Notre Dame landed Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard cornerback Ryan Barnes. The 6-2, 180-pound cover man is the second Irish cornerback to choose Notre Dame, with Barnes joining Florida corner Philip Riley in the class.
Barnes picked Notre Dame over offers from Clemson, LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Penn State, Florida State, Michigan, Louisville, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, West Virginia, Michigan State, Minnesota, NC State, Boston College, Maryland, Syracuse, Arizona State, Texas Tech, Duke, Georgia Tech and Kansas.
Let’s take a look at what the commitment of Barnes means for the Notre Dame class and depth chart.
When I broke down the cornerbacks on the 2021 board for Notre Dame, I graded Barnes out as the top player on the board.
Notre Dame needed to add numbers and top talent to its 2021 cornerback class. The 2019 class (Isaiah Rutherford, Cam Hart, KJ Wallace) and the 2020 group (Clarence Lewis, Ramon Henderson, Caleb Offord) provides some potential, but continuing to improve the depth and overall talent at the position is a must.
With Barnes joining Riley in the class, Notre Dame has already met its numbers need in the class. Even if Offord ends up moving to safety, Notre Dame will now have at least nine scholarship cornerbacks on the 2021 roster, and eight of them will have multiple seasons of eligibility remaining when the current 2021 class arrives on campus.
Barnes, Riley and Walters give Notre Dame three total defensive backs in the class, which means the Irish are a safety away from meeting their numbers needs. From a cornerback perspective, Notre Dame can now decide if it wants to focus on other positions in the 2021 class and turn its cornerback attention to the 2022 class, or focus on landing one more talented player at the position.
While Barnes was the top cornerback on my board, Riley checked in as the second best player on the board for the Irish. When you can land the two best players on the board that’s a position haul that moves the needle.
The talent upgrade that Barnes and Riley bring to the roster means there will be a great deal of competition at the position as well. Notre Dame has put itself in better position to ensure that its future rosters (2021 and beyond) will have the depth and talent to be strong at cornerback.
NOTRE DAME FIT
First-year cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens has had a great deal of success coaching tall and long cornerbacks. In 2014, Mickens pupil Nick Johnson (Bowling Green) earned all-conference honors as a true freshman. In 2019, another Mickens pupil - Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati) - topped that, earning national All-Freshman honors to go with his all-conference accolades.
Both cornerbacks were 6-2, and both possessed similar size and length to Barnes.
Barnes isn’t going to beat other top corners in a foot race, but his all-around game is outstanding. Barnes not only possesses elite length and size, but he knows how to use his length as a weapon in coverage. That allows him to use his size to overcome the lack of top-level speed.
Barnes thrives as a press cornerback due to his length and strong/fast hands, but he also thrives playing off coverage. The Quince Orchard standout has loose hips, quick feet and his transitions are clean, which combines nicely with his length and instincts.
He can play both the field and boundary positions, and he’s a more than willing tackler. Once he gets stronger you’ll see the ability to play the run and perimeter screen game become a key strength of his game.
From a body-type standpoint and overall skillset, Barnes reminds me of a more fluid version of former Irish standout Robert Blanton. How his game translates to the current scheme closely resembles the type of game that former All-American Julian Love brought to the defense.
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