Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Chicago, IL
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Notre Dame has quality talent at cornerback currently but stocking the shelves in the 2018 and 2019 classes was crucial. K.J. Wallace was a big part of that effort.
Possibly the most well-rounded addition of the 2018 – 2019 cornerback group (assuming he signs this winter), Wallace is said to have taken a big step forward in his development during this off-season.
The four-star Lovett School star visited Notre Dame recently, getting connected with the incoming freshman as they arrived in South Bend, and re-connecting with coach Todd Lyght and Brian Kelly.
To talk off-season training, look back on his recruitment, his commitment, discuss his fellow Irish commitments, and more, Wallace linked-up with Kevin Sinclair for a Q&A.
Sinclair: Early in your recruitment, it was often discussed that you were an old friend and former teammate of Derrik Allen. Can you explain your connection to Derrik?
Wallace: “I met Derrik when I was six. Him and his family. We both played ball at the same organization. He was always a year ahead of me. We’ve known each other from there. We were both really good back then, both running around the edge, scoring touchdowns. We’ve come to know each other from there.
“It’s a really good association. Now that I think about it; me, Derrik Allen, Trevor Lawrence, and a few other kids actually played in that same little league, little team. It’s cool. And Minnesota (freshman running back) Noland Edmonds. We all played on the same little league team. I was a year younger.”
Sinclair: During the time Notre Dame offered you, which wasn’t long before you committed, which programs were recruiting you consistently around that time – December - January?
Wallace: “I’d say Penn State, Stanford, Auburn, Cal for sure, and a little bit of Florida.”
“I’m not really big on social media. That’s probably why (people didn’t realize who was recruiting me).”
Sinclair: Your Junior Day visit in January seemed to seal-the-deal for you. How would you explain the basis of your commitment?
Wallace: “I’ve been to a lot of places. It was just a different feeling. I’ve been to almost every SEC school. I’ve been out West. I’ve been out to Texas, not to the schools but that state and saw everything they’ve got going on. I mean, it was like I didn’t feel like I was going to get a better deal of big-time football and academics and a lot of connections, a lot of people there to help you out. I was just, like, ‘I might as well. This is it right here.’
Sinclair: Todd Lyght is clearly leading your recruitment. What are your thoughts on coach Lyght? Is his background something that stands out to you?
Wallace: “Yeah, actually, because it’s one thing to teach me something, but it’s another thing if you’ve done it. You know what I’m saying? So, you literally know what you’re talking about. There’s a lot of coaches down here that stopped playing football in high school or middle school and it’s like, ‘OK, you may know the scheme, but you don’t know physically what I’m doing with my body.’ If he knows the ins-and-outs of something, I can tell him about it, and he can relate to it.
“On top of that, he’s just a good guy. He and my pops hang out all the time when they get a chance. They have a good relationship. He’s a cool guy. Definitely someone I can relate to and play for, for four years.”
Sinclair: This off-season, there’s been talk of you up-ing your game. What areas would you say you’ve improved?
Wallace: “My footwork and just the ins-and-outs of the position. Every time I go to workout or do a drill, I know what it’s supposed to feel like. I know what it’s supposed to look like. How my body weight is supposed to be shifted, I’m fine-tuning my body. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’s kind of like this thing where I’m trying to be as perfect as possible on every single rep I do. And really, I’m working on my mentality. This year, it’s about dominating. There’s been times, and I think every player goes through it, where you say, ‘I can’t have that.’ I just can’t have that this year.
“I’m just working on my mentality and just fine-tuning my body as a DB. And I’m also just getting faster. You can never be too fast. “
Sinclair: With yourself, Derrik Allen, and Kyle Hamilton; there’s a lot of excitement around a possible Atlanta-area pipeline to Notre Dame. Do you see this being a trend, in that, do you think ND will continue to draw talent from the Atlanta-area, particularly the prep schools?
Wallace: “Yeah, because it’s like a direct transition in that school is hard here and school is going to be hard there. The football is good here. The football is going to be good there. So, I can see how a lot of kids from Atlanta, especially us, going up there because it’s like, ‘oh, I’m used to this.’
“Not even just prep schools, either. I feel like there’s a lot of good schools in Atlanta, public and private, and I just feel like there’s a lot of kids attracted to (Notre Dame).”
Sinclair: You’ve competed against Kyle Hamilton, you two are friends, and you face-off in the season opener. I remember you telling me about him way before he blew up nationally. What are your thoughts on Kyle at the safety position? What stands out about him?
Wallace: “That’s my boy. He is a dog. The best way to describe Kyle is untapped potential – because, I mean, you’re talking about a guy who is just raw. He has never really been to a technique guy, a DB coach, things like that. Yet, he works out himself. When this guy gets some coaching, I feel like he’s League-bound. He’s got the size. He’s got the talent. He can put on weight and play outside linebacker. He can put on 15 pounds and be a killer safety. I really think he’s got a lot of upside. I think he’s got the most upside out of most of the DB’s in our class. It’s a good look for him.”
Sinclair: My last question; what are your thoughts on the Notre Dame 2019 class? What sticks out when you look at the class from top-to-bottom.
Wallace: “I think what I’m most excited about is how similar we are as people. It’s kind of funny. We’re all goofy kids, honestly. We all joke around in our group chat. I know we’ll all be up there for the Michigan game. We’re just a bunch of regular kids who like to play football, really. We all love the game. We all joke about the same things, girls, Fortnite, food, whatever. I think it’s going to be fun. I think over the course of our college careers, we’ll become brothers. I can feel it. We’re pretty close already, and that’s just over a recruit-chat. I think something good is to come.”