It appears that Greer Martini has emerged as the starter at Will linebacker. Brian Kelly made that piece of news public on Wednesday (though it likely got buried under another high-profile positional battle) when asked about the depth in his linebacking corps, needing to reload after losing Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace.
Entering the season, Martini was a candidate to play all three spots, likely as a key backup or situational Sam linebacker, where he split time with James Onwualu last season. But after sitting out spring practice recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, the junior has impressed the Irish coaching staff.
“Greer has been playing mostly Will linebacker, and he’s done a really good job there,” Kelly said. “Will linebacker is in pretty good hands. And Te’von (Coney) is there, as well.
“But I like where we are with Greer and Nyles and James and Te’von is really a solid guy for us, as well. Gives us a lot of flexibility. I like those four guys a lot.”
As the depth chart emerges, the ascent of Martini felt like something more likely than not. While Asmar Bilal has seen some action with the first string this camp, he’s still an unproven commodity, a young linebacker still learning a position that’s a really critical piece of what Brian VanGorder wants to do. Te’von Coney played 60 snaps last year at the position, mostly in mop-up duty, ending his season just seven plays after Smith ended his with a shoulder injury.
Martini’s never been a Will linebacker in this system, but he knows the job. He’s played multiple positions, excelled as a situational starter against the option—an attack the Irish will face multiple times—and he has the heft needed to play in the trenches.
While he certainly won’t be the type of eraser that Smith was last season on his way to winning the Butkus Award, he’s got a nose for the football and will be an excellent playmaker when the Irish are in their base 4-3 set.