Darius Fleming, Carlo Calabrese, Anthony McDonald, Manti Te'o, Prince Shembo and Steve Filer headline the group of talented and experienced linebacking unit at Notre Dame. Despite the numbers, there may be playing opportunities for the four freshmen in 2011.
Ben Councell is slated for the "Dog' linebacker position when he arrives in June. At this point, senior Steve Filer is the odds on favorite to earn the starting spot, but that is far from a given at this point. Even if Filer does get the nod, the Irish coaches will need to work in additional players in order to build for the future.
Councell was a priority for the Notre Dame staff when they initially started evaluating the 2011 class. He's a very long, athletic prospect that runs extremely well. He covers a lot of ground which is why the Irish staff feels that he is a very good fit for the drop linebacker position.
He does have the ability to rush the passer and uses his hands very well while working against offensive linemen. He flows very well during a play and doesn't get caught in the wash. Once he gets to the ball carrier, he is a very sure tackler.
In his senior season at A.C. Reynolds High School (Asheville, N.C.), Councell registered 141 tackles and 25 tackles for loss.
Jarrett Grace is the lone inside linebacker that the Irish signed with the 2011 class. Although the Irish staff had other highly rated inside linebackers interested in the program, the staff felt they had all they needed in Grace.
At 6-foot-3, 235-pounds he's going to be a big physical presence in Notre Dame's ‘3-4' defense. He has the length that the Notre Dame coaches like and he has the athletic and instincts play on the interior. Grace is physical and plays downhill. He has the ability to meet and defeat lineman in the hole and then make the tackle.
Grace was a first-team Associated Press Division I Ohio all-state linebacker as senior in 2010. He made 92 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and added four sacks and four passes broken up.
Ishaq Williams is long, athletic and intelligent. He's an early enrollee, so the head-start he's going to get this spring will make it difficult to keep him off the field. Williams could get a look at the ‘Dog' linebacker position, but it is likely that he'll be groomed for "Cat' linebacker spot behind Darius Fleming.
At 6-foot-5, 242-pounds, he's got the frame the Irish staff is looking for on the outside. He's a guy that can either stand up or put his hand down on the ground. He's extremely quick off the ball and has a high motor. He's already strong enough to work against offensive lineman and the extra work he's getting in the spring with make him field-ready come September.
Anthony Rabasa will also start out at the ‘Cat' linebacker position when he arrives in June. He has a similar build as Fleming, and is a pass rush specialist. He adds a dimension of strength and power that Williams doesn't have. Once he gets into Notre Dame's weight and conditioning program, he'll be a beast.
Rabasa has a big motor, with a quick step coming off the edge. He played against big-time talent in Miami and he was a dominant player. Technically he's very good and a natural football player with great instincts. He's got the tenacity you want and he's not afraid to mix it up.
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