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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 Notre Dame Spring Game

SOUTH BEND, IN - APRIL 23: Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman celebrates with players after the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football Game on April 23, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ⅛, 198 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Sneed has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: Sneed will be in the mix at Rover, now occasionally referred to as Sniper, but he enters preseason practices well behind senior Jack Kiser and junior Jordan Botelho. If Botelho spends more time along the defensive line, that could be seen as an indicator that Sneed has quickly proven himself worthy of added playing time.Recruiting: An Under Armour All-American, a Butkus Award finalist and the No. 46 overall prospect in the class, Sneed considered only Oregon about as much as he did Notre Dame. All along, the Irish had an advantage, though. Well, if not all along, as soon as Marcus Freeman was hired as defensive coordinator in January of 2021, they did. Freeman has long known Sneed’s high school coach, BJ Payne, a connection tracing back to Freeman’s wife, Joanna.

Thus, Freeman had a bit of an inside track on chasing Sneed early on.

Sneed was already keen to trust his high school coach’s judgment, as it had proven prophetic before. A few weeks into his freshman year, Sneed remembers Payne talking him up as a future star.

“He told me I was going to be something special one day, and then after that day, he took me in as one of his own,” Sneed said this February. “Just has taught me up and taught me how to be a man and just grown me from what I was freshman year to what I am today.”

Sneed did not believe his coach until a year later, when he realized he was keeping up with the seniors on the team.

Wait a second, did Sneed get a sponsorship deal with the Hyatt Place in South Bend for a month of lodging early in the summer? More power to him if so, this is just a bit ambiguous.

Depending when that month was, he may have been there when he signed a representation deal with Octagon, a prototypical management and marketing firm.

One has to think Sneed was able to get some free gear from Fabletics on his own, though.

“Sneed’s broad shoulders do not rob him of quickness, making him a threat both in pass coverage and in pass rushing. He makes quick and correct decisions that speak to both football instincts and a willingness to study film. …

“Sneed’s profile is that of a player too good to keep on the sideline for long, so Freeman will need to find a way to get him on the field, and rover feels like the most likely destination, even as Jack Kiser still has three years of eligibility remaining and freshman Prince Kollie has yet to get his chance.

“Linebacker depth will be a great problem for the Irish to have, one that is hardly a problem, as evidenced by this year’s rash of injuries.”

Kiser’s knack for making plays makes him Notre Dame’s clear starter at Rover, and he has proven to be durable over the years, most notably remaining available against South Florida in 2020 when much of the defense was not.

Botelho’s presence among the linebackers this spring underscored the Irish need to get him on the field. He is too physically talented to not play, even if neither defensive end nor linebacker seems to perfectly encompass his skill set.

That puts Sneed in a tough position if wanting to be in the rotation as a freshman. Obviously, that is not an absolute necessity, but with someone as talented as Sneed, it cannot be ruled out.

Coverage is where linebackers usually struggle initially in college. They simply are not asked to do it that often in high school, as Sneed wasn’t, but proving himself on the camp circuit erased that worry.

At the least, Sneed should find a niche defensive package he can contribute to. Perhaps that is goal-line situations. Maybe it is third-down specific. Any such gig will create half a dozen opportunities each week for him to leave an imprint on the game.

Add in certain special teams duties, and Sneed should play in most games this season and end with 10-plus tackles.

Kiser has three seasons of eligibility, but this space will continue to assume sixth years will be rare occurrences. If granting that presumption, then Botelho will be Sneed’s primary competition for the starting role in 2024, except by then, Botelho likely will be stationed firmly at Vyper end.

Vyper end is the most hybrid position in the current defensive alignment, and Botelho is a player tailor-made for a hybrid role. Once both Isaiah Foskey and Justin Ademilola depart Notre Dame after this season, plenty of playing time will await Botelho at Vyper end, leaving Sneed behind Kiser at Rover.

Taking some time to break out at Rover is becoming the common trend at the position. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah did not command everyone’s attention until his junior year. Kiser did not earn a starting role until his junior year. Sneed taking over as Kiser departs would fit that exact timing.

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL

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