Big Board: Linebacker

Notre Dame is in the thick of some heated recruiting battles to land key linebacker prospects. Irish Illustrated examines where Notre Dame stands.

Current Outlook

When Notre Dame takes the field at Clemson on Saturday night, here’s how the depth chart will look:

Sam: James Onwualu, Greer Martini
Mike: Joe Schmidt, Jarrett Grace, Nyles Morgan
Will: Jaylon Smith, Te’von Coney, Austin Larkin

Grace and Schmidt will exhaust their eligibility after this season, and Smith is 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.

Freshman Asmar Bilal, who projects strong-side, and freshman Josh Barajas, who projects weak-side, will receive red-shirts this year.

What’s Next

Notre Dame will ideally sign three linebackers in this class, one that projects inside, one that projects outside with coverage and pass rush ability, and one with inside-outside ability. Notre Dame signed one of the premier linebacker corps in the country last cycle in Barajas, Bilal and Coney, so the Irish have breathing room at the position this cycle.

Notre Dame commitment Jamir Jones (6’3”, 220) has outside linebacker characteristics, but he’s likely better suited at defensive end.

This season Notre Dame has already hosted T.J. Brunson, (unofficial visit), Aaron Hansford, Daelin Hayes (unofficial visit) and Jonathan Jones.  The Irish will host five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly on Dec. 11.

Last week Hayes, a USC commitment, signed nonbinding early enrollment paperwork with the Trojans, where he’s been committed for a year. After momentum appeared to be on Notre Dame’s side following his unofficial visit to Notre Dame for the opener, USC has seemingly recovered ground following a recent trip to Southern California. Notre Dame expects to get him back on campus for an official visit this fall. The ebb and flow of this recruitment will be likely constant until he enrolls somewhere in January.  

Notre Dame hosted Jones last week for the UMass game. Jones came away impressed with all aspects of the Notre Dame program, especially the prestige of the business school. He’ll visit Michigan in early December, and a decision could come after that between the Irish and Wolverines.

There’s been some dialog between Notre Dame and Michigan linebacker commitment Dele’ Harding, but the Irish won’t move on offering the Maryland native until other prospects fall off their board. Harding debated a trip for the Georgia Tech game.

Here’s an updated look at the Master List.

Linebacker
T.J. Brunson
6-0, 220
Columbia, S.C.
Offer: No Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denson Top Offers: Louisville, N.C. State, South Carolina
Update Brunson is a Louisville commitment, but recruiting interest from Notre Dame brought him to campus for the Texas game. Notre Dame could make a move on an offer in the future.
Aaron Hansford
6-2, 210
Washington, D.C.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Penn St., Ohio St., Oregon, Florida, UCLA
UpdateNotre Dame impressed Hansford during his official visit for the Georgia Tech game, but was it enough to overtake Penn State? A decision isn’t expected to come soon.
Daelin Hayes
6-4, 250
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: USC, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio St.
UpdateThe USC commitment signed nonbinding early enrollment paperwork with the Trojans last week. Notre Dame is still optimistic about its chances to win over Hayes in the end.
Dontavious Jackson
6-2, 237
Houston, Texas
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Texas
Notre Dame remains in the hunt for Jackson, who has two official visits left to schedule. Texas is the team to beat.
Jonathan Jones
5-11, 209
Orlando, Fla.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Michigan, Duke, UCF, Stanford
UpdateNotre Dame exceeded expectations for Jones, who took his official visit to campus last weekend. Michigan will receive an official in December, and this one will come down to the Wolverines and Irish.
Caleb Kelly
6-2, 220
Clovis, Calif.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Sanford Top Offers: Alabama, FSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU, USC
The five-star outside linebacker will take an official visit to Notre Dame on Dec. 11. Oklahoma is the leader, and he visits the Sooners in November.
Jeffrey McCulloch
6-2, 225
Aldine, Texas
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Texas, USC
UpdateLow-key about naming favorites, McCulloch will be a tough pull from Texas, but Notre Dame is working to get him on campus for a visit this fall.

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