On National Signing Day, we posted an overview of the 2019 Notre Dame recruiting class with recruit grades and some thoughts on the class. Then we went into more detail on the offensive skill position guys, because you know they’d be primadonnas if we didn’t do them first, then the guys who clear the road for them. Yesterday we checked out the other manliest men on the team. Today we’re going to look at the group that has to do a little bit of everything.

As a reminder, here’s our standard grading scale for this exercise:

95-100: Truly elite prospect with All-American potential
90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference level potential
85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman
80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact
75-79: Likely a backup
70-74: Reach by the coaching staff


247C Score 18S Grade Player City/State Ht/Wt Pos Stars
.9163 89 Osi Ekwonu Charlotte, NC 6-2/220 ILB * * * * *
.8918 80 JD Bertrand Roswell, GA 6-1/220 OLB * * * * *
.8880 82 Jack Kiser Royal Center, IN 6-2/215 OLB * * * * *
.8842 82 Marist Liufau Honolulu, HI 6-3/210 OLB * * * * *

ILB Osi Ekwonu

18S Average: 89.3

Brendan: 90

Ekwonu is a fantastic athlete with a hard-nosed approach to the game. He already looks like a college player and will be even more impressive after a year or two with Matt Balis. He hits like a truck and, for a guy his size, he flies – ND lists him at 6-2/220, and his PR in the 100M is a very respectable 11.14. With another 15 pounds or so I could see him locking down the Mike spot in Clark Lea’s defense. I think he’s a future starter for sure.

Eric: 88

Fills an immediate need as a physically imposing grown man ready to make copious amounts of tackles at linebacker. Ekwonu should be a menace coming down hill, and shows really good fundamentals getting off blocks. Actually looks surprisingly nimble moving backwards and laterally. Maybe not getting talked about too much but someone who could play as a freshman and will get some love next off-season as a potential starter.

Jaden: 90

Probably the most exciting of the linebackers coming in. He has an ideal frame and was a punishing (and fast) running back in high school. By all accounts he has a great head on his shoulders and chose Notre Dame amongst a really solid offer list. I would expect him to be a multi-year starter and be a “lead by example” type over the course of his career.

Tyler: 90

His recruitment was so quiet that it’s almost easy to forget he’s a part of this class. Ekwonu is a heck of an athlete, though, and was a force for his high school team both at linebacker and running back. Potentially the next Tevon Coney, both in terms of beaing a beast at Mike linebacker and also looking like an absolute monster. I can only imagine what he’ll look like after working out under Balis for a year.

OLB JD Bertrand

18S Average: 80.3

Brendan: 80

Downhill player who’s absolutely fearless in traffic and shows solid versatility. His highlights remind me a little of David Adams before his arm injuries; not really exceptional at any one thing, but pretty good at everything. The longtime Georgia commit was reportedly pushed out of their class and then turned down scholarship offers from other FBS programs to be a PWO/scholarship-in-waiting at Notre Dame. If nothing else, we know he wants to be here. Should be no worse than a depth guy.

Eric: 80

He has the neck of a linebacker which is good. Not the tallest guy out there but looks like he has decent length to make up for it. A nice combination of down-hill middle linebacker but can also get out and run a little bit. He strikes me as someone who might be kind of good early in his career but might not improve a ton.

Jaden: 84

A solid prospect with good instincts as a LB. In terms of production, I’d expect him to serve a role of someone like Greer Martini who is a fringe starter but not quite athletic enough to ideally be starting every snap. With that being said, I think he might have some Drue Tranquill in him with grit and will to succeed. For a third comparison, I think he could be the Bo Bauer guy who quielty doesn’t redshirt next season.

Tyler: 77

A downhill, physical linebacker who plays with a controlled aggression. Lower ceiling/higher floor type of kid. Reminds me of the kind of kid that bides his time and then ends up starting as a 4th and 5th year senior for teams like Michigan State or Stanford. Ideally not the kind of guy that we’d have starting full-time, but perfect as a situational player.

OLB Jack Kiser

18S Average: 81.5

Brendan: 83

Kiser posted senior year stats that would look ridiculous in Madden on rookie mode: 64 total touchdowns (44 rushing, 18 passing, 2 defensive), 159 tackles, 13 turnovers caused, led his team to a +897 point differential in 15 games. His father and uncle were track and field stars at Purdue, with his uncle making All-American; Jack himself made the state podium in shot put and discus as a junior. His oldest brother played football at FCS Illinois State, while his sister runs track at Louisville. It’s an athletic family, obviously. Plus his grandmother was Ara Parseghian’s office manager after he retired from coaching, so there’s a strong Notre Dame connection as well. Lea evaluated him in person and offered immediately; I’m cautiously optimistic that he made the right move. As yet another early enrollee, we should see some quick returns one way or the other.

Eric: 76

Kiser put up some big numbers in high school so I was expecting some flash. Especially while playing against poor competition he doesn’t look that outstanding. He looks pretty athletic and runs well in track. On the football field, we’ll see where he settles for a position. He appears like a long-term project for the staff.

Jaden: 85

Jack Kiser is the hometown hero, local legend, and Indiana Class A football folktale. At this point, Clark Lea has earned the right to pick a guy in his class to take a chance on, and Kiser is that guy. I do have a hunch that Kiser is going to be an animal in the weight room and will bring his lunch pail mentality every day. There are successful NFL LB’s with similar backgrounds like Chad Greenway or Leighton Vander Esch. In 3-4 years, I really just wouldn’t be surprised if Jack Kiser was a big-time linebacker at Notre Dame.

Tyler: 82

It’s really hard to make a decent evaluation of Kiser considering the poor competition he faced in high school. But he looks like a good athlete, and Clark Lea (who has probably earned the benefit of the doubt at this point) evaluated him in person and really liked what he saw.

OLB Marist Liufau

18S Average: 82.0

Brendan: 82

Liufau, who already shares one alma mater with Manti Te’o, showed an explosive first step, excellent agility and closing speed, and a bad attitude last season. He looked better than I expected in coverage in the Polynesian Bowl, which makes me a bit more bullish on his long-term prospects. I think he’ll need a lot of work on technique, but the athleticism is there to potentially make an impact down the line.

Eric: 80

Athletically, his grade should be higher. I’m unsure of his role and position with the Irish. In high school he’s largely a pass rusher and wouldn’t be in that role in college without major weight gain. I think that means he’ll need a lot of work to be a traditional linebacker.

Jaden: 84

Marist is another guy who truly wants to be Irish. With the LB situation this class, he becomes more of a luxury than anything. Most of his film is rushing the passer off the edge, so it’s hard to evaluate his pass coverage and LB play. I think in college he’d potentially fit the Rover position best and could be a really strong LB in space.

Tyler: 82

Extremely raw, but a heck of an athlete. Will need a lot of polish, but his upside is very high. Heard good things about him from practice reports at the Polynesian Bowl. Also a big fan of the hair.