2018 Notre Dame Football Position and Prospect Analysis: Linebackers
SOUTH BEND – There are some that believe that the 2018 Notre Dame recruiting class is the most talented that this program has signed since the great 1990 class. The true measurement of that will come in four years, but in the meantime, a defense is only as good as its linebacker play and the Irish have signed four highly-touted athletes to join a very solid group of veterans.
News-Sentinel.com sports reporter Tom Davis has been writing on Notre Dame football for nearly two decades and will take a look at the various position groups for next season and how the incoming class of prospects could impact the success of the Fighting Irish.
Today’s position: Linebackers
Coming next: Safeties
Jack Lamb, Shayne Simon, Bo Bauer, Ovie Oghoufo
The most impactful recruits that first-year defensive coordinator Mike Elko was able to utilize last season were the adjustments that he made to improve the effectiveness of linebackers Drue Tranquill (moving to rover) and Te’Von Coney (simplifying the scheme).
Tranquill made plays all over the field last fall as he fit seamlessly into his new role, while Coney increased his tackles from 62 to 116.
Both of those players return in 2018, but the graduation of Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan does create opportunities for the new freshmen, as well as other returning veterans.
In the case of Lamb, Bauer and Oghoufo, they each are already enrolled at South Bend, so they will get an eight-month jump on trying to get reps next season.
“We are returning an experienced roster,” new defensive coordinator Clark Lea said last month, “and wanted to solidify depth and secure players that were going to be able to come in and compete and push that middle part of your roster.”
In essence, the four freshmen are not expected to cut into the playing time of Tranquill or Coney, and probably not even Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (who will probably start at rover), but they can battle with the second and third guys at the various positions.
“You hear a lot of promises on playing time,” Lea said of recruiting players. “The only promise we make is the chance to compete, because we know, at the end of the day, each player needs to be driven.”
Each of the four freshman linebackers have varying skill sets that they’ll be able to tap into.
In the case of Simon, he is being looked at as a player that fits the rover position well.
“He is an incredible athlete,” Lea said of Simon, “and a better person, honestly. I think he is a natural fit at the rover position. He’ll get his first reps there.”
For Oghoufo, he may also get reps at rover, but his versatility allows Lea to look at him in a multitude of spots.
“I could really see him playing either outside position,” Lea said of Oghoufo. “He has been a run and hit player in high school. His best defense has been played alley-to-alley on the move. I’ve got to help him with the mechanics of playing in the box every down and how you attack gaps, but I know that he can run and hit.”
At 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, Oghoufo is not there yet, but has the potential to strengthen into a defensive end later in his career.
If there are two guys that may play quicker than the rest of their class, it would probably be Lamb and Bauer, both of whom will get looks in the middle.
“Those guys are natural, interior linebackers,” Lea said.
Both the middle and weakside positions are “interchangeable” Lea explained, so either player could play at either spot.
“We’re going to see what (Lamb and Bauer) can handle here early,” Lea said, “and where are the needs on the depth chart as we get through spring.
Depth shouldn’t be an issue, despite losing a couple of team captains in Morgan and Martini.
Jamir Jones adds depth in the middle, while Jonathan Jones (weakside), Asmar Bilal, D.J. Morgan, Robert Regan, and Drew White all will compete for plays.
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