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Reviewing the Redshirts: LB Josh Barajas

Analyzing the Irish freshmen who retained a year of eligibility in 2015 and what role they may play in 2016.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2015.

There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we look at a linebacker who committed to Notre Dame then Penn State and then back to the Irish.

LB, Josh Barajas


Hometown: Valparaiso, Indiana

Height: 6-1 1/2

Weight: 235


4-star, No. 9 OLB, No. 1 IN, No. 137 USA, 0.938 Score

Need at Position: High

Expected Spot on 2016 Depth Chart: Backup/Possible Starter

You may remember Notre Dame brought in a trio of great linebackers in last year's class. We graded them all out very close to each other but I was just a touch down on Barajas compared to his classmate linebackers. I loved Bilal's speed and Coney's strength while Barajas seemed somewhere in between coming out of high school.

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.

Over the last 2 recruiting classes to sign with Notre Dame only Shaun Crawford ranked higher in the 247 Composite than Josh Barajas among all Irish defenders. Most of 2015 was spent wondering about Nyles Morgan in his second year at Notre Dame and now it's Barajas' turn to try and live up to the hype.

Last year didn't start out too well for Barajas who came into camp overweight and then suffered a hamstring injury in mid-August that effectively sealed his fate for a redshirt. I was worried about his narrow upper body adding weight and it looks like he was able to add pounds, just not the right kind during the summer.

A couple months into the season we finally got an update from Kelly on Barajas' progress and it was positive, as they usually are for the young players. They had to re-shape his body a little bit but they had him down to a good playing weight and he was starting to catch the coaching staff's eye.

Like most of the linebackers recruited under VanGorder there's a question of where Barajas will play. As things stand it could be at any of the three spots. During camp before his injury he was running with the third team at the weak-side spot. That seemed like the least likely position of the three possibilities, especially being a little heavy and working at a spot where speed is important.

If Barajas stays at the weak-side there may be no one standing in his way for spring unless other players shuffle around. Jaylon Smith is gone and Te'von Coney is out for several months with a shoulder injury, so that clears the deck for an immediate audition when practice opens.

The strong-side seemed to fit Barajas the best in my opinion but there doesn't appear to be a shortage of bodies there and of course it's the only spot with a returning starter. He was listed as tall as 6-3 as a recruit and is now down an inch and a half yet if he can gain the requisite weight he might be someone who could battle for playing time at middle linebacker.

Wherever he plays Barajas could be an important piece to rebuilding the linebacker corps in 2016. He's a top 150 recruit who will be given every opportunity to impress the world in the spring and into the fall. He's the type of talent that Notre Dame desperately needs to step up and make an impact as an underclassman.