Hilton Head High School; S.C.
Measurements: 6-foot-1, 208 pounds.
Accolades: The consensus four-star prospect is ranked as the No. 4 outside linebacker in the class, per rivals.com, and the No. 41 overall recruit. An Under Armour All-American, Sneed was also named a Butkus Award finalist.
Other notable offers: Sneed could have gone anywhere, from his homestate South Carolina to Alabama to Michigan or all the way to Oregon or USC. The Ducks were Notre Dame’s stiffest competition, but consider Sneed a victory for Marcus Freeman.
“He definitely was one of the biggest factors in me committing to Notre Dame,” Sneed said to Blue & Gold Illustrated upon committing in July. “He recruited me every day, and we talked on the phone at least two or three times every week. We still talk a lot. He’s a great coach, and we have a great relationship.”
Projected position: Outside linebacker, perhaps rover.
Quick take: Sneed’s broad shoulders do not rob him of quickness, making him a threat both in pass coverage and in pass rushing. He makes quick and correct decisions that speak to both football instincts and a willingness to study film.
Short-term roster outlook: Irish linebacker health may impact Sneed’s short-term more than anything else, as junior Marist Liufau comes back from a torn ACL and senior Shayne Simon recovers from a shoulder injury. At rover, senior Paul Moala’s timeline from a second torn Achilles is not yet clear, but if all three are fully healthy in 2022, then Notre Dame may have enough depth on the edges to spare Sneed excessive immediate work.
Long-term depth chart impact: Sneed’s profile is that of a player too good to keep on the sideline for long, so Freeman will need to find a way to get him on the field, and rover feels like the most likely destination, even as Jack Kiser still has three years of eligibility remaining and freshman Prince Kollie has yet to get his chance.
Linebacker depth will be a great problem for the Irish to have, one that is hardly a problem, as evidenced by this year’s rash of injuries.
Traverse City Central High School; Mich.
Measurements: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.
Accolades: The consensus four-star prospect is considered the No. 4 inside linebacker in the country by rivals.com, as well as the No. 163 recruit in the class of 2022. An All-American Bowl invitee, Burnahm was also named the Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year.
Other notable offers: Burnham chose Notre Dame over his homestate Michigan, while Wisconsin chased in vain, and Alabama and Ohio State both also offered.
Given Burnham committed on his birthday, which happens to be St. Patrick’s Day, his destination was pretty clear before he even made it public.
Projected position: Burnham may follow in the footsteps of Drew White and Bo Bauer as tenacious middle linebackers excelling at filling running lanes on the interior.
Quick take: Burnham’s speed is enough to beat a running back to the edge because that moment combines his foot speed with his play diagnosis. He is not necessarily fast enough to keep up with a receiver in coverage. Hence, his future will remain between the tackles.
Short-term roster outlook: Bauer’s will be one of the more interesting decisions of the Irish winter. If he returns to South Bend in 2022, then he and junior JD Bertrand should fill the two-deep at Mike linebacker, but if Bauer heads elsewhere, Burnham could buttress Bertrand, something the latter desperately needed more of in 2021.
Long-term depth chart impact: A 2022 return would be Bauer’s last year of eligibility, setting up Burnham for a primary role no later than 2023.
EARLY SIGNING PERIOD COVERAGE
Consensus four-star defensive end Aiden Gobaira
Consensus four-star safety Nolan Ziegler
Consensus three-star quarterback Steve Angeli
Consensus three-star defensive tackle Donovan Hinish, Kurt’s brother
Consensus four-star linebackers Jaylen Sneed and Joshua Burnham
Punter Bryce McFerson, former Wake Forest commit
Consensus four-star running back Jadarian Price
Tight ends Eli Raridon and Holden Staes
Consensus four-star defensive end Tyson Ford, the first commit to Marcus Freeman back in January
Cornerbacks Benjamin Morrison and Jayden Bellamy
Consensus four-star linebacker Niuafe Tuihalamaka, former USC commit
Consensus four-star receiver Tobias Merriweather, the only receiver in the class
Consensus four-star cornerback Jaden Mickey
Five offensive linemen complete Irish class of 2022, including quartet of four-stars