Penn State built plenty of recruiting momentum throughout the spring, but one of its key early commits has changed his plans. The Nittany Lions lost a pledge from 4-star linebacker Josh Barajas on Friday morning when he flipped to Notre Dame, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.
The 6'3", 210-pound prospect initially pledged to Penn State on March 30, capping off a two-week stretch that featured four 4-star commitments for James Franklin. His decision to back out of that verbal pact is a rare negative recruiting blow for the first-year head coach.
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly provided a social media jab in the aftermath:
ND's Brian Kelly with a subtle shot at James Franklin tweeting #WeAreND to break the news of Josh Barajas flip from PSU to ND— Mike Zappone (@mzapkd) May 30, 2014
Kelly and the Fighting Irish land a versatile defender who holds an expansive list of scholarship offers. Tennessee, Michigan, Oregon and Missouri are among teams who also pursued the Merrillville, Indiana prospect.
Barajas is rated No. 4 nationally among inside linebacker prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is the top-ranked 2015 prospect in Indiana.
His junior season at Andrean High School included 92 tackles and five sacks. Barajas also intercepted a pair of passes.
He is an explosive run-stuffer who possesses the necessary frame to thrive as a pass-rusher in Notre Dame's defensive scheme. The Irish add an in-state talent capable of contributing immediately when he arrives on campus.
The university's proximity and past success played a key role in his choice to flip from Penn State, per Andrean head coach Phil Mason.
"When talking about tradition in college football, Notre Dame is the first thing that pops in your mind," Mason told Wiltfong. "Being close to home and playing on the national stage, and I can't say enough about the coaching staff."
New Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder arrived in South Bend after serving as linebackers coach with the New York Jets. He added a promising young pupil Friday morning.
According to a tweet from IrishIllustrated.com, Mason compared Barajas' impact abilities to another former Indiana high school standout:
“I see Josh being another Jaylon Smith.” - Andrean head coach Phil Mason on new #NotreDame commitment Josh Barajas.— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) May 30, 2014
Jaylon Smith, a 5-star 2013 Notre Dame signing, became the first Irish linebacker to start his career-opening game since 1995. He finished his freshman season as an unquestionable rising national star.
Those are lofty expectations to live up to for Barajas, who until today appeared headed to the place they call "Linebacker U." Barajas is Kelly's first pledge at the position during this cycle.
The Irish also remain in the mix for 5-star Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard. Notre Dame holds nine commitments in the 2015 class, which rates 14th nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings.
Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.