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2015 Football Recruiting: LB Review

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The Irish staff locked down one of the best linebacking groups in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Maybe the best outside of Southern Cal. Yes, they're really that good.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Previously, we gave a review of the 2015 class and our scores for each player, we dove into a little more detail about the offensive backfield, we expounded on the virtues of the big boys on offense, we reviewed the newest members of the AFROS fraternity, and we jumped over to the other side of the ball with a look at the defensive guys in the trenches. Today, we'll run with the baby bulls in the linebacking corps. Enjoy!

The transcript of Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.

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Irish Linebacker Signees
247C Score Player City/State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.938 Josh Barajas Valparaiso, IN 6-3/212 LB
.920 Asmar Bilal Indianapolis, IN 6-3/210 LB
.896 Te'von Coney Palm Beach Gardens, FL 6-1/222 LB

Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight times as listed on UND.com except for Tillery, whose current weight was mentioned by Brian Kelly in his signing day press conference

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LB Josh Barajas

Valparaiso, IN - Andrean; 6'3"/212

OFD Average: 90.8

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Josh Barajas out of Andrean High School here in Merrillville, Indiana, we are really proud that we are able to find three players in the State of Indiana that fit the profile for Notre Dame; and we believe that Indiana is playing great high school football and if they are here in Indiana, we are going to recruit them.

Josh is certainly that. Very active athletic linebacker, a winner. He's been part of I think four teams that have played in the state championship. I think he's won three out of four of them. Came up a little short this season but again, an extremely athletic player at his position.

So we were looking for a guy that could potentially play on the outside and run and give us length and size, and Josh certainly can do that for us.

Brendan: 92

Nationally, Indiana football is viewed with some skepticism, but the state has been excellent to the Irish in recent years in providing such elite talents as Jeff Samardzjia, Tyler Eifert, Zack and Nick Martin, Sheldon Day, and Jaylon Smith, as well as many good players a notch below their level. Barajas could well take his place in the elite group - some analysts believe he may actually end up the best performer in this class. As is always the case for a linebacker, much will hinge on how quickly he's able to pick up his responsibilities in Van Gorder's system, but from what we've seen of him so far he should be able to earn playing time next year and be a regular from 2016 forward.

Eric: 88

I probably rate Barajas a little lower than everyone else. In this class there’s been a lot of talk focusing on Bilal’s size but I have more concerns with Barajas who has narrow shoulders. I do think he’s a good prospect that looks to be a jack-of-all-trades type of linebacker. He has good speed and wraps up well. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up seeing time in his college career. In my view, that could impact his potential and ceiling a little bit. I don’t know if he’s a thumper for the Mike or if he’ll survive athletically at the Sam position.

Jamie U: 92

The more I watch of Barajas, the more I think he has the chance to be a great linebacker at Notre Dame. He's another athletic player that could fit at just about any of the three linebacker positions. His read and react skills are some of the best at the position in this recruiting class and he knows how to fight through blocks. I understand the concerns about his frame, as Eric mentioned, but I don't see it being an issue because he's not going to be asked to be a 3-4 inside backer that weighs 240 and above like he would have in Diaco's defense. He can be 225 or so as a Will or Sam and that's fine in this defense. I think he has a good shot at cracking the two-deep as a freshman.

Jim Miesle: 92

Barajas is probably the most game ready of the three LBs in this class and should probably play some special teams right away. I see him at the Mike spot in the future racking up lots of tackles and destroying blockers.

ManorMan10: 90

Barajas flipping back to Notre Dame was huge for this class, coming at a time when recruiting momentum had slowed and it a couple of big targets, Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell, started leaning towards Ohio State. Barajas has great range that will hopefully translate into above average ability in coverage, and I think will ultimately end up at the Sam- and with a good chance to see the field in 2015.

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LB Asmar Bilal

Indianapolis, IN - Ben Davis, 6'3"/210

OFD Average: 88.6

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Add that to another player from in state out of Ben Davis, state champion out of Indianapolis, Asmar Bilal. Another long player at 6 3, 210 pounds. Actually in the State Championship Game he played free safety. Just, again, another guy that we are excited about developing physically and watching him grow. Range; and just a super young man, comes from a great family.

Brendan: 88

Bilal is a high-upside kid, which means he has interesting ability and a lot of uncertainty. The physical tools are there, but he'll need to add weight and increase his mental grasp of run/pass responsibilities before he'll be able to contribute. While he has more development to do than his two position group mates in this class, I could definitely see him earning a starting role in a couple of years, perhaps replacing James Onwualu or Drue Tranquill. It says something about the 2015 linebacker group that Bilal is the clear third guy, because he's still pretty good.

Eric: 90

Tremendous athlete with really good speed. Bilal reminds me of the type of athlete a program like LSU stockpiles at linebacker: lean, fast, and relishes contact. If he was a touch bigger and with better linebacker instincts there’s no doubt in my mind Bilal would be a 5-star prospect. As it is, I’m not worried about his size right now because I covet his speed and penetrating ability. It’s up to the Notre Dame coaching staff to refine his skills and I hope they can do it because Bilal is among the most promising linebackers in terms of ceiling that the Irish have signed over the past decade.

Jamie U: 88

Bilal is a rare athlete at linebacker in the midwest and that's make him a huge get for Notre Dame. He has sideline to sideline speed and there just haven't been too many Irish linebackers that you could say that in recent years other Jaylon Smith. The big question mark is size and that's a huge reason why I'm a bit unsure about Bilal. He just doesn't look like he has the frame to carry a lot more than he already does. He is also a much better athlete than a linebacker right now, in my opinion. He has the physical tools to be outstanding in coverage, but he looks lost a times if he has to drop back into a zone and doesn't show great awareness. That can come with more experience though and hopefully it does because he is the kind of talent that could make a serious impact after a year or two in the program.

Jim Miesle: 90

Bilal is has a lot of talent and some good instincts. I am not sure if the staff wants to give him a look at safety first (where he played in the state championship game) or give him a year to put on weight once he arrives on campus. He is too talented to not find a role somewhere and could conceivably play a few different spots during his time in South Bend.

ManorMan10: 87

I love seeing a linebacker with Bilal's speed in this class - there's been a definite shift away from the ideal size Bob Diaco wanted for his defense that rarely had above average speed. Some analysts have knocked Bilal's size, but I think he has the tools and body type to be successful without adding a ton of weight. His success will come down to the space between his ears and continuing to hone his instincts, quickly identifying plays and putting himself in the right place.

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LB Te'von Coney

Palm Beach Gardens, FL - Palm Beach Gardens, 6'0"/221

OFD Average: 90.0

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Tevon Coney from Palm Beach Gardens, physically looks like a guy that has been in our program for a couple years. Very much has the physical traits necessary to compete early on. He's dealing with the transition from being away from home for the first time very well, and matter of fact was very helpful in the process of recruiting Dexter Williams, another young man from Florida and kind of sharing his experience of making that transition and that move from Florida. So Tevon is doing extremely well. Athletic and somebody is that we think has a chance to compete right away.

Brendan: 92

Coney is one of those head-scratchers in recruiting rankings. He comes from a fertile talent state, Florida, and held offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan State, Mississippi State, and Ohio State, among many others. Yet he was a mid-level three-star for most of his recruitment until a solid performance at the Under Armour game just barely earned him a fourth star. Count me among the many folks who think the services got this one wrong - Coney looks very athletic, tough, smart in coverage, adept at timing the snap, and shows the versatility you like to see in a middle linebacker. He could probably play any of the three spots in VanGorder's scheme, but with Barajas and Bilal in this class he seems like a natural fit at Mike and shouldn't have to wait too long to play.

Eric: 89

I see a lot of similarities betwen Coney and Barajas with the exception that Coney is a little more physical. I also think Coney is already a grown-ass man which should help immediately in the short-term but you could also make the case that he might not physically grow all that much during his college career. I’m curious to see his growth in college but there’s no doubt that Coney really impressed during his senior season and during all-star weekend. He’s an out-of-the-box ready to play true freshman.

Jamie U: 90

Coney showed he was an underrated player at the Under Armour All-American game, but I wasn't surpised to see that at all. Others may look better in 7 on 7 settings, but he shines when the pads are on. He does an oustanding job of working through the trash and finding the football as an inside linebacker. Someone like Nyles Morgan may have an advantage over him in overall athleticism, but his read and reaction skills as well as the way he fights through blocks make him the kind of player who is ahread of the curve compared to many of his peers. He's also a very good blitzer, something BVG will surely love. He'll compete for playing time early in his career.

Jim Miesle: 91

Coney is another who gets the benefit of being an early enrollee. Spring practice will help him find his place on the defense and get acclimated to the complicated scheme that BVG prefers. He could probably play any of the LB spots and will probably end up seeing time at more than one during his career.

ManorMan10: 88

I would love to combiine the athleticism of Bilal with the instincts and aggressiveness of Coney. Coney already looks to be a better blitzer than most linebackers on the current roster and should be a run stopper right away. If he proves in the spring (hooray early enrollment!) that his coverage ability is up to par he might push for time in a linebacking rotation that could be in flux with inexperience and players recovering from injuries.

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