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Notre Dame Football

Exciting Potential Possibilities with Significant Two-year Haul at LB

July 12, 2021
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In the 2020 recruiting cycle, Notre Dame elected to not take any linebackers in their class. They followed that up by taking only two in the 2021 class. With as many as four linebackers potentially leaving after this upcoming season, it was clear that the position had to be a priority for the coaching staff in the 2022 cycle.

It was and new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman dealt with it appropriately by landing four commitments from blue-chip prospects. The latest is Jaylen Sneed‍ and he joins Niuafe Tuihalamaka‍, Joshua Burnham‍, and Nolan Ziegler‍.

With another blue-chipper in Prince Kollie in the previous class along with underrated Kahanu Kia, this may be the best two year linebacker haul Notre Dame has had in decades. It’s unquestionably the best they’ve done at linebacker in back to back classes in the Brian Kelly era.

The only question now is, where do they all fit?

This is what many would like to call a good problem. Not all of these guys will become starters and/or impact players. But when you land this many quality prospects, it’s going to work itself out in a way that will end up being really good for Notre Dame’s defense.

We can start with Kia who projects to play as an inside linebacker, but as of right now he plans to take a mission as part of his LDS Church at the conclusion of his freshman year. We’ll see if that happens, but whether he decides to go on his mission or not, his long term future is likely at Mike linebacker.

Tuihalamaka is going to be a Mike linebacker. Mark it down in sharpie. That will be his position from the time he arrives at Notre Dame until the time he leaves.

Where it gets interesting is with Burnham. A multi-position star for his high school, he played Mike linebacker as a junior and that could definitely be in the cards for him at Notre Dame. However, his frame and twitch could see him eventually end up as an edge defender rushing the passer. Vyper is not out of the question with him at some point.

The same could be said for Sneed. His best initial fit might be at Will linebacker, but he appears to have the length and awesome first step quickness to make him a possible Vyper if his path is blocked at linebacker.

Kollie is an outstanding pure football player who fits as an hybrid athlete. The early match for him in his career seems obvious. He’s going to be starting out at Rover. We’ll see if that leads to an eventual move to play inside much like a Drue Tranquilll. He needs to develop his skills there before making that move as well as adding weight and strength.

Of course, Ziegler is a prospect who shouldn’t be ignored because he committed earlier. He’s been a tackling machine as a prep player playing safety. How he is utilized as a perimeter defender feels like he’s an athlete that was born to be a hybrid defender in today’s college football. As of today, Rover feels like a certainty for him to begin his career.

Where these players begin when they get to campus and where they finish when they leave could be different for all of them. That’s also what makes them all exciting prospects because their physical and technical development could lead them down different paths as college football players.

The one thing we do know is that stacking this many talented athletes at linebacker is going to equal good things for the future of the Irish defense. We might not be able to predict who among them will emerge above the rest at a specific position at the moment, but we can count on Freeman and the defensive staff eventually putting three very talented players on the field from this group.

 
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