The Rise of Jack Kiser and the Next Generation Notre Dame Linebackers

Jack Kiser's leadership journey for Notre Dame Football leads to him mentoring young Irish linebackers

Not only do seasons change within the sports world, but so do the faces on teams. For the upcoming 2024 season, Notre Dame will be replacing many players at various positions, including two familiar faces at linebacker: J.D. Bertrand and Marist Liufau. Bertrand’s 260 tackles and 22.5 tackles for loss over the past three seasons will be the bigger loss of the two, but Liufau’s experience and athleticism will certainly be missed as well.

Luckily for Notre Dame, fifth-year linebacker Jack Kiser is the one guy younger players and coaches can rely on. Earlier this week, Notre Dame linebacker coach Max Bullough admitted that he was well aware of the type of advantage Kiser brings to the Irish defense.

“Kiser has always been the utility knife in terms of being able to play any spot that we ask him to do, which is a valuable part of what he is,” Bullough stated. “Kiser is one of the most improved players, in my opinion, over the past year and a half since I’ve gotten here.

“He’s always known what to do, but he’s finally starting to take even more control of the situation, Bullough continued. “Then more so, it is as simple as you got to go take more shots. You’ve got to take calculated risks, and you’re smart enough to know when those are. Don’t make dumb decisions, but you have to take calculated risks. It’s not enough to do your job. We have to get the ball carrier down, and we have to make big plays.”

Kiser has played under multiple defensive coordinators and position coaches at Notre Dame. This is Kiser’s sixth spring camp with the Irish, so one would assume he’s pretty much seen it all, but Kiser said the contrary.

“You’d think everything is going to be the same because you’ve kind of been through it, but fortunately for me, everything has been different,” Kiser admitted. “There’s been a lot of new experiences and a lot of new people in the building whether that’s in the weight room or on the field getting to play with new guys.

“When you take so many reps with J.D. and Marist, you kind of take that for granted, Kiser added. “So now I’m working with the younger guys, feeling them out, and learning how they play and their playing style. I’m pushing them to get better, and it’s been a really fun spring. It’s made me a better football player for sure.”

One of the younger players that Kiser has taken under his wing is Indiana’s own, Drayk Bowen. The Adrean High School product played in 12 games for Notre Dame last season, serving the Irish on special teams and as a reserve linebacker. He finished with 14 tackles including eight solo stops. Bowen hopes to one day be the same type of leader that Kiser is for Notre Dame when it’s his time around.

“I don’t feel like I have to take on a leadership role, but I feel like I want to, and I should,” linebacker Drayk Bowen stated. “Obviously, with Kiser being the oldest student in the linebacker room, he’s going to be the main leader. I feel like I want to be right behind him when people have questions or want someone to look up to. I want them to be able to look up to me also.”

Last season, Kiser tallied 62 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one interception. Although those numbers do not jump off the page as much as Bertrand’s, his intangibles seem to catch the eyes of his peers.

“It’s been great having Jack (Kiser) in the linebacker room, with his I.Q. and him having played a lot of football,” Bowen expressed. “Being able to ask questions to him about the playbook, certain plays, certain alignments the offense is giving us and him having answers to that has been really helpful. He’s learned stuff, too. We’re all learning stuff at the same time, so being able to communicate with him, talk with him, and play with him has been phenomenal all spring.”

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