Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 32 Prince Kollie, freshman linebacker, Butkus Award winner

Prince Kollie
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A freshman, Kollie has all four seasons of eligibility ahead of him.
Depth Chart: Junior Jack Kiser will start at Rover on Labor Day Eve (43 days), partly because while senior Paul Moala’s recovery from an Achilles injury may have moved quicker than expected this spring, it should still be managed carefully. Behind Kiser, though — particularly while Moala gets up to full speed — Kollie could work his way into a complementary role.
Recruiting: An Under Armour All-American and consensus four-star, Kollie wavered in his commitment to Notre Dame when defensive coordinator Clark Lea took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. Kollie had been pursued by the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and LSU, so he had plenty of other offers to consider once his primary Irish contact left South Bend.

But Lea went out of his way to reassure Kollie as he put together his own first recruiting class with the Commodores, making it clear to the Butkus Award winner (best high school linebacker) that Notre Dame was where he belonged.

No. 32? NOW?
Projecting the incoming freshmen’s uniform numbers is an exercise in making mistakes. Conjecture thought Kollie would get one of thee Notre Dame numbers of lore, but Nos. 3, 5 and 7 are all currently unavailable on this roster, so No. 9 felt like the next best option, somewhat following in the footsteps of Jaylon Smith, also a one-time high school Butkus Award winner.

But instead, the Irish have hung No. 32 on Kollie’s shoulders, per an updated profile page on the University’s website, a number that first appeared on his Instagram a month ago.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Social media is about more than being social these days. Instead, it is now an avenue toward greater rewards.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN KOLLIE SIGNED
“Discussions of Kollie include two knocks on him: His size makes him a hybrid linebacker candidate and his high school competition is lackluster. In the eyes of the Irish coaching staff, though, neither of those is a concern. “Tweeners” make ideal Rovers, and its eye for talent evaluation has proven itself in recent years: Paul Moala, Jack Kiser and Marist Liufau all could have been similarly knocked for their high school competition, and all three look like viable contributors at the next level.

QUOTES
Comparing Kollie to Smith in any regard is unfairly aggressive. So is putting him in the same sentence as Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but then again, Owusu-Koramoah did win the collegiate Butkus Award the same year Kollie won the high school version. For that matter, the duo doing such put them in a direct parallel with Smith and Manti Te’o, who pulled off the same double in 2012.

But Brian Kelly compared Kollie to Owusu-Koramoah, and some quotes warrant sharing repeatedly.

“People always talk in terms of playmakers on offense,” the Notre Dame head coach said during December’s signing period. “[Kollie is] a playmaker on defense. He wrecks your day on offense.

“We saw so many similarities with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Prince in terms of the way they play. The suddenness, just the natural fit at the Rover position for us, which we’ll continue to employ in our defensive structure. To add a playmaker of his capabilities was so attractive to us and it was a natural fit.”

2021 OUTLOOK
The Irish coaching staff, new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman included, likes Kiser. Some of the 2021 scheme will be designed to showcase the Indiana native. That kind of emphasis implies an assumption that Kiser will rise to the occasion.

But to keep him fresh, Notre Dame may put Kollie into genuinely competitive moments. He already has a frame to hold up at the next level, and Kollie has always relished the physical nature of the game.

The Irish may first break in Kollie with work on the special teams coverage units, but making a few tackles there would only strengthen the likelihood of picking up some of Kiser’s workload.

DOWN THE ROAD
Kollie is poised to be the next in line among “great Notre Dame linebackers,” as made clear by mentioning the last few above. But the next next is also possibly already committed.

The Irish not only have four consensus four-star linebackers pledged in the current cycle, but one of them is clearly a natural Rover, Jaylen Sneed.

The two will man Notre Dame’s outside linebacker positions for years to come, beginning in perhaps 2023. But one will move from the supposedly ideal fit at Rover to Will (weakside) linebacker.

That could be looked at as a sacrifice, or as a step toward an even more multiple defense, something Freeman already prefers.

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. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
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. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia
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. 55 Kahanu Kia, freshman linebacker, Hawaiian, LDS member
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. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw 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. 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
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect

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