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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 2 Jordan Genmark Heath, junior linebacker

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Clemson v Notre Dame

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Jordan Genmark Heath #2 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs off the field at halftime against the Clemson Tigers during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-¾, 231 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Genmark Heath has two seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: Genmark Heath and sophomore Jack Lamb will spend the preseason competing for work at Buck linebacker. If Lamb remains healthy and on his springtime trajectory, Genmark Heath may have his work cut out for him.Recruiting: Genmark Heath arriving at Notre Dame came as the result of persistence from newly-hired Irish assistant coaches. When defensive coordinator Mike Elko and then-linebackers coach Clark Lea arrived from Wake Forest, they revived their pursuit of the consensus three-star safety, then a Cal commit. Their new scholarship offer clearly carried more appeal than the Deacons version did.

Sought as a safety, Genmark Heath made an immediate impact on special teams. He then saw his first real defensive action against LSU in the Citrus Bowl, racking up five of his season’s 16 tackles.

Late last spring, Genmark Heath made the move from safety to Buck. The switch did not come with the expectation of much playing time, knowing Drue Tranquill would not rest much. That was underscored when Tranquill missed only a few snaps after suffering a high ankle sprain in late October. While Genmark Heath got the next week’s start and made six tackles, Tranquill gritted his way through the game’s pivotal snaps.

2017: 13 games; 16 tackles.2018: 13 games, one start; 16 tackles.

What is somewhat noticeable about Genmark Heath is 11 of his tackles have come in defensive situations. Managing 21 special teams tackles in two seasons is impressive in its own way, but seizing those competitive moments to make 11 tackles stands out more applicably.

Within one conversation at the end of spring practices, now-defensive coordinator Lea made two points about Genmark Heath’s progression. He is “still only a year into playing at the second level,” a jump that was even more abrupt for Genmark Heath than Lea would have preferred. Notre Dame has made a bit of a habit of moving safeties to linebacker: Tranquill, current sophomore Paul Moala, Genmark Heath.

When the Irish do so, the trend has been safety to Rover to Buck, but Genmark Heath skipped that middle step.

“We want to be developmental, so we want to recruit a raw skill set or ability set at each position and have the awareness that a corner might grow physically to being a safety, a safety might grow physically to being a linebacker, but a lot of times that path takes you through the Rover position,” Lea said. “... Jordan Genmark Heath out of necessity last year skipped the first move into the second.”

Lea went on to point out how often the Buck linebacker functions as a pseudo-Rover.

“The way offense is played now, there’s not a position that’s not required to play in space, so when you start looking at the game with two (receivers) removed to the boundary, your Buck is playing Rover, just in confined spaces.”

“Moving Genmark Heath forward to linebacker grants him essentially another year of development. Enough worthwhile safeties had arrived (Alohi Gilman and Houston Griffith, specifically) to force Genmark Heath out of contention there, and that may seem a disappointment, but the opportunities removed from the safety depth chart were apparent among the linebackers.

“For that matter, Genmark Heath not moving forward until most of spring practice had passed indicates Lea was not sold on relying on (D.J.) Morgan, (Bo) Bauer or Lamb if Tranquill were to suffer an injury. Lea gave them their chance through March and half of April. The time had come to make a change.

“Being that change does not mean Genmark Heath will see much time. Tranquill’s backup, whomever it may be, will not be called upon in competitive situations unless Tranquill falls to a third drastic injury in his career.

“Thus, Genmark Heath should again focus on special teams duties while learning the ins and outs of his new position — ‘At some point you have to know exactly what gap you’re going to,’ he said in April.”

The Irish linebackers remain a question mark heading into the preseason, and that includes the mix at Buck. But at Buck, the likelihoods are at least limited. Either Genmark Heath or Lamb should end up the starter, and the other will play a contributing role.

As March turned to April, Lamb surged at the position, largely based on his aptitude in coverage. Genmark Heath may well yet beat out at Lamb for the primary role, but it is more likely the junior finds a run-package responsibility and continues to excel on special teams.

If he falls behind Lamb, then Genmark Heath is staring at a career as a backup, albeit quite a productive one. Lamb has all four years of eligibility remaining, as do freshmen J.D. Bertrand and Osita Ekwonu, the buttresses of depth at Buck.

A move back to safety would not make much sense, either, given the young talent biding its time along the back line.

While he was a needed salve when recruited, Genmark Heath finding himself off the top line of a crowded depth chart is a reflection of Notre Dame’s vastly-improved defensive recruiting in the last two cycles.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver
No. 16: K.J. Wallace, freshman defensive back, three-star
No. 15 Isaiah Rutherford, freshman defensive back, consensus four-star
No. 15: Phil Jurkovec, sophomore quarterback
No. 14: Kyle Hamilton, freshman safety, consensus four-star
No. 13: Lawrence Keys, sophomore receiver
No. 13: Paul Moala, sophomore safety-turned-linebacker
No. 12: DJ Brown, sophomore cornerback-turned-safety
No. 12: Ian Book, starting quarterback
No. 11: Alohi Gilman, senior safety
No. 10: Chris Finke, fifth-year receiver, second-year starter
No. 9: Cam Hart, freshman receiver
No. 9: Daelin Hayes, senior defensive end
No. 8: Donte Vaughn, senior cornerback
No. 8: Jafar Armstrong, starting running back, junior
No. 7: Brendon Clark, freshman quarterback
No. 7: Derrik Allen, sophomore safety
No. 6: Tony Jones, senior running back
No. 5: Troy Pride, starting cornerback, senior
No. 4: Avery Davis, sophomore defensive back, former quarterback-turned-running back
No. 4: Kevin Austin, sophomore receiver
No. 3: Houston Griffith, sophomore cornerback