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Notre Dame Football

Max Bullough's Approach Won't Change Despite New Role with Notre Dame LBs

February 27, 2024

Max Bullough may have been promoted to linebackers coach, but don’t expect any major changes in his room.

In fact, the only significant change will come with Notre Dame’s personnel as the Irish will go from an older group to an inexperienced one, but that has Bullough excited. 

“I feel like I was the linebackers coach (in 2023) and I took that as personal as I will this year,” stated Bullough. “JD (Bertrand) and Marist (Liufau), I could have not said anything and they were going to go out there and play football in this system.

“Now it’s a little bit like, ‘Alright, we’re from scratch now.’ Whatever is out there, you’re either coaching or letting it happen.” 

The spring will be vital for the linebacker corps to find simply who can play ball at a high level. Chemistry and communication are also important, which means throwing younger guys into uncomfortable roles to allow them to figure it out. 

Jack Kiser has played in 53 games for the blue and gold, but after that, Notre Dame doesn’t have a ton of experience. Mike backer appears to be Drayk Bowen’s to lose, while the Will and Rover positions seem somewhat open given Kiser can play all three spots. 

“Then there are guys like Jack Kiser, even Drayk Bowen, that have to know we have to be able to put you in there with different people and you have to be able to play the complementary position to them,” explained Bullough. 

“There’s two different groups. One group, hey, you’ve got to know it all because I’ve got to be able to grab you by the helmet and throw you out there, whoever’s out there, and you’ve got to go to the other spot. Then there’s the young guys that are specialized in certain areas, that have a certain skill set that we’ll try to lock in on one spot.” 

Kiser’s ability to play anywhere at the second level goes back to his growth over the last year. Bullough believes Kiser is a better athlete than he’s given credit for, but also the experience has allowed him to play faster and get the defense aligned, which is invaluable. 

“I think he’s one of the most improved from the beginning of last year to the end of last year,” Bullough said. “I really do. He’s always been a guy that can run, even though people say that he couldn’t. He’s a guy that can run, he’s a little bit smaller so we had a hard time keeping his feet at times. I think he’s gotten a lot better at that.

“Kise is a guy that you could put at any position on the field and he’s going to help you get lined up. But I think he’s becoming more than that. I think he’s becoming sturdier, I think he’s becoming someone that can actually hold up and doesn’t look small out there. He’s 230 now, he’s a different person than when he came in here. But I’m really excited about his physicality, his taking control and just taking the next step.”

The x-factor in the room will be junior Jaylen Sneed. It’s year three for him and he’s flashed at times off the edge, but hasn’t quite found his groove at linebacker. Sneed has the ability to be give Notre Dame a dynamic player at Rover, but also inside at weakside linebacker. 

”He’s someone that’s really gotten a lot better since I’ve been here, and for him, and he knows this, it’s how can I maintain a high level of focus,” stated Bullough. “When he’s locked in and he’s focused and he’s in the meetings paying attention and in practice and not worried about school or anything, he’s great. He’s got a great stance, great eye-control, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s a really smart kid.

“To him, it’s 100% can I maintain that level of focus throughout the duration of whatever it is, whether it’s school or whatever. It doesn’t matter. When you come out here, it is what it is. For him, that’s his biggest thing. Day after day, day after day; consistency.” 

For Bowen, the two-sport star isn’t missing football despite traveling for baseball, which has drawn respect from the coaching staff. 

Bullough likes the fact the Indiana native plays two sports as he believes it’s allowed Bowen to develop as an athlete. 

“I think the baseball helps him, I really do,” Bullough explained. “I don’t think kids play enough sports these days, I think he’s because of that. Doing all the different sports, I think helps a lot more than people think. Spatial awareness, just understanding things, and ball awareness. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do right now.

“He will be here, he’s not missing anything. He will be here. He does have to travel a few weekends for baseball, but he’s not missing anything football-related.”

Spring ball is coming quickly with a March 7th start and Bullough is itching to put his stamp on the defense and developing Notre Dame young linebacker room. 

“We have some moving pieces in terms of who’s going to play where,” said Bullough. “We’ve got some different packages in terms of base, nickel, third down, but that’s what this spring is for. We’re going to move some guys around, get them in there and see what they’re good at.” 

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