Blue and Gold Illustrated

June July 2018

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

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Page 20 of 63 JUNE/JULY 2018 21 to play expanded roles next season. Sophomore tight ends Cole Kmet and Brock Wright saw action in 2017, but their playing time was limited. Kmet played just 62 snaps on offense, and Wright 30. Both made strides toward far more significant roles during the spring, especially Kmet. Despite doubling as a pitcher for the baseball team, he took advantage of injuries to Nic Weishar and George Takacs to emerge as a consistent figure in the rotation. He displayed the athleti- cism and ball skills to be a playmaker on offense. Wright is expected to earn a pri- mary role as a blocker next season, but late in the spring he started mak- ing more and more plays in the pass game. Both will have important roles next season, with Kmet having the best opportunity at becoming a major pro- ducer for the offense. ADDING ATHLETICISM TO THE DEFENSE When Mike Elko arrived as defensive coordinator in 2017, he felt more athleti- cism was needed, and the staff targeted players such as Jeremiah Owusu-Kora- moah, Jordan Genmark Heath and Kofi Wardlow late during the recruiting process. Along with Isaiah Robert- son, a player that remained committed to the program despite the struggles, the 2017 haul boosted the team speed on defense — some- thing that new coordinator Clark Lea must continue. Robertson and Genmark Heath were regulars on spe- cial teams as freshmen, and both were in the two deep at safety (with Genmark Heath recording five tackles in the Citrus Bowl win). With ju- nior Alohi Gilman gaining eligibility and with the ar- rival of the highy skilled 2018 safety class, the staff had the flexibility to move the pair closer to the box in order to increase the athleti- cism of the linebacker unit. Genmark Heath began the spring as the No. 2 bound- ary safety and ended it as the No. 2 Buck linebacker. The native of Swe- den runs very well, but as a safety he had a tendency to focus too much on coming downhill, which got him in some trouble in coverage. At Buck linebacker, he can better use his power and desire to fly to the ball. Robertson took some time to adjust to rover, where he moved during the winter, but once he got the hang of it his spring production increased. He adds range and coverage ability to the position, something it lacked in 2017 beyond starter Drue Tran- quill. With Tranquill now inside as the starting Buck, Robertson has a chance to carve out a role in the rover rotation this season. Senior Asmar Bilal exited spring as the starting rover, but Robertson pushed the veteran, and so did class- mate Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who ended the spring as the No. 2 player at the position. Owusu-Koramoah is only 18 years old, and will remain that age until November, which is why redshirting in 2017 was so important. With a year under his belt, Owusu- Koramoha's top-level athleticism was on full display during the spring. He showed a knack for mak- ing plays on the ball, and his range is exceptional. The Hampton, Va., native might have the most raw talent of any player in the defensive class. Wa r d l o w i s a n o t h e r athletically gifted young player, but unlike his class- mates he's still probably a year away from pushing for snaps. He is buried behind veterans Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara, but Ward- low has also played merely three years of organized football and is still learning the finer points of the game. INJURIES HURTING THE LINEBACKERS Adding Genmark Heath to the linebacker depth chart was due, in part, to taking advantage of his unique size, athleticism and style of play. The lack of veteran depth at the position was another reason, and so was the injury issues the 2017 linebacker signees have struggled through. David Adams, who was ranked as the No. 88 player in the country by Scout, has suffered multiple shoulder and arm injuries that have put his future in doubt. Classmate Drew White missed almost the entire spring with a leg injury, which allowed the 2018 line- backer haul to pass him up on the depth chart. If White or Adams are to become factors in the line- backer rotation, both will need to get and stay healthy while putting forth very strong fall camp perfor- mances. ✦ Jordan Genmark Heath, who was a regular on special teams as a freshman, began the spring as Notre Dame's No. 2 boundary safety and ended it as the No. 2 Buck linebacker. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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