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

Rivals_Genmark Heath

Genmark-Heath (

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-¾, 211 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Sophomore with three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2018.
Depth chart: Genmark Heath’s move to Buck linebacker makes his place on the depth chart quite clear: He backs up fifth-year Drue Tranquill and has only freshmen competing with him for that duty, namely Jack Lamb and, to a lesser extent, Bo Bauer. Fellow former-safety junior D.J. Morgan is also in that mix, but Genmark Heath has been ahead of Morgan at both positions for two seasons now.
Recruiting: The consensus three-star recruit’s late de-commitment from Cal and subsequent choosing of Notre Dame tied directly to the arrival of one-year defensive coordinator Mike Elko and then-linebackers coach (now defensive coordinator) Clark Lea. The two had sought Genmark Heath while at Wake Forest, failing to outpace not only Cal but also the likes of Vanderbilt, Oregon State and Utah.

Genmark Heath made his presence known on special teams much of last season before enjoying something of a breakthrough in the Citrus Bowl victory against LSU, making five tackles with four of them coming on defense rather than kickoff coverage. Considering that game came down to the final minutes, those were clearly all competitive moments, not mop-up duty in the slightest.

2017: 13 games; 16 tackles.

Genmark Heath’s move to Buck linebacker from safety came in only the last week or two of spring practice. By his count, the Blue-Gold Game was his third day in the new role. That late switch made it something of a surprise to bystanders, but it was clearly something the coaching staff thought about beforehand. Irish head coach Brian Kelly pointed to the theoretical depth Genmark Heath could create, allowing senior rover Asmar Bilal to focus on his primary duties rather than continuing to cross-train.

Lea focused more on what specifically Genmark Heath may be able to do at the second-level position.

“We don’t move a guy unless we identify things that he brings to the table that allow him to be successful,” Lea said the week of the spring finale. “It’s not just throwing paint at the wall. We’ve seen him play in a manner that we know he can handle the Buck position. I would argue he’s looked very natural there.

“… You know what he can do at safety, too, so we’re not closing our eyes to that possibility. But you have a short window here (in the spring) where you have a chance to get a look at somebody who makes you more athletic at the second level. We needed to do it.”

When a player changes positions to back up someone in his last year of eligibility, wonderings about future considerations are understandable.

“You always have a mind for the future,” Lea said to a question directly about coming seasons. “Everything you do is first for the current season, but always forward-thinking. That’s the only way you stay out in front of things.

“As it pertains to what [Genmark Heath is] doing right now, the immediacy of getting him reps in there, that has to do with this fall. I’m not doing that for him to watch the game from the sideline. I want him to be able to contribute from that position no different than he would at safety.”

Genmark Heath understood the move toward the snap. His physical nature makes more sense closer to the line of scrimmage, and the depth chart at linebacker presents ample opportunity for him both this season and moving forward.

“It was just looking at our depth at linebacker,” he said after the Blue-Gold Game. “[The coaches] know what I can do at safety. It was just testing me out a little bit, and I guess they saw that I could play it.”

That does not mean Genmark Heath entirely anticipated that conversation with Lea. Once he had that talk, though, Genmark Heath understood.

“It caught me off-guard a little bit, but I could kind of see it, how my body was,” he said. “When I first came in, I gained a lot of weight. At the same time, at my playing style, it was either going to be that or some type of outside linebacker because I’m more of a downhill safety.

“It came a little from nowhere, but it’s been good.”

“A strong fall camp would quickly vault Genmark Heath into the safety rotation discussion. That is an inevitable possibility given the current unproven nature of the position group.

“Whether or not he makes that leap, Genmark Heath could be called upon on special teams. The Irish need contributors there, both on return and coverage units. Genmark Heath may already be physical enough to fill those roles and make special teams coordinator Brian Polian’s life a bit easier.

“… If his body fills out as one would expect with time spent in a collegiate strength program, Genmark Heath could become Elko’s ideal of a downhill run-stopper who can provide coverage skills when necessary.”

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 Morgan, 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.

For his sake, hopefully Genmark Heath is not sick of position contests yet. Nominally, he was a part of one last preseason, and this spring safety duties were certainly up for grabs once again. Next season, the Buck starting gig will be there for the taking, and Genmark Heath will be the first one in the mix if this spring is any indication.

He will have steep competition. Both Lamb and Bauer arrive highly-touted and strongly-recruited, yet one beating out Genmark Heath will not inherently condemn him to another season on the bench. Senior Te’von Coney’s imminent departure will open up a vacancy at Mike linebacker, as well, and Lea has shown a predilection to getting his best players on the field, even if slightly out of position.

With that in mind, a season learning under Tranquill should position Genmark Heath to be one of those players for at least parts of two seasons. Barring a significant leap, perhaps the most realistic outlook envisions a future linebacker rotation between him, Lamb and Bauer.

RELATED READING: Genmark Heath’s move shows both Notre Dame’s need for linebacker depth & surplus of safeties

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 98 Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle, sophomore
No. 68 Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 60 Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman, senior
No. 57 (theoretically) Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 56 John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 55 Jonathan Bonner, defensive tackle, fifth-year senior
No. 54 John Shannon, long snapper, junior
No. 53 Khalid Kareem, defensive end, junior
No. 53 Sam Mustipher, center and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 52 Bo Bauer, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 47 Kofi Wardlow, defensive end, sophomore
No. 45 Jonathan Jones, linebacker, junior
No. 44 Jamir Jones, defensive end, junior
No. 42 Julian Okwara, defensive end, junior
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 40 Drew White, linebacker, sophomore
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, kickoff specialist, sophomore
No. 34 Jahmir Smith, running back, early-enrolled freshman
No. 33 Shayne Simon, linebacker, incoming freshman
No. 31 Jack Lamb, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 30 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, linebacker, sophomore
No. 29 Ovie Oghoufo, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 28 Nicco Fertitta, safety, senior
No. 27 Julian Love, cornerback, junior, second-team All-American
No. 25 Braden Lenzy, receiver, incoming freshman
No. 24 Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 24 Nick Coleman, defensive back, senior
No. 23 Drue Tranquill, linebacker, two-time captain, fifth-year senior
No. 22 Asmar Bilal, rover, senior
No. 21 Jalen Elliott, safety, junior
No. 20 Shaun Crawford, nickelback, senior
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, running back, incoming freshman
No. 19 Justin Yoon, placekicker, senior
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, defensive end, incoming freshman
No. 18 Joe Wilkins, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 17 Isaiah Robertson, safety-turned-rover, sophomore
No. 16 Noah Boykin, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 15 D.J. Morgan, safety-turned-linebacker, junior
No. 15 Phil Jurkovec, quarterback, consensus four-star incoming freshman
No. 14 Devin Studstill, safety, junior
No. 13 Lawrence Keys, receiver, incoming freshman
No. 13 Paul Moala, local safety, incoming freshman
No. 12 DJ Brown, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 12 Ian Book, quarterback, junior
No. 11 Alohi Gilman, safety, Navy transfer
No. 10 Tariq Bracy, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 10 Chris Finke, receiver, senior, former walk-on
No. 9 Daelin Hayes, defensive end, junior
No. 8 Jafar Armstrong, running back/receiver, sophomore
No. 8 Donte Vaughn, cornerback, junior
No. 7 Brandon Wimbush, quarterback, senior
No. 7 Derrik Allen, consensus four-star safety, incoming freshman
No. 6 Tony Jones, running back, junior
No. 5 Troy Pride, cornerback, junior
No. 4 Te’von Coney, linebacker, senior
No. 4 Kevin Austin, consensus four-star receiver, incoming freshman
No. 3 Houston Griffith, consensus four-star safety, early-enrolled freshman
No. 3 Avery Davis, quarterback and running back and receiver

No. 35 David Adams, linebacker, sophomore

No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

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