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Notre Dame Football

Post-Spring Position Outlook | Linebacker

June 1, 2021
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Marcus Freeman not only took over for Clark Lea at defensive coordinator, he also is the linebackers coach at Notre Dame. The good news is that Freeman inherited every contributor but one back from 2020. The bad news is that that one contributor was the Butkus Award winner last season.

Even without Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, the linebacker position is stocked with good players with plenty of experience. The position looks like it will remain a strength of the defense with several players showing signs of breaking out this past spring.

Drew White was not one of them as he missed most of spring ball with an ankle sprain. He didn’t have much to prove, though, as he’s been the starter at Mike the last two seasons and should be again in his fifth year.

The question for him is whether or not he will stick to being a two-down player or if he’ll end up playing in sub-packages this season. Whether that happens or not, White will remain a playmaker. He’s had double digit Havoc plays the last two years and it should be an expectation he’ll provide that again this fall.

Bo Bauer may not start at Mike due to White being in front of him, but he proved that he is more than a special teams ace. He did find a role in sub-packages and worked in the base defense as well. He added in 6.5 Havoc plays and the combination of him and White as blitzers should excel in Freeman’s scheme.

It might feel like things are set in stone at the position with those two veterans already established, but JD Bertrand might make it difficult for Freeman not to play him. We heard very good things about his spring ball performance and it sounds like he took full advantage of the extra reps available with White on the sidelines.

We’ll see if he can make a push to be involved this season. At the very least he is setting himself up in a good spot for when White and Bauer are gone after the season.

Marist Liufau kept showing up in highlights making plays and seemed to take the momentum he had at the end of last season into the spring. He’s absolutely a candidate to make the leap this fall and if he can be consistent and continue to flash like he has, he can be a disruptive force.

There are all of those good vibes going around about Liufau’s game and it would have been easy for Shayne Simon to get lost in the noise and fall back into a lesser role. It appears that he accepted the challenge Freeman presented to him and was competing right there with Liufau in practices.

Simon definitely didn’t hurt himself with a nice interception in the Blue-Gold game either. Who knows if we’ll see a split situation or not, but if Simon can be the player many projected to be when he signed with the Irish, then he’s going to find his way onto the field a lot.

Kahanu Kia is arriving this summer and it would be surprising if he didn’t redshirt or simply be a contributor on special teams. It sounds like the Will spot will be where he starts out at. Kia plans on taking a mission and this year should be all about development before he leaves.

Jack Kiser was at Will last season, but was the clear number three in ‘20. It only makes sense that he was moved back to Rover to get a chance to compete to start instead of battling it out with Liufau and Simon.

At the end of the spring Kiser seemed to be the front-runner to start at Rover and it’s going to be exciting to see how his skill set works there. He’s a very good athlete that may end up moving back inside, but if this gets him on the field making plays, that can only be a good thing for Notre Dame.

Isaiah Pryor was stuck behind Owusu-Koramoah at Rover last year so the odds of him seeing a ton of snaps weren’t very good. He did flash in garbage time and showed that he can play as a space backer. At the very least he provides good depth at the position.

Paul Moala missed the chance to compete for the job that was supposed to be his while recovering from the injury that forced him out last fall. Some might have forgotten about him due to his absence, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he was the starting Rover or splitting the position.

His instincts have always shined when he’s been on the field and he’s someone to watch in fall camp.

This isn’t a depth chart that sets up well for Prince Kollie to make an instant impact. Then again, the tight end position didn’t set up well for Michael Mayer to be an immediate factor right away last fall and we know what happened there.

Kollie has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Manti Te’o, Jaylon Smith, and JOK as one of the top linebackers in college football. That’s probably not going to happen with him right away and he’s more likely to wait his turn like JOK did than start in his first year like Te’o and Smith did. We’ll see if he can force his way into the rotation and where things go from there.

It would not be a shock if he beat the odds and found his way into the two-deep at Rover even if it doesn’t appear to be a likely outcome for his first season at Notre Dame.

 
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