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Notre Dame Football: Irish Eyes On The Future At Linebacker In 2019

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There’s a lot to work with here.

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

With the 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football season behind us, we can start to look towards the future. Next up in the grand scheme of things is spring football. This series will provide a quick look at all the position groups for Notre Dame football as we enter winter workouts, and spring practice.

LINEBACKER

Notre Dame was blessed a very veteran linebacker group in 2018 — at least with its starters. Asmar Bilal, Te’von Coney, and Drue Tranquill were, respectively: a junior, senior, and 5th year senior. They also got a ton of work. It was especially true with Coney and Tranquill.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Of the 899 snaps played during the regular season, Coney accounted for 840 and Tranquill played 716. That’s 93% and 80% respectively. It wasn’t just the number of snaps these guys got though, it was a season that saw some really great production from Coney, Tranquill, AND Bilal.

It wasn’t a big surprise that Notre Dame got some really solid linebacker play, but I thought they exceeded expectations. Coney aside, Tranquill was playing a new position and Bilal was a starter for the first time. Clark Lea really got these guys ready to play and put them in great spots.

DEPARTURES FROM 2018

The Irish lose both Coney and Tranquill to the NFL Draft, and we already spoke about how important they were last season. Combined, they had over 200 tackles and 18 TFL’s, but just as important was the leadership they provided on the field and in the locker room. Tranquill was a two-time captain — and those guys don’t grow on trees.

Departing LB Production From 2018

Linebacker GP TACKLES TFL SACKS INT PBU QBH FF FR
Linebacker GP TACKLES TFL SACKS INT PBU QBH FF FR
4 Te'von Coney 13 123 9.5 4 1 4 6 0 1
23 Drue Tranquill 13 86 9 3.5 0 4 3 0 1

Notre Dame will also lose D.J. Morgan as well. The senior linebacker is using a graduate transfer to play football elsewhere for the next two years.

RETURNING FOR 2019

Notre Dame has nine linebackers returning from the 2018 team. Three of the nine saw no action at the position. Of the other six, only Asmar Bilal saw significant action throughout the season.

Returning LB Production From 2018

Linebacker GP TACKLES TFL SACKS INT PBU QBH FF FR
Linebacker GP TACKLES TFL SACKS INT PBU QBH FF FR
22 Asmar Bilal 13 50 3 0 0 1 2 0 1
2 Jordan Genmark Heath 13 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
40 Drew White 4 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
45 Jonathan Jones 13 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
33 Shayne Simon 9 4 0.5 0 0 1 0 0 0
52 Bo Bauer 13 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Others did have their moment here and there. Drew White, for example, surprised everyone with his playing time against Navy. It was like White is being groomed for the Greer Martini position of triple-option specialist. Jordan Genmark Heath also showed flashes in limited time, and Bo Bauer was on the field for every game last year (with most of it being on special teams). Shayne Simon looks legit and his physical development may have more to say about where he plays. There’s Jonathan Jones, with whom many believed was most likely the next MIKE linebacker — but there really is no telling right now (we will get into that in just a moment).

Ball State v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The three players that didn’t see the field are still thought of a future players on this defense:

  • Ovie Oghoufo SO
  • Jack Lamb SO
  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah JR

NEW ADDITIONS FOR 2019

This could get complicated — just as it feels a little crowded. As of right now, the Irish have 4 linebackers committed to the 2019 class.

  • 4-Star Jack Kiser
  • 4-Star Osita Ekwonu
  • 3-Star Marist Liufua
  • 4-Star J.D. Bertrand

The Irish are also working hard to secure the signature of 4-Star Asa Turner to be a linebacker for the Irish. That would bring the total up to 5 linebackers in one cycle.

Osita Ekwonu

There is a little twist though. Bertrand is coming to South Bend via a preferred walk-on position, and Liufau could be gray-shirted for the 2019 season (more about gray-shirts HERE). If Asa does commit to Notre Dame, this would mean the Irish will have 12 linebackers on scholarship for sure in 2019. None of the new additions are thought of as instant impact players, so outside of practice, they won’t have much effect on the field.

2019 OUTLOOK

This is probably the most interesting position group on the team. There are just so many possibilities and combinations that we could see out there — and even more once they get outside of their base defense and into a NICKEL and DIME package.

I think, ideally, we could see Asmar Bilal, Shayne Simon, and Jordan Genmark Heath as the first group. What exact position that each player will play though is more of a mystery. I haven’t even mentioned Derrik Allen yet either. Will he move up to linebacker from safety after red-shirting in 2018?

There is just a great deal of mystery involved here, and even if we get some clarity in the spring, it could all get turned upside down in fall camp.

Seriously... buckle up.

RANDOM RANDOMNESS TO PONDER

Poll

How do you feel about ND’s linebacker situation in 2019?

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  • 38%
    Good
    (383 votes)
  • 39%
    Okay
    (395 votes)
  • 21%
    Worried
    (217 votes)
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