The Notre Dame linebacker corps received upgrades in both quantity and quality from its 2022 recruiting class. The Irish also return multiple starters and graduate only one major contributor to the room. So what does a competitive and talented two-deep depth chart look like in 2022? And are there other names to keep an eye on?
Weakside: Marist Liufau
This is a return Irish fans should be excited for. Marist Liufau looked primed for a breakout campaign in 2021 before an injury sidelined him for the season. Liufau recorded 17 of his 22 tackles in 2020 in his last three games, playing a bigger role down the stretch. Now he’s back and should be featured in a prominent role in the 2022 season. J.D. Bertrand took this position last season and led the team in tackles, but there’s a likely new role in store for him. Barring a really poor spring and summer, Liufau should be the presumed starter at this position.
This one has some interesting competition, and Bo Bauer could also compete for a starting role here. It’s a major competition to watch in the spring game. But as the leading tackler in 2021, Bertrand may have an inside track at the main starting job. Bertrand was a key breakout player in 2021 and worked with former middle linebacker Drew White extensively. Although he was the leading tackler, the Notre Dame linebacker corps had some issues with finishing tackles this season, and it’d be good to see Bertrand improve on making big plays such as tackles for losses or forced fumbles. Keep an eye on this position competition.
Rover: Jack Kiser
Jack Kiser has steadily risen up the depth chart over his time at Notre Dame and recorded two pick-sixes in his first season as a full starter. He excelled in this rover role and figures to be relatively locked into the starting role entering 2022. Like Liufau, there shouldn’t be a ton of debate barring regression or a major challenge from a freshman.
Weakside: Joshua Burnham
The first of multiple touted freshmen to crack the projected two-deep, there’s reason to be excited about Burnham. Start with the size. He’s six-foot-four-inches, about 220 pounds and brings a blend of power and speed to the Notre Dame linebacker room. The other possibility here is Prince Kollie who ended the year as the backup at weakside linebacker. But Burnham is exceptionally talented and an even more touted recruit than Kollie was, so he’ll get a chance to earn snaps.
As mentioned, this could be a 1A and 1B situation at middle linebacker. Bauer has been a package player with an increasing role, and he could challenge for a starting role. He notched 47 tackles, one-and-a-half sacks, and an interception in 2021. He’s locked into a pivotal role at this position, regardless of whether he’s a technical starter on the depth chart.
Rover: Jaylen Sneed
Another freshman, Sneed is the top recruit in the 2022 class. He’s going to see the field in 2022, and rover feels like a likely position for the touted early-enrollee. He’s not short of confidence, telling reporters he feels like he’s one of the fastest players in the Notre Dame linebacker room. At six-foot-two-inches, 210-pounds, Sneed is a natural outside linebacker but is versatile enough to make an impact in multiple areas. Look for Sneed to challenge Kiser for a starting role and settle into a prominent backup position.
Other Names to Watch
These are two other names that Notre Dame fans can keep an eye out for in 2022; Kollie and Jordan Botelho. The Notre Dame linebacker room has a lot of depth, exciting talent, and experience. So more than just the two-deep may contribute.
Kollie ended the season as the backup at weakside linebacker. He could very feasibly return to that role behind Liufau in 2022, although Burnham is listed in this projection. Kollie is talented and retained redshirt eligibility after recording 13 tackles in four games. Particularly given that Burnham is a freshman, Kollie probably holds an edge at this position right now. Watch the competition between these two as the season draws closer.
Botelho is another potential contributor to the rover position. He switched to linebacker in 2021 and recorded 18 tackles plus two sacks. He’s talented and versatile. One injury and Botelho finds himself in a huge role. As it stands, he probably is an exceptional backup at rover who can also shift to other positions as he further develops as a linebacker.
The Notre Dame linebacker room is another unit with exceptional talent and potential entering the season. There’s a host of competitive position battles to watch for as Notre Dame sorts out their depth chart, so it’ll be a key position group to watch in the spring game.