Notre Dame gains one recruit, loses another

Just days after getting a commitment from four-star defensive end Clay Burton, Notre Dame lost four-star quarterback Bubba Starling to Big Ten-bound Nebraska.

The signal-caller from Kansas, who was thought to be strongly leaning toward the Fighting Irish, committed to the Cornhuskers on Saturday.

Did the fact that ND fired baseball coach Dave Schrage on Monday cost the football program the prolific signal-caller? Starling happens to be a top baseball prospect who plans to play both sports in college and was reportedly very impressed with the Irish’s baseball program. He had visited South Bend three times and the consensus was that he would commit during his last trip.

However, he told the Lincoln Journal Star that he fell in love with Nebraska during a visit to Lincoln for a baseball tournament this weekend.

With Starling out of the equation, where do the Irish turn in their quest for future stability under center?
Two quarterbacks on the radar for the program — who have Notre Dame offers — are three-star prospects Justin Worley of South Carolina and Jacoby Brissett of Florida.

Brissett’s high school coach, however, believes that North Carolina may be the favorite for his services, while Worley may become LSU’s object of affection after losing out on Brett Hundley and Marquise Williams.

Williams, meanwhile, currently has Notre Dame in his final three, along with home-state North Carolina and Michigan. The four-star prospect is rated higher than both Worley and Brissett, and he likely remains head coach Brian Kelly’s best option for a top-level quarterback in the 2011 class. If Brissett commits first to North Carolina, Williams could end up in South Bend.

The Irish’s 2010 signing class included quarterbacks Andrew Hendrix, Luke Massa and Tommy Rees. Derek Roback and Danny Spond, who played under center in high school, will audition as outside linebackers in the fall.

Meanwhile, the Irish currently have no quarterback commitments for 2011.

While the program may have lost out on Starling, the commitment from Burton — the brother of current Florida Gator Trey — gives the Irish a solid prospect who will likely play outside linebacker in coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 scheme. While he isn’t as high-profile of a prep star as his brother, he should be able to see the field early in South Bend as he plans to graduate early and enroll in school in January.

Burton currently is the highest-rated defender among the 10 commitments the Irish have compiled. Junior Darius Fleming currently occupies the linebacker spot Burton will likely receive reps at when he steps onto campus.

With all the talk centering on the new spread offense under Kelly, Irish fans know improvement in the win-loss column can only occur if the defense improves dramatically this season and into the future.

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