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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 31 Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2 ¾, 227 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Lamb has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019, after not taking the field last year.
Depth chart: Lamb’s comfort in the passing game moved him to the forefront of the conversation at Buck linebacker. It may end up with him complementing/backing up junior Jordan Genmark Heath, but figuring out that exact distribution will be a preseason task.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Lamb chose Notre Dame over UCLA despite the latter being that much closer to mom’s home cooking in Temecula, Calif., a bit more than an hour outside of Los Angeles. Rivals.com rated the Under Armour All-American as the No. 2 inside linebacker in the class and the No. 77 recruit in the country overall.

CAREER TO DATE
Despite being an early enrollee, Lamb did not see any action as a freshman. After injuries somewhat plagued him in high school, a weight room pectoral injury limited him in the preseason, essentially costing him the chance to prove himself and sending him to the scout team for the fall.

“What held him back more than anything was the injuries. If you ask our offensive linemen, they would tell you he was the toughest guy they had to deal with last year on scout team,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in late March as Lamb excelled in spring practice. “He was physical. He was difficult to block.

“This didn’t just appear. His injuries really set him back from progressing a little further than what he did. Now that he’s healthy, he’s making the strides necessary for us to see him on the radar.”

QUOTE(S)
Healthy this spring, or at least up until a minor injury held him out of the Blue-Gold Game, Lamb showed an aptitude defending the pass that Notre Dame did not see so distinctly last spring.

“He has a natural instinct in coverage that we’re going to use to our advantage, plus his length,” Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea said at the end of spring practices. “When you start dropping a guy that’s 6’4” into the middle of the field, the dig window tightens inevitably, especially when he has a great awareness of what’s going on behind him. He’s shown a knack for that, and taking coaching well, too.”

To that extent, Lamb sounds like a third-down specialist, a — puts on hard hat, preemptively ducks for cover — nickel Buck of sorts. Lea wants more.

“My urgency with him at times in practice is about where we need to get him to. It’s about a belief that he can be the player that he wants to be and there’s no reason to wait on him. … We’re going to have some urgency with him to see where we can get him so that we’re not limiting him to just what he does really well. Maybe there’s another layer in there where he can become a really good first- and second-down player for us, too.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Lamb will have a chance at starting in 2019, especially if his ability to handle the collegiate wear-and-tear does not diminish the hype once wrought by his recruitment. Notre Dame will be without both the current starters in fifth-year Buck linebacker Drue Tranquill and senior Mike linebacker Te’von Coney. Sophomore safety-turned-linebacker Jordan Genmark-Heath and junior Jonathan Jones have the pole positions for rights as the next starter at each of those positions, respectively, but Lamb (and Bauer) will have an entire fall of practice to establish a need for genuine competition in the spring and next preseason.

“Even if that reshuffling does not occur before 2019’s opener, the early-enrolled interior duo will force the issue at some point, even if Genmark-Heath takes to his new position as ably as would ever be dared to hope. In Lamb’s case specifically, time will strengthen his pass coverage abilities, the only clear deficiency in his game, somewhat expected of any high school linebacker. He already excels in tackling and the needed form.”

2019 OUTLOOK
Lamb coming in for passing-specific situations would not be unfathomable. Oftentimes an extra defensive end comes in to replace a tackle in those moments, and the nickelback replaces the Rover. Nothing precludes adding a third piece to such shifts, and if it plays to multiple players’ strengths, then all the more reason for it.

After shining in coverage in the spring, such a role may be Lamb’s floor this season. If he bolsters the rest of his game, figures out run fits and embraces contact, then Lea may have a tough choice to make between Lamb and Genmark Heath. Frankly, it is the caliber of decision the Irish have not faced in awhile, simply due to a lack of quality backups. Even in 2017, it took until midseason for Coney to enter into a conversation with Greer Martini.

DOWN THE ROAD
Give Lamb health, give him 10 more pounds of muscle and give him some reps to prove consistency, and his future could not look much brighter. With four years of eligibility remaining, even if Genmark Heath dominates, Lamb can supplement him for two seasons before taking over the role on his own for two more

His range is what makes the horizon so enticing. Football skews more and more toward the passing game. A Buck linebacker needs to be able to handle that, and Lamb may have the prototypical body for such, one he put to use in that exact aspect of the game this spring.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
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. 50: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
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. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 32: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker