Big Board: Linebacker

Notre Dame is empty in the linebacker commitment column. Irish Illustrated breaks down when that could change and how the linebacker haul could finish in February.

Current Outlook

When Notre Dame takes the field vs. Wake Forest on Saturday, 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

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 has yet to secure a linebacker commitment in this class, but ideally Notre Dame signs three, one that projects inside (Jonathan Jones), one that projects outside with coverage and pass rush ability (Aaron Hansford, Daelin Hayes, Caleb Kelly) and one with inside-outside ability (Jeffrey McCulloch).

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

Notre Dame signed one of the premier linebacker corps in the country in 2015 in Barajas, Bilal and Coney, so the Irish do have breathing room at the position this cycle.

This season Notre Dame has already hosted Brunson (no offer), Hansford, Hayes, Jones and McCulloch. It hosts five-star Kelly on Dec. 11.

Notre Dame appeared to be closing in on a commitment from Hayes following his de-commitment from USC in October, which was sandwiched in between a couple of visits to Notre Dame. Now, Michigan State and Ohio State are looming as threats to land Hayes, who must make a decision in December before he enrolls somewhere in January. Notre Dame is working to get him back on campus next month.

Late January or signing day decisions are expected from Kelly and McCulloch, but Jones could pull the trigger shortly after his official visit to Michigan in December. Jones loved his visit to Notre Dame in September, but Michigan has been recruiting him the longest, and the Wolverines receive the final visit.

Linebacker
Aaron Hansford
6-2, 210
Washington, D.C.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Florida, Oregon, Michigan St., Penn St.
UpdateOregon may be Notre Dame’s biggest threat going forward. Florida, Michigan State and UCLA are also contenders. This feels like a signing day decision.
Daelin Hayes
6-4, 250
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: Michigan State, Ohio State, Alabama, USC
UpdateMichigan State and Ohio State are threatening. Notre Dame hopes to get him on campus for a third time this season in December for the awards banquet. January enrollment looms.
Jonathan Jones
5-11, 209
Orlando, Fla.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Michigan, Duke, UCF, Stanford
UpdateNotre Dame and Michigan continue to fight it out for Jones, who’ll visit the Wolverines with one of his last looks. The Irish are serious contenders but might be a close second heading into winter.
Caleb Kelly
6-2, 220
Clovis, Calif.
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Sanford Top Offers: Alabama, FSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU, USC
Oklahoma still leads and most would be surprised if Kelly doesn’t end up in Norman. Notre Dame gets its shot in December with an official visit.
Jeffrey McCulloch
6-2, 225
Aldine, Texas
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Texas, USC
McCulloch visited for the USC weekend and saw a fit in South Bend. He’s the kind of prospect who fits the program and school. The issue is getting him away from home. Mike Elston visited during the bye week.

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