Notre Dame Football Position Overview: Linebackers and Dog Breeds
On a list riddled with question marks, Notre Dame’s linebacker depth chart has at least less uncertainty than the others. But there are still plenty of questions for a position group now about its third defensive coordinator and linebacker coach in as many years.
So, to break it all down, here are Notre Dame linebackers as different dog breeds. Enjoy.
No. 8 Marist Liufau — Rottweiler
Liufau is known to run like his hair is on fire. With that kind of ferocity — and the amount of hair on his head — it seems fitting to call him a Rottweiler.
With Marcus Freeman taking over as defensive coordinator and linebacker coach last year, Liufau was poised to lead the team in tackles as a starting linebacker (see also: weak side). Fans got a taste of what the Kalihi, Hawaii native could be in limited action in 2020 when he recorded 10 solo tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Then a broken leg last August delayed what could have been a breakthrough year for Liufau. The rising eldest will have the chance to make up for lost time this season.
No. 24 Jack Kiser – Border Collie
Apparently, the border collie is the smartest breed of dog. Assuming that’s the case, it’s a fitting mission for Kiser. His teammates and trainers rave about his cerebral capacities perfectly adapted to the position of rover (see also: sniper).
A product in the state, it’s probably fair to call Kiser’s ancestry unexpected considering he was a three-star prospect from a high school in Indiana. After making a redshirt as a rookie, he was part of a three-man rotation (along with Liufau and Shayne Simon) at linebacker in 2020.
Last year, Kiser was Rover’s first full-time starter, and he recorded 26 solo tackles, seven pass breakups and two returned interceptions for touchdowns. His impact may go largely unnoticed and underestimated, but Kiser plays a vital role in orchestrating Ireland’s Front Seven.
No. 52 Bo Bauer — Dachshund
I’m pretty sure the site director/emperor/supreme warlord/defender of the faith, Mr. Vowles, would fire me on the spot if I didn’t make Bo Bauer a dachshund.
Harborcreek, Penn. native hasn’t missed a single game in his career at Notre Dame, despite only starting once. That’s because he’s been stuck behind Drue Tranquil and Drew White at various times over the past four years. And now that he’s using the coronavirus waiver to return for a fifth season, it’s still unclear who between Bauer and JD Bertrand will start at mic linebacker this year.
But regardless of Bauer’s position on the depth chart, he is a physical defender and a vocal leader of the Irish defence. If his final collegiate season is statistically comparable to his most recent — 47 total tackles, 4.0 TFL, six pass breakups and one interception — linebacker Mike will most likely be a force for the Irish.
N° 27 JD Bertrand — German Shepherd
Like Border Collies, German Shepherds are also supposed to be very intelligent dogs. Add to that the aggressiveness they display as part of K-9 units, and Bertrand seems to display a similar combination.
Bertrand went from seven total tackles in 2020 to leading the Irish with 101 last year. During fall camp 2021, he seemed like an ideal No. 2 linebacker. Then Liufau, Paul Moala and Shayne Simon all suffered early season injuries and Prince Kollie lost crucial training time with COVID-19.
When Notre Dame’s linebacker depth fell off a cliff, Bertrand had to hold the fort — and with a broken wrist for much of the season, no less. He was the target of much (largely unfair) criticism for his difficulties in covering passes, in particular the way he (and several other Irish defenders) got burned against Cincinnati and Oklahoma State.
He’s by no means a perfect player, but Bertrand can be an incredibly effective linebacker assuming he doesn’t have to take on nearly every cliché at his position for an entire season. If he and his entourage can stay healthy, Notre Dame fans should get a glimpse of the ideal Bertrand in 2022.
No. 12 Jordan Botelho – Wolf
It’s a bit of a cheat, because wolves and dogs aren’t exactly the same thing. But Botelho isn’t exactly a linebacker and, like a wolf, he’s fierce. (Seems like the quintessential Botelho remark is to “include at least one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in his pre-season projections”).
Botelho was listed as an inside linebacker out of high school, a four-star rookie, and Hawaii’s consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2020. He was quickly moved to defensive end after arriving at Notre Dame, but after moving to linebacker, he’s still trying to find his footing. Either way, the staff is determined to find a way to get him on the field, hence why they train him to both rover at linebacker and vyper on the defensive line.
The key word with Botelho is “situational”. It’s up to new defensive coordinator Al Golden to find the best time and place in the game to plug Botelho so he can unleash his full potential.
No. 10 Prince Kollie – Golden Retriever
It’s more about the word “retriever” than anything else. It’s because the conversation with Kollie is that he has terrific instincts, but they need a lot of refinement since his defense in high school was little more than “see the ball, get the ball.”
Still, that program worked well enough that Kollie was named the winner of the high school Butkus Award for the best linebacker in the nation. That prestige surely contributed to the clamor for him to contribute as a true freshman last year after injuries decimated the position group, but COVID-19 cost him in terms of training time. necessary.
Either way, the Irish need someone to emerge at will behind Liufau. If it’s Kollie as a true sophomore, great, but it would take a big step up from just 14 total tackles (six solo) he recorded last season.
No. 58 Will Schweitzer – Cocker Spaniel
To be honest, I just searched for “all-around dog breeds” for this comparison and cocker spaniels were near the top. That seems pretty fitting considering Schweitzer’s versatility coming out of high school: a tight end and a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid.
Schweitzer was picked up late in the 2020 recruiting class, moving from Nebraska to Notre Dame last August. The Los Gatos, Calif., three-star was injured as a rookie but made it to three games last season. He can turn at the rover, but it’s hard to see a path to playing time behind Kiser and Botelho.
No. 44 Niuafe “Junior” Tuihalamaka – Doberman Pinscher
Dobermans are another aggressive dog, and Tuihalamaka seems to have the easiest path to freshman linebacker playing time this season given his physique. That says a lot considering one of his classmates was a five-star recruit.
But Tuihalamaka is advanced for his grade, mainly because he was a pure linebacker in high school when his classmates had to divide their attention between multiple positions on offense and defense. He already thinks he’ll get reps this season as the No. 3 micro linebacker behind Bauer and Bertrand. Stay tuned for future storylines about him opting out of public school USC to choose rival Notre Dame.
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed – Great Dane
The aforementioned five-star alongside Tuihalamaka, and the only five-star in the Class of 2022, Sneed was the sought-after recruit at first linebacker Marcus Freeman. The prestige and expectations are high, so it’s a Great Dane.
Talent aside, Sneed goes through a learning curve that is the truest freshman experience. It may take some time for him to acclimatise, especially with all that is demanded of the rover position in the Irish defence. But as welcome as Sneed’s early emergence is, it’s not necessary at the moment given the experience that awaits him.
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler — Irish Terrier
In honor of Clashmore legend Mike, Ziegler is an Irish terrier. I mean, how could a Notre Dame heritage and a guy born on St. Patrick’s Day not be the most Irish dog breeds?
A jack-of-all-trades in high school, Ziegler was not only a star linebacker, but also a wide receiver (25 touchdowns and over 1,300 receiving yards as a senior) and lacrosse player. He could play either the rover or the spots, although he will most likely be relegated to the redshirt this season.