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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Linebackers & WR Jaden Greathouse Ascending

April 13, 2024

Notre Dame Stadium hosted the jersey scrimmage between the offense and defense on Saturday morning. 

Marcus Freeman’s team got around 80 plays in and there didn’t seem to be any casualties from the scrimmages, which is always a win. 

The Fighting Irish receiver room was without two key players as graduate transfer Jayden Harrison and senior Jayden Thomas didn’t take reps.

Harrison had walked into practice in a boot on Tuesday, but the good news is it’s not an overly serious injury at this time. 

“He had a plantar fasciitis strain and so he’ll probably be out for the end of spring,” stated Freeman. “We just need to rest it and let it recover. Similar to the JD Bertrand injury he had in the Senior Bowl. He’ll be back. We just want to keep it protected and let it heal right now.” 

Thomas, who has been dressed in pads, was limited for the scrimmage, and it seems to be the same issue that plagued him last fall.

“Hamstring,” said Freeman. 

Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Tyson Ford wasn’t at practice on Tuesday and was missing from Saturday’s session. Ford is still part of the program, but it also sounds like his future is a bit up in the air. 

“He’s taking some personal time,” Freeman stated. “Just to figure out what he wants to do moving forward.” 

On the flip side, linebacker Jaylen Sneed is a player who has started to ascend this spring. The Hilton Head (S.C.) native is now in his third spring in Al Golden’s defense, but he’s also taken on a more mature approach to practice and how he’s handling his daily schedule. 

“Commitment,” Freeman stated. “He’s always been a talented football player. That’s a word that can mean unfulfilled potential at times. He is committed to it. He’s showing up every day really being obsessed with how to get better. Meeting with Coach (Max) Bullough.” 

Sneed’s commitment to focus has also made him more than just a kid who flashes his athletic gifts. The junior is now playing consistent football with limited mistakes. 

“I’ve been really pleased with how he’s performed consistently through 10 practices,” explained Freeman. “As you look at the last two years, Sneed’s a guy who would show up and flash like, ‘Man, he’s a freak.’ Now he’s consistently doing his job, which is more important than anything.” 

During the scrimmage, Drayk Bowen, Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa and Jaylen Sneed flashed at the linebacker position. All three recorded sacks from various alignments and were in the backfield consistently. 

Sixth-year linebacker Jack Kiser looked comfortable inside while Jaiden Ausberry looked aggressive at this rover/nickel position. 

It’s a group with a ton of athleticism, physicality and speed, which was on full display on Saturday and it will also allow Al Golden to do even more within the front seven. 

Sub-packages are Golden’s specialty and he has several linebackers who can drop down to edge when needed. 

“I think it’s similar to how we utilized Marist (Liufau) last year being a backer on first and second down and on third down if it’s a passing situation, you want to get your best four pass rushers on the field no matter what position they are on first and second down,” Freeman stated. “Kyngstonn and Sneed have both shown the ability to rush the passer from the line of scrimmage.” 

Viliamu-Asa could carve out an early role in those sub-packages if he can consistently show the ability to get the quarterback. Sneed proved he could do it a year ago at times, so there won’t be a lack of options to rush the passer or jobs available for the linebacker room. 

“Is he one of the top four,” Freeman said of Viliamu-Asa. “That’s to be determined, but he’s had a heck of a spring. he’s done a really good job just from the moment he’s got here to where he’s at now. He’s going to help us this year.” 

Jaden Greathouse had a solid freshman campaign by tallying 18 catches for 265 yards and five touchdowns. The Texas native was even hampered by a hamstring injury and played a bit out of position due to injuries in the room, but still found a way to be productive. 

Greathouses’s specialty is the slot, yet he’s enhanced his game to be able to play the two outside positions with confidence and efficiency this spring. 

“His natural position coming into Notre Dame was probably a slot receiver,” explained Freeman. “Out of necessity and out of the confidence he built in our coaching staff last year, we put him outside and did some different things. Now, going into year two, he’s put the capacity to be effective inside as a slot receiver or go outside.” 

“To have a guy who can do that, it’s going to truly benefit us.” 

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