Notre Dame Football Spring ’24 Position Breakdown: Linebacker

One position that sustained key losses for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the off-season is at linebacker. Despite that concern, there are still plenty of talented players who now need to step up. How well they integrate themselves into the lineup and how strong the depth turns out to be could help offer a hint of how the 2024 campaign ends up.


Those losses focus on two players, J.D. Bertrand and Marist Liufau, both of whom offered valuable contributions during their time at Notre Dame. Bertrand’s leadership was one of his biggest assets, along with his 260 tackles and 22.5 stops behind the line over the past three years. That may not translate into a lucrative start to any pro career due to his size (six-feet tall), especially given injury concerns that limited his efforts at the NFL combine. Right now, he’s reportedly set to be selected sometime in the latter rounds, though his toughness and dedication may entice some team to choose him a bit earlier as a special teams candidate.

Liufau is an athletic player who moves well, even if his 117 tackles pales in comparison to Bertrand’s production. One of the reasons for that comparatively low number is that he missed the entire 2021 season after suffering a training camp injury. Some of the concerns about him at the next level don’t involve anything related to injuries. Instead, the focus on his instincts and his ability to consistently bring down a defender. He’s still likely to be chosen higher than Bertrand, though he’s not likely to get much higher than the third round. The Irish would have liked to keep him, but should have a sufficient supply of talent on hand to weather his absence.

One other player in this department that has left is Nolan Ziegler, who played minimal minutes during his two seasons. Last season, his three games of action consisted of one highlight: delivering a clutch block on Jadarian Price’s thrilling 99-yard kickoff return touchdown against Southern Cal. Ziegler is returning to his native Michigan, where he’ll play for the Central Michigan Chippewas.


Amid all the departures among last year’s squad through the transfer portal, the Notre Dame linebacking corps managed to emerge unscathed. One early entry who’s taking part in spring ball is Kyngston Viliamu-Asa, a player from who big things are expected during his time with the Irish.

Notre Dame managed to snag him despite some heated competition for a player who was ranked as the top linebacker available in the state of California. He matches Liufau’s size and possesses the instincts to make things happen. His athleticism works well in both running and passing situations, with the only issue possibly being how quickly Vilamu-Asa can adapt to the college game. Getting started under the low-pressure surroundings of spring football will bolster his comfort level and the hope is that he can build on that performance once fall training camp gets underway.

A Look Back and Ahead

Last season, Bertrand was the leader of a defense that mostly managed to stop opponents on a regular basis. There were definite struggles along the way, especially in the losses to Louisville and Clemson, However, the drop in yardage per game from 2022 was noteworthy, with Bertrand topping the list of tacklers and teaming with Liufau for 120 stops on the year.

The defense’s effort against Clemson may have been the most aggravating to watch for Irish fans. That’s because one of the Tigers’ starting running backs was out because of injury, yet they still ran for 176 yards on the afternoon. Maintaining attention to detail is a necessity for this season if the Irish have any hopes of a playoff bid.

Taking the instrument of leadership from Bertrand this year is Jack Kizer, who’s set for his fifth season at Notre Dame. During that lengthy span, he’s continually improved on his tackling numbers but did see a dip in his stops behind the line. He’s a smart player who especially thrives against the run but he’ll be tasked with making sure that the defense continues to keep pushing forward.

In the middle, Drayk Bowen is the top candidate to replace Bertrand who he backed up last season. Hopefully, he absorbed the information that Bertrand tried to instill, with the spring session, providing Bowen the opportunity to get the reps that weren’t there last season. If Bowen looks good in the spring, the Irish defense should be in good shape again.

Jaylen Sneed has an ample amount of talent but watched his stature fade during the 2023 season. He’s in danger of being challenged by a determined Jaiden Ausberry, who didn’t see a great deal of action as a freshman, but still managed to offer a positive impression.

One other member of this younger unit to watch during the spring is Preston Zinter, who’s expected to back up Kizer. The hope is that the same dynamic that existed between Bertrand and Bown takes place here, smoothing the transition for 2025.

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