- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
As late as this September, ESPN Watch List offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland/St. Ignatius) believed he would commit to Ohio State. He’s an Ohio native, grew up watching the Buckeyes and Ohio State made him a 2014 priority, handing him one of the first offers of the class.
But on Saturday, Byrne committed to Notre Dame.
“I started off as a heavy Ohio State lean. For the longest time I thought I’d go there,” Byrne said. “But as time went on you grow to like other schools and Notre Dame continued to impress me and recruit me the hardest. [They] talked to me about the benefits of Notre Dame, and I grew to love it.”
For Byrne, his recruitment began to swing when Notre Dame defeated rival Michigan in September. It was the best unofficial visit Byrne took and turned the tide in the Irish’s favor.
“I got to see how game day is and how it worked. It was a great win that night and I got to see the coaches in action,” Byrne said. “It was easy to talk to them over the phone but great to see them and how they work and interact with the players. That’s when I really started looking at Notre Dame.”
Byrne actually committed to the Irish on Monday, but the coaches asked him to hold off on making it public until he could speak to coach Brian Kelly. With Kelly on the road recruiting, Byrne could not speak to Kelly until Saturday morning. Even then it was a short conversation as Kelly was heading to practice.
Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was instrumental in Byrne’s recruitment. At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, Byrne will play offensive tackle. He said Hiestand can help him develop his game best as a tackle who doesn’t fit the ideal 6-foot-6 frame.
“The biggest thing was Coach Hiestand on the offensive line. He’s going to be the coach who helps me be a better offensive lineman and help me succeed at the next level,” he said. “I’m not a prototypical tackle so anything I can improve on, like technique, that’s going to be the biggest benefit to me.”
The next visit to South Bend for Byrne will come after Christmas.
Byrne is the fourth commitment in the Irish’s 2014 class.