Notre Dame has quickly built depth at the new ROVER position that Mike Elko brought with him from Wake Forest earlier this year. With plenty of internal candidates to man the position in 2017, an intriguing ’17 signee, and now perhaps a player tailormade for the position in Shayne Simon; the Irish will have no shortage of ROVERs for the next few years.
A quick look at the projected depth chart for 2017 reveals that Notre Dame is pretty set with its depth at ROVER for the fall. Here’s a rundown of them all.
- Drue Tranquill – After playing safety the last three years, Tranquill has settled in nicely at ROVER and the staff has been very high on him there ever since the move. Tranquill has always been a big hitter and got his career started early by being an option specialist. The position suits him well.
- Asmar Bilal – Still could grow into a BUCK LB and challenge for playing time next year, but looks like Bilal will be the primary backup to Tranquill. It wouldn’t shock me, however to see Bilal get some reps at ROVER and Tranquill see some time back in the secondary against some of the power teams on the schedule like Michigan State and Stanford.
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – One of the late additions to the class of 2017. Owusu is still a bit raw, but his athleticism jumps off the page and he was almost immediately targeted by Elko and LB coach Clark Lea in January. A special teams role this year isn’t out of the question.
- DJ Morgan – Some think that safety DJ Morgan will eventually grow into a ROVER but given the depth at safety, it would be surprising to see that move this year. With Shayne Simon on board in 2018, that move probably shouldn’t be made next year either.
Between Tranquill and Bilal, Notre Dame has a two deep at the position comprised of upperclassmen with experience. Notre Dame can win games with either one of them in the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see how the two are used since Tranquill has been a safety in a linebacker’s body while Bilal’s been a linebacker in a safety’s body. Neither was recruited for the position, but both are natural fits for it.
Where Shayne Simon Fits in Next Year
Every one of Notre Dame’s 2017 ROVERs is eligible to return in 2018. Tranquill tore his ACL a second time in the first half of the 3rd game of the season in 2015 celebrating a big defensive stop. While the injury was anything but ideal, the timing of it was. Because it took place in the 1st half of the 3rd game, Tranquill maintained a year of eligibility that he can exercise in 2018 should he so choose. If Tranquill plays like some think he will this fall, a return seems certain.
Notre Dame will graduate both Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan at the two other linebacker positions following this season. That could prompt a move over to BUCK for BIlal if he is able to add enough weight between now and then. Heading into his junior season, however, Bilal is currently listed at just 229 lbs. 2017 starter Greer Martini is listed at 240 lbs. Notre Dame’s linebacker depth looks a bit dicey for 2018 at the moment though so bulking up Bilal might be Notre Dame’s best bet.
If Bilal moves over the BUCK, that would leave Owusu-Koramoah and Simon to battle it out for the backup ROVER position behind Tranquill in 2018. That would be a really fun battle to watch if it happened. Owusu is still raw but has a lot of potential while Simon is already playing a hybrid safety/linebacker role and could step foot on campus ready to play day one.
Notre Dame looks set at the ROVER position for years with the players on the roster now and with Simon on board.
Other Linebacker Spots in This Class
Notre Dame now has Simon, Ovie Oghoufo, and Bo Bauer on board for the class of 2018 at linebacker, but they are still looking to add more. MIKE LB Jack Lamb is high on Notre Dame’s board but the Irish will have to battle UCLA for him and the Bruins have recently moved ahead. Notre Dame is also still heavily involved with Cam McGrone but have a battle with Michigan on their hands for his services.
With Simon in the fold, it will be interesting to watch what Notre Dame does here moving forward. With three scholarships taken up by linebackers already and a big need in the secondary, the focus of the defensive staff would seem to have to move their, but with McGrone and Lamb such highly rated talents, the staff will almost certainly continue to recruit both hard.
Even if Notre Dame doesn’t add another backer this year though, they will have done very well with the trio of Simon, Oghoufo, and Bauer.