The Irish need help at the back end of their defense.
Although Notre Dame missed on multiple defensive backs and lost a couple cornerback commitments last cycle, the Irish did land two safeties with potential. Isaiah Robertson enrolled early and impressed during spring ball. Next up is Jordan Genmark-Heath, who’s set to start his Notre Dame career in June.
According to trainer Alex Johnson of San Diego, Calif., who’s worked with Genmark-Heath this off-season, Notre Dame will get an athlete ready to help this fall.
“The main thing that I’ve seen out of Jordan and his workouts is his work ethic is a lot more mature than average high school athletes,” Johnson said. “His work ethic is way above. I train professional athletes. I worked with Tony Jefferson of the Baltimore Ravens, the top safety in the NFL right now and I see a lot of similarities.”
Johnson believes that how Genmark-Heath has developed this off-season will put the San Diego Cathedral star in position to offer the Irish some unique position flexibility.
“The thing about Jordan, I don’t know that he’s going to end up being a safety in the end because he’s putting on mass too easy without our intentions,” Johnson said. “I really think he’s going to end up either being a huge safety or a linebacker.
“We’re not even working on strength and conditioning. We aren’t even working on things with the weights and he’s gaining mass just from running. He’s not even in college yet so I can see him putting on some more weight. I could see him at, like 225 (pounds) by the end of the season.”
Understanding Genmark-Heath’s work ethic requires a little backstory on the Swedish import, whose father won a green card lottery to bring his family to California, where his son could thrive in the sport that he loved. Johnson has seen that family history translate into workouts this spring.
“We were doing some conditioning at the end of the workout,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty hard, it’s called a ‘no-huddle drill.’ I told him he was cut-off because he was really winded. He started yelling. He went to a different phase I hadn’t seen. He said, ‘my dad won the lottery for me to get here! I can’t quit, I’ve got to push through!’
“This guy pushes all the way through, he goes outside, throws-up, comes back in and says, ‘I have to finish coach! I have to finish!’ This is the kind of kid he is.”
Given Genmark-Heath began his football career by learning the fundamentals of football via Youtube videos, he’s taken a back-to-basics approach to his off-season training.
“I’ve just been working on my fundamentals,” Genmark-Heath said. “Especially coming from Sweden, I don’t really have the same background with fundamentals. If I can just work on those fundamentals, be able to break a little faster and come out of a backpedal and tackling-wise, I can definitely ‘up’ my game a little bit. I’ve been working on day-one stuff. For most, that’s like Pop-Warner, but for me, it’s all new.”
Aside from fundamentals, Genmark-Heath knows his next challenge will be adjusting to the speed of the college football game.
“I’ve been working on that and in the weight room, I’ve been working on cardio and explosiveness,” Genmark-Heath said. “I usually ran a 4.65 (40-yard dash), but I actually clocked in a 4.58 (40-yard dash). So, the explosiveness definitely came in handy.”
Genmark-Heath made the trip from San Diego to South Bend for the Blue-Gold Game last month. While on campus he met with new defensive coordinator Mike Elko. The two got straight to work.
“We sat down and talked about how everything is going,” Genmark-Heath said. “Then we started talking about the team and then we got straight into the playbook.
“We sat there for, maybe four to five hours. We went through day one install, day two install. I watched a lot of game film from Wake Forest, just trying to catch me up on what players there already know.”
After talking face-to-face with Elko, studying film back in San Diego, and training rigorously, Genmark-Heath feels he’s ready to compete for snaps at the stud position.
“This is just my personal thought about it, if I can get the playbook down, I’m going to be able to compete right away for that starting spot,” Genmark-Heath said. “That’s my plan. I asked him to send me some game film. I’ve been seeing what I can work on. It makes it easier for me because I’m a visual learner.”
Even if Genmark-Heath is behind learning the game, at 207 pounds he should fit right in during summer workouts.
“If you look at the safeties at Notre Dame, they’re a lot smaller than me, Isaiah (Robertson), Jeremiah (Owusu-Koramoah) and even Derrik Allen from the 2018 class,” Genmark-Heath said. “Coach Elko’s (defensive backs) are a lot bigger than most. We’re coming in at about 6-2, 200 (pounds), Isaiah (Robertson) is 6-3 and like 215 (pounds) right now.
“It’s going to be fun, I’m really excited. I feel like I haven’t played football in years. I can’t wait to get out there.”