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Notre Dame Football

Linebacker Prince Kollie Ready to Earn the Trust of Notre Dame Coaching Staff

March 30, 2023
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Fans rejoiced once linebacker Prince Kollie still signed with Notre Dame in the class of 2021 after his position coach and Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea departed for Vanderbilt. 

Notre Dame neglected to add a linebacker in the previous class, so Kollie, a top-100 prospect, fell into the must-have category. Some thought the High School Butkus Award winner could be a day-one starter in South Bend. 

Two and a half years later, Kollie still feels he has much to prove this spring practice.

Prince Kollie Notre Dame Production by Season

Year Snaps Tackles TFLs Sacks
2021 58 13 0 0
2022 136 19 2.5 1.5

“I've got to earn their trust. I've got to be perfect — almost — with the checks, knowing what we're in, and being able to adjust the linemen up front,” Kollie said. “I’ve just got to be perfect and earn their trust so my playing time can increase.”

Kollie received limited playing time in each of his first two seasons. 

He mostly saw action in blowout victories as a freshman. He played meaningful minutes in a handful of games in  2022, most notably his 38 snap performance in a 35-32 win over Navy with Mike linebacker JD Bertrand sidelined due to an injury. Against the Midshipmen, Kollie recorded a career-high seven tackles and 0.5 sacks while splitting reps with freshman Junior Tuihalamaka, who started the contest.

“Going into that week, I wasn't the starter. I feel like I should've been,” Kollie said. “That's another story, but you've just got to keep your confidence up. I'm like, 'okay, that's all right.' 

“Then I got my chance in the Navy game to play a little bit, and I just ran with it. I never lose confidence and that was a reassuring moment for me.”

Of course, part of the reason Kollie played so little is due to the uptick in nickel usage. Notre Dame started three cornerbacks in 9 of 13 contests last fall. Five different cornerbacks played at least 240 snaps, with three different linebackers hitting that mark.

Notre Dame 2022 Cornerback and Linebackers By Snap (Minimum 40 Snaps)

Defensive Back Snaps Linebacker Snaps
Benjamin Morrison 646 Marist Liufau 611
Cam Hart 568 JD Bertrand 580
TaRiq Bracy 527 Jack Kiser 338
Clarence Lewis 384 Prince Kollie 136
Jaden Mickey 248 Junior Tuihalamaka 87
    Bo Bauer     71

Additionally, first-team Rover Jack Kiser played 338 snaps and only started five games even after Bauer suffered a season-ending injury in mid-October. 

As a result, Kollie must supplant a veteran Fighting Irish linebacker or justify taking minutes away from a defensive back against pass-happy modern college football offenses.

He’s a high-end athlete at 6-0 and 228 pounds that’s capable of dropping into coverage, but it’s difficult to see the field at linebacker without mastery of the defensive system. 

“I don't think I have any problems physically, but mentally, you have to be on top of everything,” Kollie said. “You've got to know the defense like the back of your hand. You've got to know all the checks because we're like the quarterback of the defense. So it's a lot of it's on us. You’ve just got to know everything, what they're doing. You've got to know the whole nine.”

Still, Kollie believes he’s progressed this spring and finally feels comfortable now that he’s playing in Al Golden’s defensive system for the second year. He felt lost last spring, unsure of which check to make when the offense set a man in motion. 

“Now, it's like, 'okay, I know why you did this and why I'm doing this and why we got to move here,’” Kollie said. “So it's all starting to click.”

He’s also working hard to correct his mistakes, watching film after practice and picking Coach Golden’s brain. 

Last fall, he also benefited from an increased role on special teams, blocking a punt and getting on the field in high-pressure situations. 

“I got to show that I'm disciplined,” Kollie said. “It's a really, really pivotal point in the game not to jump offside. You're amped up to block a punt and you've got to hold your water. Special teams have helped me slow everything down and focus on my job and execute it.”

This spring he feels ready to compete for significant playing time, even if it's against the players he looks up to and learns from like Liafau and Bertrand.

Notre Dame signed five blue-chip linebackers in the 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes, all of which are already on campus.

Notre Dame Blue Chip Linebacker Signees in 2022 and 2023

No. 34 Jaylen Sneed, 2022

No. 105 Drayk Bowen, 2023

No. 159 Junior Tuihalamaka, 2022

No. 163 Jaiden Ausberry, 2023

No. 293 Nolan Ziegler, 2022

So Kollie is also competing with other young, talented players who are nipping at his heels for playing time.

“I’m excited about PK. We have to get him healthy — get him healthy and have a consistent run at things,” Golden said. “He’s going to be really good. I love the kid, love the player. He works hard. He’s low maintenance. He’s in the mix. He was in the mix last year, and he’s right there. 

“I expect a great challenge by the PK, the [Zieglers], all those guys challenging those older three guys for reps. Hopefully, over time, it makes us stronger.”

 
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