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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end

Joshua Burnham

Listed measurements: 6-foot-4, 214 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Burnham has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: Recruited as a linebacker, a key word to describe Burnham as a prospect was “versatile,” suggesting then he may make a position switch once in college, and indeed, Burnham moved up to Vyper end this spring, where he will have plenty of time to grow into the new role. Senior Isaiah Foskey and fifth-year Justin Ademilola will get the bulk of snaps at Vyper with senior Osita Ekwonu chipping in next.Recruiting: The Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year and a consensus four-star prospect, Burnham chose Notre Dame over his homestate power while Wisconsin chased in vain. The No. 4 inside linebacker and No. 127 overall recruit in the class, per, Burnham committed on his birthday, otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Day, a rather clear indication of his choice before he made it public.

Burnham spoke with the media, as did most of the Irish early enrollees, the first week of February, and throughout that conversation, Burnham repeatedly mentioned Notre Dame’s imminent hiring of a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, giving credence to the thought that his move to the defensive line was not long-planned.

“I’m just trying to put some weight on, maintain some speed, see whoever they bring in for a linebacker coach and DC,” Burnham said. “We’ll find the right fit.”

That weight gain was also a common theme, giving credence to the thought that a move to the defensive line was not an entirely foreign concept to Burnham.

Mostly, though, he expressed a desire to find that fit and stick to it after playing on both sides of the ball throughout high school.

“There’s a lot of talent all over the field, so being able to give it your all just on one side, it’s going to be huge,” Burnham said.

It may take a little bit to see a No. 40 jersey and not think of Drew White.

“Burnham’s speed is enough to beat a running back to the edge because that moment combines his foot speed with his play diagnosis. He is not necessarily fast enough to keep up with a receiver in coverage. Hence, his future will remain between the tackles.

Realizing Burnham is new to his current position and buried on the depth chart, there will be a reflex to see him as the solution for running back depth since he starred offensively in high school. Burnham ran for 1,515 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2021 while throwing for 963 yards and 14 more touchdowns.

That was as a quarterback against over-matched opposition.

It was not as a running back bracing for top-tier defenses.

Burnham is unlikely to move to running back as a band-aid this season, even if finding some depth there will be necessary.

Rather, his 76 tackles with 12.5 for loss and two interceptions last season portend his future. But that is his future, not this season.

Burnham will have plenty of time to get that wanted weight on while Foskey and Ademilola star. Some of that time should result in special teams work. That, if anything, may be the natural progression for a two-way high school star.

Both Foskey and Ademilola should head to the NFL after this season, leaving the Vyper depth chart uncertain at best. Ekwonu has four career tackles; early-enrolled freshman Aiden Gobaira has one advantage on Burnham, more time at defensive end, but an advantage that will diminish over this upcoming season.

A contributing role should be there for the taking for Burnham, but a starting role? That may still most likely be Jordan Botelho’s.

The junior spent plenty of spring practice working at Rover, but that seems like an attempt to get the dynamic playmaker on the field, regardless of position, rather than a full-fledged position change. Rover and Vyper have a good deal in common, in fact, balancing inverse ratios of pass rush with pass coverage.

Once Foskey and Ademilola have abdicated the leading roles at Notre Dame’s hybrid end gig, a Botelho return there full-time would make an abundance of sense.

That would keep Burnham out of the starting lineup until at least 2024, but there is plenty for him to learn along the defensive line in that interim.

RELATED READING: Michigan football phenom Josh Burnham steadfastly humble, hungryNotre Dame’s Nick Lezynski played key role in Joshua Burnham’s commitment

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. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL

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