Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 10 Prince Kollie, sophomore linebacker, high school Butkus Award winner

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot ½, 222 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Kollie has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Kollie spent most of the spring working at Will (weakside) linebacker behind senior Marist Liufau. Notre Dame has an effective two-deep across the board at linebacker, but no proven depth behind them, so any injury among those six players Will Likely add stress to the other five, regardless of position.
Recruiting: Pivotal moments of recruiting can be lost to time; the final steps of Kollie’s should not be. An Under Armour All-American and consensus four-star, Kollie began to waver in his commitment to Notre Dame just two days before the early signing period when then-defensive coordinator Clark Lea took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. Alabama, Georgia and LSU had all long chased Kollie, and the uncertainty of Lea’s departure brought those possibilities back to the forefront of Kollie’s mind.

Lea was actually the one to steady Kollie’s commitment, reassuring the Tennessee star and Butkus Award winner that Notre Dame was the best fit for him even as Lea left.

CAREER TO DATE
Most of Kollie’s work in his debut campaign came on special teams, only dabbling in actual defensive moments, most notably in blowouts of Navy, Virginia and Georgia Tech.

2021: 10 games; 14 tackles.

Editor’s Note: That impressive photo atop this article is indeed of Kollie. He changed his uniform number this year to No. 10 from No. 32.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“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 (Jack) Kiser’s workload.

“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.”

2022 OUTLOOK
Kollie’s 2021 was somewhat truncated by a case of COVID in September, setting him back in his progress toward the defensive rotation. The result was taking only 58 defensive snaps in the season, most of them in routs.

There is obviously no way to know how much Kollie would have contributed if not for that setback, but it is safe to presume he would have been more physically ready as the year went along. Rather than JD Bertrand needing to play through a wrist injury that long-required surgery, the Irish could have had some semblance of linebacker depth.

Consider that the rough baseline for 2022: Provide depth.

Liufau is returning from injury, but by all indications is thoroughly 100 percent. That will also help the depth, but if his backup is not ready, that will eventually compromise Liufau.

A genuine backup role could include 20-30 snaps per game, topping Kollie’s entire 2021 showing in as few as two weeks. That will also lead to 20 or so tackles in the season.

Those may seem like modest benchmarks, particularly for such a highly-touted recruit, but Notre Dame is currently blessed with a couple dynamic linebackers, thus keeping the youth movement on the second line of the two-deep.

RELATED READING: Prince Kollie’s search for stable footing in Year 2 carries high stakes for Notre Dame’s linebacker outlook

DOWN THE ROAD
Liufau could have as many as three seasons of eligibility remaining, the same as Kollie. The same is true of senior Jack Kiser at Rover and even Bertrand at middle linebacker.

But sixth years should be expected less and less as the 2020 universal pandemic eligibility waiver falls further into the proverbial rearview mirror. At Notre Dame, that may be even more true as Marcus Freeman so aggressively recruits elite talent, landing a quartet of four-star linebackers last year and already adding another committed pair in the class of 2023.

As Liufau, Kiser and Bertrand matriculate out of the program after either this season or next, Kollie should be expected to step into a primary role before those current freshmen. Even when his debut season got off to a rocky start, through no fault of his own, Kollie played in 10 games. The Irish coaches clearly thought he had a college-ready physique and will not need five (injury-free) years to make his impact felt.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver
No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback
No. 14 Bryce McFerson, freshman punter facing a Harvard challenge
No. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB
No. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, sophomore QB providing steadiness to a chaotic room
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety
No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL