WHAT NOTRE DAME HAS
Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral four-star linebacker Pete Werner became Notre Dame’s ninth commitment when he chose the Irish last week over offers from more than 20 programs, including Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.
The 6-foot-2 ½ athlete projects at Sam linebacker for Notre Dame. He has experience playing safety and corner and understands the responsibilities of the secondary. Werner’s read-and-react ability coupled with his speed in pursuit comprise his strengths. He has a long frame and can continue to add weight.
Werner is a Scout 300 prospect, ranked 259 overall. Scout rates him as the country’s 20th outside linebacker and second-ranked outside linebacker in the Midwest.
Notre Dame currently has the No. 4 overall class in 2017 behind Ohio State, Oklahoma and Clemson.
WHY IT MATTERS
On paper, Notre Dame seemed like the runaway favorite to land Werner, an Indiana linebacker from the state’s most prolific Catholic school on the gridiron. Despite the obvious ties, Werner didn’t grow up a Notre Dame fan and didn’t put the Irish in a category of their own once he added the offer in February.
But it was Irish linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston that recruited Werner harder than any other coach. That, combined with what Notre Dame was able to showcase academically, culturally and on the field during Werner’s Junior Day experience gave him a fresh perspective on the school less than three hours away.
After missing on two of the state’s top two prospects in 2016 (Austin Mack and Auston Robertson) and the top prospect in 2017 (Hunter Johnson), Notre Dame is back on track after landing Werner, and is in pole position to add Werner’s younger teammate and potentially the state’s top prospect in 2018, running back Markese Stepp, in the coming months.
Of Notre Dame’s three linebacker commitments, all claim offers from Michigan. The Irish have crossed paths with the Wolverines more than any other program on the recruiting trail in 2017. Following the trio of linebackers that fell Notre Dame’s way, momentum currently favors the Irish.
WHAT NOTRE DAME WANTS
Notre Dame could be finished recruiting Sam linebackers in this cycle. Ideally the Irish will sign four linebackers in February, so there’s room for one more. That spot would likely go to an inside linebacker prospect, although the Irish already have two commitments there in Drew White and David Adams.
James Onwualu returns for his final season, which will be his third year starting at Sam linebacker in Brian VanGorder’s defense.
Greer Martini should also factor at the position after getting work their last season as a sophomore, although he’s out for the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. He’s also expected to challenge Nyles Morgan at the middle linebacker spot and could even get a look at Will.
Asmar Bilal, coming off a red-shirt season when he won Scout Team Player of the Year, should provide depth. However, Bilal has been running as the first-team Will linebacker during spring ball.
Incoming freshman Jamir Jones is expected to red-shirt and could be moved to defensive end early in his college career.