Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker

JD Bertrand 2020
ACC Media

Listed measurements: 6-foot-1, 228 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: Though entering his third season at Notre Dame, otherwise known as being a junior, Bertrand has four full seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver last year.
Depth Chart: Bertrand has yet to take a competitive defensive snap, making it unlikely he cracks the two-deep at Mike (middle) linebacker with fifth-year Drew White and senior Bo Bauer firmly entrenched in a time-share.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Bertrand de-committed from Georgia just a few months before his cycle’s decision date, took two unofficial visits to Notre Dame and signed with the Irish despite lacking a promise of a scholarship. His recruitment was handled in a very specific manner — no official visit in either direction — to allow for a possible academic scholarship, an unnecessary dance just six months later and one that is hard to envision in the current stretch of overflowing rosters.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
A day will soon come when a trainer can hand his client a few hundred dollars for recognition like this Instagram post, likely a worthwhile investment given how many local high schoolers might see such a post and join the respective gym.

CAREER TO DATE
Bertrand dabbled in special teams duties as a freshman before putting in extensive work on coverage teams in 2020.

2019: 4 games; no stats.
2020: 11 games; seven tackles, four of which came on special teams. The other three all came during Notre Dame’s 52-0 blowout of South Florida in September.

QUOTE
Diminish special teams contributions at your own risk. Irish special teams coordinator Brian Polian already knows much of his season’s success will hinge on Bertrand.

“I am very blessed this year that a lot of our core guys are veterans that have played a bunch,” Polian said in April. “I want JD Bertrand to take on a more expanded role.”

But Bertrand will not be at Polian’s disposal alone. Bertrand was the biggest beneficiary of White being sidelined for much of this past spring due to a sprained ankle, suddenly getting extensive work within new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s system.

“We hadn’t seen a ton of JD, because as you know, JD was on the scout team a lot last year,” head coach Brian Kelly said in mid-April. “… You’re seeing JD Bertrand get a lot of work.”

WHAT WAS SAID TWO YEARS AGO
Once given a longer look at Bertrand, it will be intriguing to see how one specific area has developed in the last two seasons.

“Aside from needing the strength and conditioning that all freshmen need, Bertrand may be ready right now to face the run. His technical skills — hand placement, block engagement, tackling form — look to be that well-developed. His work in coverage, however, needs improvement, and a year of scout team reps should only aid that cause.”

2021 OUTLOOK
A lot of special teams work awaits Bertrand, particularly after former Notre Dame special teams stalwart Jack Lamb transferred to Colorado. Polian needs to plug in a similarly skilled player, and Bertrand fits that bill.

By no means should special teams duties be seen as a pittance for Bertrand. The Irish are simply well-stocked at middle linebacker thanks to the ever-surprising development of White, going from cautionary tale in the spring of 2019 to a three-year starter and possible captain in 2021.

Freeman seems willing to experiment with Bauer at Will linebacker in order to get him and White on the field at the same time. Bertrand should hope for as much, as it would move him into the two-deep immediately behind White.

DOWN THE ROAD
While White will have eligibility remaining after this season thanks to the universal pandemic waiver, it is more likely he tests his abilities at the next level in 2022, leaving either Bauer or Bertrand to take first-team reps in spring practices.

Bauer’s decision whether to return or not will be one with ripple effects, and also a hard one to predict. The scholarship crunch coming down the pipe overloads these conversations with contingencies.

At the risk of being too blunt, it feels most likely either Bauer or Bertrand transfers in 2022. Entering a senior (or fifth-year) season without a starting role sets up a player to find one elsewhere, and that is why transfers are a good thing.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back

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