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Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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32 PRESEASON 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED "D-tackle is a D-tackle," Washington said. "You can be a nose guard, but you have to play three [technique], you have to play 4 [technique], have to play 2 [tech- nique]. Lacey and [Cross] are two de- pendable guys you can be creative with." Each practice where Cross' white No. 56 jersey pushes the pile or invades the backfield, though, has fueled the idea he might be one of Notre Dame's best four defensive linemen. He was un- blockable in the open portions of spring practice and in the Blue-Gold Game. He was a frequent pocket pusher in Notre Dame's first fall practice. If that doesn't equate to a starting role, Cross won't complain. He knows as well as anyone how important Ademilola (49 tackles and 43 quarterback pressures in 2021) was to Notre Dame's defensive success last year. He understands he is still going to see the field, and probably a lot. He logged 330 snaps in 12 games as a backup and two-time starter in 2021. "We've established a culture that if you can play, you're going to play, re- gardless of if you're starting or not," Cross said. "It's not like you're starting and sometimes the second team gets in. "Second team plays just as much as the first team, maybe a little less, but usually exactly the same. Our D-Line is true in if you can play, you're playing." There's little doubt by now he can play. The size concerns that once sur- rounded the 6-0 7 ⁄8, 276-pound Cross have dissipated over the last two years. He has flashed at each spot over the last two years. He showed he could defeat the double-teams that come at nose tackle with requisite frequency. His gap-shooting ability and quickness shine at three-technique. Cross has learned how to prepare for games and even for practice against his own teammates in a way that makes his physical tools harder to combat. He studies linemen on film to find little movements that indicate what they will do on a specific play. He said he has even found a tell from graduate student guard Jarrett Patterson (though he wisely didn't disclose it). "Every team, every player has a tell about something — where they're go- ing, where they're leaning, how hard they're going to come off the ball," Cross said. "It's about trying to find it. Lately toward the end of junior year and now in fall camp, I've studied film specifically looking for stuff, looking at anything that will tell me where they're going or what they're doing." Cross is starting a few steps ahead of everyone else in preparation for Ohio State's interior offensive line. Buckeyes center Luke Wypler was his teammate at Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional High School. Those two spent years battling each other in practices. "I know a lot of his tricks," Cross said. A productive season opener from Cross would turn heads yet again. And maybe even lead him to becoming the weekly starting nose tackle. He'd surely embrace it. But he has no gripes with how things stand. "My turn is going to come," Cross said. "I'm going to keep working and when my turn comes, time to go." 'SMART' LINEBACKERS WILL BE CENTERPIECE Bertrand crammed eight credits of Italian classes in six weeks of summer school last year in part to build a foun- dation for his May 2022 study abroad program in Milan, Italy. It helped, to a degree. Bertrand could write coherent sentences in Italian, with an occasional assist from Talk- ing, though? Different story. "Learning the speaking in six weeks was a struggle," Bertrand said. But in a college career that has re- quired him to learn a new dialect just about every offseason, one struggle is allowable. Bertrand, along with fel- low senior linebackers Jack Kiser and Marist Liufau, is on his third defensive coordinator and position coach in as many seasons — first Clark Lea for two years, Marcus Freeman for one and now Golden. The same applies to Bauer. That means three out of four offsea- sons spent ingesting new terms, new plays and new jargon. "It's almost like a new language when you learn a new defense," Bertrand said. Ideally, it's learned in less than six weeks. Notre Dame's linebackers had al- most exactly a month to study Golden's tweaks before spring practice. Golden was hired Feb. 16. The Irish began spring practice March 17. On the field, there's no equivalent to WordReference. No cheat sheets exist between the white lines. "We need to make sure we take a big step in learning and take our responsi- Senior Jack Kiser could fit at any of the three linebacker spots if needed, but he will open the season as the starting rover. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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