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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame LB Drew White Focused on Winning Final Game

December 30, 2021
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Marcus Freeman is Notre Dame's new head coach and there have been changes over the last three weeks. 

The linebacker room no longer has Freeman and Nick Lezynski has stepped into the role of position coach during Fiesta Bowl preparations.

He's definitely busier," said Notre Dame linebacker Drew White. "He's got a total different operation from that standpoint. Maybe less personal time with the linebackers. So selfishly, we want him and his influence as much as we did before, but we also know the influence that he can bring to the team as a whole. 

"He has just spent more time with offensive players and the rest of the defensive unit as well. As a linebacker standpoint, a little bit less time in the meeting rooms and stuff like that, but he still comes around and makes sure -- he always says he's a linebackers coach. So he makes that known." 

Entering the season, Notre Dame's linebacker corps was one of the deepest in the country. A week into the year, it was devastated by injuries and Freeman had to make adjustments on the fly. 

The Irish had growing pains, but the youth movement shined at the end of the year and White has high expectations for the group on Saturday - and beyond. 

"The linebacker room went through a lot of development," explained White. "It happened early in the season when we had injuries kind of come through with Shayne [Simon] and Marist [Liufau] and Paul Moala, and we had a lot of young guys having to step up. 

"JD Bertrand arose this season, and I think everyone kind of saw what he was displaying on the field and his talents. That just speaks to him as a linebacker and just as a player as well, just developing and trying to get better every week. I think he did that.

"Then you see guys like Prince Kollie, the freshman, getting a lot of practice time. Being a second string, you get asked a lot of questions in the meeting rooms. You got to make sure you are ready. He's just shown through the mental aspect as well that he's ready. He's in the game plan. He knows the defense. So he's gaining confidence as well." 

The transition in December to work with Lezynski has also gone well. Lezynski worked with the linebacker previously and has the full trust of the room. 

"Coach Lezynski has been a shadows guy that we talked about the last couple of years in this program and has had a major influence," White said. "Has spent countless hours, one-on-one meetings, group meetings, hotel meetings, just constantly the hardest worker in the group. 

"He's done it for years, and now he gets kind of an expanded role, especially in this bowl prep to meet with the linebackers and coach us up, really running the meetings. Now, he's doing special teams as well. I'm excited for him. I'm excited for the opportunity, and I can't wait to see what comes." 

That said, Freeman still makes time during practice to coach the linebackers as he simply can't help himself. 

There's a little less influence on the linebackers, but at the same time, if we are going linebacker drills, you look over, and he's watching the drills and he's giving you pointers," stated White. 

"Just the other day, he comes over in my ear, and he's talking about my blitz line and doing that. So his teaching and his techniques are still there and still prevalent and he's teaching them." 

Saturday's Fiesta Bowl will be White's final game in the blue and gold. The Florida native will embrace it and as usual, White will leave everything on the field. 

"As far as this last game goes, it's not about me," said White. "It's about the team, and just trying to -- it's just like another game, but in the back of my mind, for sure, I have the thought that it's the last time putting on the gold helmet. It definitely means a lot to me. I've had so many memories. I'm just happy for the experience in general. It's been amazing." 

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