Quenton Nelson arrived in South Bend last week with more than two dozen scholarship offers and the 2014 New Jersey offensive lineman ended up leaving with one more from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.
“Coach Kelly extended an offer before he left,” Red Bank Catholic High School head coach Jim Portela said. “He was very excited about it, no doubt.”
The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder used last week’s school vacation to make stops at Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern in addition to Notre Dame. He had a great time in South Bend, according to his coach.
“He really, really enjoyed it,” Portela said. “He had a great trip. He was very impressed. It’s one of the schools he’s going consider very, very seriously.
“The whole atmosphere. He loved the tempo of the practice. He liked his position coach a whole bunch and obviously Coach Kelly was very nice and Coach (Bob) Diaco has been nothing but great and professional through the whole process.”
Portela said Nelson could return to South Bend, but that could depend on when he makes a commitment and what that decision ends up being.
“We don’t know how the whole thing is going to go at this point,” he said. “He may actually make a decision before the fall. That’s the timeline he’s trying to keep, but certainly if he hasn’t made a decision or it’s the one that he chooses, he’ll be out there for an official.”
Nelson’s offer sheet now includes the Irish, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, Tennessee, Penn State, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ole Miss among others.
“His athleticism for a man of his size is very, very impressive,” Portela said. “He runs well for anybody, not just for a big guy. He’s got good footwork and he plays with an edge. A lot of times big guys don’t do that. He plays a little bit nasty. He’s a great kid, but he’s got an edge when he’s on the field. He finishes blocks and I think people see that.”
That attitude has some colleges wondering if he could be a productive defensive lineman, but Portela believes Nelson’s future is on offense.
“I think he’s going to be a real, real good offensive player somewhere on an offensive line,” the coach said. “Whoever gets him, he’s going to make that program proud. He’s a good kid, a good student and he does things the right way.
“When you see a guy with his size and athleticism, I think a lot of people see tackle. That’s a tough position nowadays, especially with the aspect of the spread offense. So many teams are using it and it really extends itself to having big, strong, quick, athletic tackles.”
But for now, Portela is just grateful to be Nelson’s current coach.
“At our place, we don’t get kids like him all of the time, maybe never. I can’t believe we’ve got him back another year.”