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Notre Dame Football

LB Nolan Ziegler Transitioning to Middle of Notre Dame's Defense

April 11, 2023
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Nolan Ziegler has one spring ball under his belt as the sophomore linebacker enrolled early a year ago.

This spring, the Michigan native knows what to expect and is applying the lessons he learned about the last year into his daily approach. 

“It was a grind,” Ziegler said of his first year on campus. “I grinded through the playbook, scout team, school and you push through it. You enjoy every day of it and I’m making progress to be great.” 

Perhaps the biggest change for Ziegler this spring is his position. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder is now inside working mostly at Mike linebacker with a little bit of Will sprinkled in.

It’s not necessarily a position Ziegler is unfamiliar with as he played about 20 different roles in high school, but adapting to life inside the box at the college level comes with an adjustment period. 

“It’s definitely different,” explained Ziegler. “You don’t have all the free space, so your feet have to be quicker in the box. I think I’ve adjusted great. Coach (Al) Golden and Coach Max (Bullough) and all the older guys have helped me a lot. It’s been pretty smooth.” 

Bullough, a fellow Michigan native, has adapted to Notre Dame well and Ziegler has been impressed with what he’s brought to the linebacker room in a short time. 

“He brings the juice every day,” stated Ziegler. “He’s out there and you can hear him coaching it up. He takes his job very seriously. I love Max.” 

Defensive coordinator Al Golden is also in year two with the Irish and while his defense is all Ziegler knows, it’s clear this spring has been smooth for both sides.

“It’s definitely grown,” Ziegler said of Golden’s relationship with the linebackers. “He knows all about the game and I’m learning things from him every day. He’s a pro-level coach. I just try to take everything day-by-day that he’s coaching me about and just implement it on the field.” 

As a freshman, Ziegler saw action in one game as he recorded a tackle against Boston College, but he hopes to earn more playing time in 2023. That starts in the film room as Ziegler looks to master the defense with the help of the veterans in the linebacker room. 

“When the older linebackers are having that talk in the film room, you start to learn the why behind the defense, which helps you understand it and it helps you play more free,” Ziegler said. “I really enjoy having Jack (Kiser), JD (Bertrand), Marist (Liufau) and Prince (Kollie) all in the film room.” 

Ziegler has also fully embraced Marcus Freeman’s intense practice style over the last year. It’s competition driven and that’s exactly how Ziegler wants it. 

“I’d say just competing every day against your guys and being able to go live - the ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos,” said Ziegler when asked what he likes about spring ball. “I love it. I love the competition.” 

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