Monday, February 01, 2010

Runnin' Roback | by Pat

On to the next recruit to publicly commit to ND over the weekend: 6'3" 220 pound Ohio QB/athlete Derek Roback.

Roback is an interesting example of the ups and downs of recruiting coverage. When Roback was in junior high he was a national finalist in the Pepsi Punt, Pass, and Kick competition. He followed that up by being named the Freshman MVP at the National Underclassmen Combine. With these two things to his credit, Rivals then included Roback as one of their Top 10 Sophomores to Watch, along with current 5-star players Seantrel Henderson, Jeff Jeffcoat, and Dillon Baxter (and ND legacy lineman Ian Gray).

Heading into his sophomore season, he moved from quarterback to wide receiver and safety where he had a strong season on the field, being named All-State Honorable Mention. After the season he attended another National Underclassmen Combine, this one in New Jersey, and came away with the overall MVP award. With multiple combine and All-State honors to his name, Roback moved back to quarterback for his junior year with multiple national programs sending him recruiting mail.

Yet, after another strong All-State Honorable Mention season, Roback only had a handful of MAC level offers for college like Ball State, Miami, Toldeo, and Bowling Green, perhaps because he was viewed as more "athlete" than quarterback. In fact, when he attended Wisconsin's summer camp before his senior year he worked out with the tight end and slot receivers. He committed to Toledo as a QB and, with an injury filled senior season, that was that until Kelly offered him a scholarship in November while still at UC. Kelly then called him back up while at ND and Roback jumped at the chance to visit this past weekend. Once on campus he quickly committed as the Chillicothe Gazette pointed out by quoting his Facebook status (insert snarky media critque here).

Roback’s Facebook status was updated Sunday to say, “I am officially committed to the University of Notre Dame. Best day of my life.”
The recruiting sites, despite the early praise from Rivals and strong combine performances, put Roback rather low on the recruiting scale. Rivals put him as a 3-star athlete recruit while both Scout and ESPN consider him a 2-star QB. He's the 103rd overall QB recruit on Scout while ESPN has him as the #98 QB (and a 74 rating for those keeping track).

As Roback has primarily been a high school quarterback, it seems that ND now has four quarterback recruits in this class. However, while Roback may get a few practices to prove his worth at QB, his likely destination is more as either a tight end/H-back type or linebacker. This is were Kelly's power/big skill/skill recruiting archetypes make depth chart engineering a bit more difficult. Kelly clearly wants to bring in additional bodies and not have a small class, so he's taking athletic guys like Roback -- and his 4.0 high school GPA can't hurt -- with a mind to find them a position down the road. It's a somewhat risky strategy, but Kelly has been doing it for a number of years so the odds are he has something of a specific position in mind. At the level of recruiting needed for ND, most players have specialized in high school a bit more at a certain positions, so it will be interesting to see next season if Kelly continues to try and find room for a few smart athletic types who don't have an obvious position and can help fill in depth once they get on campus.

In the meantime, I can't really put Roback into one of the 2010 position depth charts because I don't know where he'll wind up. Will he stick at QB, perhaps as ND's version of Zach Collaros? Or will he wind up at tight end along with Alex Welch or linebacker with Prince Shembo and Kendall Moore? Here are his highlight clips if you want to make up your own mind. It's clear he's a good athlete. The question is just where he'll add the most benefit to the program.