Notre Dame didn't need to worry about landing a 2015 quarterback for a lengthy stretch of this recruiting cycle. Now, nearly four weeks after 4-star recruit Blake Barnett broke his pledge to the Fighting Irish, the search for his replacement continues with more questions than answers.
The team emerged as a finalist for another Southern California quarterback, but Anaheim standout Travis Waller chose Oregon over Notre Dame on Tuesday morning. Ironically, he fills a spot in Eugene that many thought Barnett was going to take when he initially decommitted.
Waller is a Duck, Barnett is headed to Alabama and Brian Kelly must turn elsewhere.
Jarrett Stidham, a Texas Tech pledge who received a Notre Dame offer in June on the same day as Waller, hasn't publicly given any indication he's wavering in his commitment to the Red Raiders.
The 4-star dual-threat passer was no doubt thrilled by the attention, but if he's reciprocating any interest from South Bend, it's been in silent fashion. Stidham, who threw for 2,613 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2013, will remain on the team's radar but other options must be explored at this point.
Skipping a quarterback in this class is included on the list of possibilities, as current Notre Dame passers Everett Golson, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer have 10 total years of eligibility between them.
There isn't an immediate need for someone who can take the first snap of 2015. Still, is Kelly willing to sit on the sidelines while other powerhouse programs capitalize on an above-average crop of quarterbacks?
That scenario seems unlikely, leading to two options.
Notre Dame can extend new offers to uncommitted prospects like it did with Waller. Or the Irish can attempt to poach pledges from other teams, as in the case of Stidham.
Deondre Francois could still be a candidate in the uncommitted column. The 6'1", 195-pound Florida gunslinger features as powerful a throwing arm as you'll find in this class.
He remains more raw than other top-tier contemporaries, including Stidham and Barnett, but you can argue Francois has more potential as a passer than Waller. His skill set also includes mobility, though he won't sprint past secondaries like the new Oregon commit.
Francois, who recently transferred from Olympia High School (Orlando) to IMG Academy (Bradenton), is now under the tutelage of former Florida State star Chris Weinke. The Heisman Trophy winner is head coach at IMG and may be grooming the Seminoles' next quarterback.
Florida State, Auburn and Oregon were identified as the top three in his recruitment last month. The Ducks are now likely out of the picture with Waller on board, leaving two teams in the mix.
Francois has been targeting a late July announcement, but nothing is certain at this stage. It may not be too late for Notre Dame to change the narrative, and he plans to visit each of his finalists before making a decision.
If he is willing to travel to Oregon, wouldn't Indiana be in his range?
There have been mixed reports about whether or not Francois has received a formal offer, but he would require some serious convincing based on recent comments.
“Notre Dame kind of came in the picture last and it’s not happening with Notre Dame,” Francois told Amy Campbell of Scout.com (h/t South Bend Tribune). “I don’t even have a relationship with the coaches.”
Fast-rising sleeper Sam Darnold may also warrant a closer look from Kelly's staff. He missed most of his junior campaign with a broken foot, but he has shown enough skills at camps to warrant nationwide attention and a spot in the Elite 11 finals this month.
Offers from Tennessee, Duke and, most recently, USC arrived in June. The 6'4", 208-pound California product can pick up big chunks of yardage as a runner and will have a chance to prove his stock as a premier college prospect with a full senior season of work.
Notre Dame may not be able to wait and see how he produces this fall. Judging by Darnold's recent avalanche of interest, the Irish would have a lot of ground to make up by then.
If Kelly opts to go the route of flipping a committed recruit, keep an eye on Brandon Wimbush (Penn State), Sheriron Jones (Florida) and Tyler Queen (Auburn). As Notre Dame fans can attest, quarterback decommitments can happen even when they aren't anticipated.
Notre Dame netted Barnett more than seven months ago. Considering how much can change during that span, perhaps it's important to note we're still seven months away from national signing day.
The search continues in South Bend, for now.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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