Big Board: Linebacker

Notre Dame is targeting elite players at linebacker. With their top targets from California, Florida and Texas, the Irish have their sights on a small, but exclusive class.

Current Outlook

Heading into fall camp, here’s a look at how the depth chart stacks up with some flexibility offered by All-American Jaylon Smith:

Sam: James Onwualu, Jaylon Smith, Greer Martini
Mike: Nyles Morgan OR Jarrett Grace OR Joe Schmidt, Michael Deeb
Will: Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt, Te’Von Coney

Note: Smith will be utilized at Sam in various sub packages implemented by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Morgan and a healthy Schmidt will both see quality time at middle linebacker, though Schmidt is expected to cross-train at the Will.

Grace and Schmidt will exhaust their eligibility this season, with Smith a smart bet to jump into the NFL Draft. Barring unknown attrition, Notre Dame should return all other linebackers, with Onwualu being the lone senior.

Freshmen Asmar Bilal, Te’Von Coney and Josh Barajas will have three or four years remaining depending on how the coaching staff manages red-shirts this fall. Coney enrolled early and took some second-team work during spring practice; expect to see him on the field this season despite a stocked depth chart.

What’s Next

Notre Dame will ideally sign two in this class, one that projects inside and one that projects outside with coverage and pass rush ability.  

A trio of new names has emerged on the radar: Dontavious Jackson, Jonathan Jones and Jeffrey McCulloch.

Jones and McCulloch view Notre Dame as one of their top five schools and neither have seen campus yet. That will change this month for McCulloch when he travels from Texas to South Bend. Jones will visit in September for his official visit, coming up from Florida for the UMass game. Don’t expect in-season decisions from either, but Notre Dame should stay in play until the end for both.

Jackson is one of Notre Dame’s top inside linebacker targets, and there’s hope he will get on campus for an official visit for the Texas game. His recruitment remains open though official visits to Florida State and UCLA have been set.

Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly was a scratch for the Irish Invasion, but he’s optimistic he’ll visit later this month. Oklahoma and Michigan are viewed as the top contenders.

It’s noteworthy that Notre Dame and Michigan have linebacker overlap, and none are in the Midwest. Jackson, Jones, Mique Juarez, Kelly and McCulloch are considering the Irish and Wolverines.

Here’s a look at the updated Master List at linebacker.

Linebacker
Cameron Brown
6-5, 223
Potomac, Md.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Michigan St., Penn St., UNC, ASU, Va. Tech
Update: An August decision date doesn’t bode well for Notre Dame despite the Irish being a consistent mention in his top five. Penn State is the favorite.
Aaron Hansford
6-2, 210
Washington, D.C.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Georgia, Ohio St., Penn St., Oregon
Update: Notre Dame is running off the lead pack but Hansford’s father grew up an Irish fan and the linebacker said he wants to hit South Bend.
Dontavious Jackson
6-2, 237
Houston, Texas
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Texas
New: Jackson plans to release a top seven after his season. He’s eyeing an Irish official for the Texas game. Florida State and UCLA have already locked in visits for the fall.
Jamir Jones
6-3, 215
Rochester, N.Y.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Hiestand Top Offers: Committed on June 23
Update:Notre Dame pitched Jones on playing outside linebacker, although the younger brother of Jarron may have more potential at defensive end.
Jonathan Jones
5-11, 209
Orlando, Fla.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Stanford
New: Jones has Notre Dame in running third behind Duke and Michigan. He will take an official visit to South Bend for the Sept. 26 game against UMass.
Mique Juarez
6-2, 210
North Torrance, Calif.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Denbrock Top Offers: USC, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA
New: Juarez has been committed to USC since January but plans to take official visits in the fall. He has named Notre Dame as a school he wants to see.
Caleb Kelly
6-2, 220
Clovis, Calif.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Sanford Top Offers: Alabama, FSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU, USC
Update:Kelly plans to visit Notre Dame later his month though nothing is scheduled. Notre Dame made the five-star’s top seven released at The Opening. The Sooners lead.
Jeffrey McCulloch
6-2, 225
Aldine, Texas
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Texas, USC
New: McCulloch will visit Notre Dame on July 27 and plans to return for an official. Notre Dame’s academic reputation could mean the Irish go the distance.
Andrew Pryts
6-2, 195
Hermitage, Pa.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Ohio St., Penn St., Stanford, Alabama, Michigan
Update: The Penn State legacy and OLB/S hybrid is set to make a decision before the season starts. Ohio State seems to lead despite Notre Dame getting a visit in June.
Jonathan Smith
6-0, 229
Laurinburg, N.C.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: Ga. Tech, Louisville, Michigan, UNC, Duke
Update: Duke and North Carolina are the overwhelming favorites and both in-state programs have deemed him as a major priority. The Irish are on other targets.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories