Notre Dame defender Jordan Genmark Heath displayed versatility that could help him now AND in the future

Notre Dame defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Clark Lea works with his athletes during a practice this spring at the Loftus Sports Center in South Bend. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
2018 Notre Dame sophomore safety and linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath

With the graduation of Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini, Notre Dame linebacker coach and defensive coordinator Clark Lea has undertaken the process of figuring out how to replace nearly 170 tackles this fall.

He has moved some existing pieces (Asmar Bilal and Drue Tranquill) to new positions, but he has also used his “coordinator card” and played it to take some athletes from elsewhere to help his linebacker corps.

“My responsibility as linebacker coach is to put the best combination of people on the field,” Lea said this spring.

When freshman cornerback Houston Griffith displayed the ability this spring to play safety, as well, that freed up sophomore Jordan Genmark Heath (6-foot-1, 211 pounds) to use his size and ability to move from safety to weakside linebacker, of which veteran Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said he fits well.

“We think his size and his instincts and his physicality merited an opportunity to take a look at the (weakside linebacker),” Kelly said this spring. “It gives us a sense of what he can do close to the ball.”

Genmark Heath didn’t make a significant impact at safety a year ago, but he certainly did on all four special teams. In his first season of college football, he played in all 13 games and totaled 16 tackles.

“Jordan was a four-unit special team player,” Notre Dame special teams coach Brian Polian said this summer, “and a very good one.”

Genmark Heath isn’t projected to start this season, but that is more related to the fact that he is backing up two-time captain Drue Tranquill, who won’t come off the field often, than a slight of Genmark Heath.

The Notre Dame philosophy last season – and will be in 2018, as well – is to work a lot of players into the rotation in order to keep everyone as fresh as possible, so Genmark Heath will get reps behind Tranquill.

“We like his contact skills,” Kelly said. “We like his instincts for the football, so we think this is a good chance to utilize some reps for him.”

Lea said that Genmark Heath remaining at safety isn’t out of consideration moving forward, despite the current move to linebacker, however, this opportunity does allow him to lay a positional foundation for his future with the Irish.

Tranquill and middle linebacker Te’von Coney will each leave following this coming season, so 2018 is a chance for Genmark Heath to solidify himself someplace for the following two seasons.

“I think that you always have a mind for the future,” Lea said. “Everything you do is first about this season, but also always forward thinking. But as it pertains to what he is doing right now, the immediacy of him getting reps there, that has to do with this fall.”

When training camp opens next week, Genmark Heath will have a lot of competition for those limited reps behind Tranquill. Not only is he vying for them, but so are redshirt sophomore D.J. Morgan, redshirt freshman Drew White, and freshman Ovie Oghoufo.

In addition, Bilal can play both rover, as well as weak side, so if redshirt freshman Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah beats out Bilal for the starting rover position, that gives Lea yet another body to look at on the opposite side.

“Jordan is a dynamic player,” Lea said. “He is a good football player. Obviously, we don’t move a guy unless we identify things that we think that he brings to the table that we think will allow him to be successful.

“It’s not something we are doing, just to throw paint at the wall. We have seen Jordan play in a manner that we know he can handle the ‘buck’ position and I would argue that he has looked very natural there.”

For more on Notre Dame football, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010, Facebook at Thomas Davis, and Instagram at tomdavis101010.

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