2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Issue link: https://comanpub.uberflip.com/i/1133608

Contents of this Issue


Page 95 of 163

94 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW LINEBACKERS T here was no single tandem on one unit that contributed more to Notre Dame's 22‑4 run the past two years than line‑ backers Drue Tranquill and Te'von Coney. Yes, offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey were centerpieces in 2017, and safeties Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott significantly enhanced their position group in 2018. But when you combine 2017 and 2018, the duo of Tranquill and Coney were the most consistent and productive linchpins in the Fighting Irish program. In their absence, third‑year linebackers coach and second‑year defensive coordinator Clark Lea had one guarantee for his position group this spring: Be comfortable at being uncomfortable. "Just like any human, they want to know what to expect," Lea said at the start of spring. "They want to see a depth chart. I don't want to see one. I don't know why we need to de‑ termine this before we're teeing it up — and even then it's like, 'What's your target for completion?' This unit has to keep evolving. "We're going to line up and play our first game, and by game five or game eight we need to be better. If I can get a guy who ends up being a two to push himself up until the point his number is called, we'll be better for it when we need the next man in. I won't anticipate making any decisions up until the point we have to." The mandate remained consistent at the end of spring. "Everyone has bought into the fact that linebacker is going to be an open competi‑ tion," Lea said. "They're going to earn what they get. … The season is about the defen‑ sive unit evolving." If the trust and confidence to play are earned, Lea could envision a liberal rotation at linebacker similar to the approach the defensive line utilized in 2018. Last year, Coney unofficially took an as‑ tounding 96.1 percent of the defensive snaps, while Tranquill was at 83.2 percent after missing most of one game. Neither could be taken off the field because the drop‑off was deemed too significant. Lea is counting on more trust developing this year. "This defensive system was built on let's play as many guys as we can, because there are two effects there," Lea said. "One is it keeps your unit rested, and two I think there is this collective buy‑in that goes on when they know they have ownership — even if it's 10 or 15 reps in a game. "Knowing that you're going to be on the field just pushes everything forward in preparation." Although such competition is a "dream scenario" to Lea, he also is realistic that rota‑ tions cannot be forced. "If we can't do it because performance suffers, that's something we have to con‑ front," Lea said. "It's the quality and the experience of depth." Either way, at least some form of comfort zone needs to be found. ✦ SCHOLARSHIP PLAYERS (13) Listed after the class year is the years of eligi- bility remaining. Mike Linebacker 22 Asmar Bilal (6-2, 227), 5th/1 52 Bo Bauer (6-3, 230), So./3 40 Drew White (6-0, 225), Jr./3 45 Jonathan Jones (6-0, 227), Sr./2 — JD Bertrand (6-1, 200), Fr./4 Buck Linebacker 31 Jack Lamb (6-4, 227), So./4 2 Jordan Genmark Heath (6-1, 231), Jr./2 33 Shayne Simon (6-3, 230), So./3 — Osita Ekwonu (6-1, 220), Fr./4 — Marist Liufau (6-2, 205), Fr./4 Rover 30 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6-1½, 215), Jr./3 13 Paul Moala (6-0, 210), So./3 24 Jack Kiser (6-1½, 212), Fr./4 TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT The competition for playing time is expected to continue through summer and maybe even into the season Fifth-year senior Asmar Bilal is making the adjustment to middle linebacker after starting 10 games at rover last season. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

Articles in this issue

view archives of 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview - Digital Edition