Hours after three-star wide receiver Cam Hart announced his commitment to the Irish, three-star quarterback Brendon Clark did the same.
Notre Dame tripled the number of offensive skill players in its 2019 class with the additions of Clark and Hart. The Irish class, which now includes 17 pledges, previously only had three-star running back Kyren Williams and a quartet of lineman committed on offense.
A long search for a quarterback in the 2019 class eventually worked out in a straightforward fashion for Notre Dame. The Irish offered the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Clark in May while he was still verbally committed to Wake Forest. He ditched his pledge by June 10, made an official visit to Notre Dame five days later and picked the Irish as his new destination.
But Clark was far from Notre Dame’s first choice at quarterback. The Irish had to regroup when four-star quarterback Cade McNamara broke his nearly eight-month commitment to Notre Dame in March. With McNamara later committing to Michigan, new offers to Max Duggan and Graham Mertz were made by the Irish. Duggan committed to TCU after visiting Notre Dame later in March, and Mertz chose to stick with his Wisconsin commitment rather than making a trip to South Bend.
That’s when Clark became a priority. After committing to Wake Forest last July, Clark went on to have a productive junior season at Midlothian (Va.) Manchester. He completed 165 of his 272 passes (61 percent) for 2,106 yards and 28 touchdowns with four interceptions. Clark also rushed 130 times for 728 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Earlier this year, Clark competed in the Elite 11 Finals, a national quarterback camp that a number of former Irish quarterback recruits have qualified for including Brandon Wimbush, DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire and Everett Golson.
In what has been deemed by many as a down year for quarterback prospects nationally, Clark remained relatively under the radar until recently. That changed when he visited Clemson, Notre Dame and North Carolina in June.
“There’s really no no-brainers at quarterback in this class,” said 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong. “(Oklahoma commit) Spencer Rattler. There’s only a couple where you think, ‘All right, that guy has a shot.’ Who are the best guys in this class? Could Brendon Clark ultimately be one of the best quarterbacks in this class? Sure. He just didn’t have as much exposure as some of his peers.
“He’s a kid that has shown he can make the throws and be smart and take care of the football. He has a chance. Is he a future pro? I don’t know. But he’s a guy that Notre Dame can win games with.”
247Sports slates Clark as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class. Rivals ranks him No. 23 at the position. According to the 247Sports Composite, which combines the rankings of 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN, Clark ranks lower than the other eight quarterbacks to receive Notre Dame offers in the 2019 class.
Head coach Brian Kelly has signed at least one quarterback in every recruiting class at Notre Dame, so a scenario in which the Irish chose to pass on the position for 2019 seemed unlikely. Time will tell if Kelly, offensive coordinator Chip Long and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees identified the right one.
“Notre Dame needed to take a quarterback in this class,” Wiltfong said. “They took Phil last year, who had as good of a senior year as anyone in the country, but he still has some polishing to do before he’s that kind of difference maker at Notre Dame. Wimbush has two more years and (Ian) Book has three more years. You never know how things are going to shake out with those guys. So you need to take a quarterback every year.”