. When he can keep everything in front of him he’s quite effective, which is why safety or off-ball corner are his ideal spots.

Junior Highlights

GRADE KEY

5.0 - Elite player
4.5 - All-American caliber player
4.0 - Multi-year starter
3.5 - Key role player
3.0 - Backup

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Cornerback is a significant need for the Notre Dame 2021 recruiting class, and success at that position could very well hold the key to the entire defensive class.

After losing former position coach Todd Lyght in January, the Irish went well over a month before Mike Mickens was brought in as the replacement. By that point the board was a mess, but Mickens worked very quickly to rebuild the board. The key now is for the first-year position coach to land at least two of the talented players on the board.

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