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Veteran Leadership, Athletic Underclassman: The Notre Dame Linebacker Room

Written by Liam Farrell|Writer|Twitter @LiamFarrell_IT

Via University of Notre Dame


The Notre Dame linebacker room drew much criticism with their play early on in the 2022 season. As the metaphorical seat was getting hotter for first year linebacker coach and defensive coordinator, Al Golden, the Irish found more success in their linebackers as the year progressed. Headlining the group is 2022 captain, JD Bertrand, along with two other two-year starters in Marist Liufau and Jack Kiser. With the news of Prince Kollie entering the transfer portal during spring ball, this linebacker room grew a little more thin; however, the raw natural talent more than makes up for the lack of experience. Let's take a look at the 2023 Notre Dame linebackers.


Mike Linebacker

Via University of Notre Dame


We might as well start with the captain of the defense, JD Bertrand. Bertrand has been Notre Dame's leading tackler for the past two seasons. In 2021, Bertrand notched 65 solo tackles, along with 102 total tackles. In 2022, Bertrand took a minor step back by totaling 45 solo tackles, and 82 total tackles. Bertrand also was on the field less last year because he had to sit out a half in two separate games due to targeting penalties. Besides this setback, every player on the defense acknowledges that Bertrand is the leader of the pack. His leadership and ability to recognize plays are what will push this Notre Dame defense from being good to excellent. Bertrand has also stated in many interviews that he wants to be more of a playmaker and cause more havoc. If Bertrand can take this next step, the Irish should be in for a great year.


Behind Bertrand at the Mike position are sophomore Nolan Ziegler and highly-touted incoming freshman Drayk Bowen. Ziegler saw limited playing time his first year on campus, but retained his eligibility while doing so. The product from Caledonia, Michigan, recorded one assisted tackle in the Irish's thumping of Boston College. For Bowen, the homegrown prospect from St. John, Indiana, is expected to make an impact since he stepped foot on campus. Bowen got to see some action during the Blue Gold game, but the 2022 Indiana Mr. Football winner will definitely be taking his time learning the ways from Bertrand and company.




Will Linebacker

Via Associated Press (Adrian Kraus)


Next, let's take a look at the weak side linebackers for Notre Dame. Last year, Marist Liufau was the man at Will linebacker for the Irish. Liufau burst onto the scene in the shortened 2020 season with his explosiveness and playing with a controlled reckless abandonment on the field. Liufau was an energy plug in 2020 that fans couldn't wait to see more of. Sadly, in 2021, Liufau broke his ankle at the end of summer camp that sidelined him for all of the 2021 season. In 2022, Liufau came back and was the team's third leading tackler along with having an interception and an assisted sack. However, there were many plays last year where Liufau would get stuck behind blocks and get beat to the outside. There were flashes of greatness from Liufau, but in 2023, Irish fans are praying that Liufau can be the quick as lightening, hard-hitting linebacker prospect that he once showed.


Behind Liufau at the Will position are Jaylen Sneed, Preston Zinter, and Tre Reader. The biggest name out of this group is Jaylen Sneed, who also can take reps at the rover position due to his speed and ball-hawking ability. Sneed looks to be the future of the linebacker position at Notre Dame. Whenever Sneed got the opportunity to get into the game last year, I saw a lot of former Irish star Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah in his game. The former South Carolina Mr. Football is everything you want in the linebacker position, with great size and speed. Especially with Sneed making the number change to a single digit, Sneed can very well be the next Owusu-Koromoah that this Irish defense needs. As for the rest of the group, Zinter and Reader will simply be learning from the guys ahead of them and continue to develop their bodies. Zinter showed flashes of good instincts during the Blue Gold game, but just needs a summer built by Balis to continue his development.


Rover Position

Via NBC Sports


Last, but certainly not least, we have the Rover position. The Rover position has been manned by Jack Kiser for the last couple years. Kiser has had great success at the rover position, but there are rumblings that me might make the move over to Will. Nonetheless, the Rover position is Kiser's until there is a successor to be named. Over the past years, Kiser has 124 total tackles along with 3 career interceptions. The biggest interception that comes to mind was Kiser's pick six against Wisconsin during the 2021 Shamrock Series game at Soldier FIeld.


Behind Kiser in the Rover position is the aforementioned Sneed, and freshman Jaiden Ausberry. Ausberry is someone that really jumped off the screen to me during Notre Dame's spring game because of his freakish athletic ability, and his mental toughness. During the game, Ausberry made a great break on a Tyler Buchner pass that should've been intercepted, but the ball clanked off Ausberry's hands. Instead of letting that play get the best of him, Ausberry reset, and made a great play on Chris Tyree in the flat on a designed wide receiver screen. Ausberry, much like Sneed, has all the physical tools to be a difference maker for the Fighting Irish in the near future.





Wrap Up


With Notre Dame returning all three starters at linebacker, this Notre Dame defense should be set to have great success in 2023. It should also be interesting to see which young linebacker talent will be the first to jump on the scene for the Irish. Will it be Sneed making plays sideline to sideline? Or Bowen filling the gap and stuffing rushing attempts? Maybe it could be Ausberry making a big 1-on-1 tackle in open space? The possibilities are endless, and I cannot wait to see it.



 

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2 則留言


訪客
2023年6月28日

Zeigler will be a big part of the '24 rotation, too. By all accounts he is putting in the work.

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訪客
2023年6月28日

exceptional in depth analysis

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