SAN ANTONIO — When Shayne Simon watched Notre Dame’s defense this past season, his eyes frequently landed on senior captain Drue Tranquill.
The 6-foot-2, 231-pound Tranquill played the same rover position that Simon hopes to embody during his Irish career.
In June, Simon will get a chance to learn from Tranquill in person. With Tranquill returning for a fifth year and Simon signing a National Letter of Intent with Notre Dame in December, the two will be teammates for the 2018 season.
Simon, a four-star recruit from Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep, is looking forward to getting to know Tranquill better.
“He's a terrific player,” Simon said. “I'm trying to learn as much as I can from him."
If Simon lives up to his recruiting projections, he could be challenging for playing time early in his Notre Dame career. Taking away snaps from a fifth-year senior like Tranquill, who recorded 85 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, three fumble recovers, 1.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble this past season, might be a tough ask.
But perhaps defensive coordinator Mike Elko will find a way to get both players on the field at the same time. The Irish could potentially lose three linebackers this offseason with Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini graduating and Te’von Coney weighing an early departure for the NFL. Those three and Tranquill finished the season as the top four tacklers on Notre Dame’s roster.
247Sports slates Simon as the No. 11 outside linebacker and No. 130 overall in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 12 outside linebacker and No. 159 overall.
"I just want to play as much as I possibly can,” Simon said. “However I can help the team, however I can come in and contribute to the whole process of hopefully winning a championship."
Like Tranquill, Simon fits the versatility requirements of the rover spot. Simon is part safety, part linebacker and part playmaker.
“I try to be able to play in coverage, on the line of scrimmage, on tight ends, on receivers, come off the edge,” Simon listed as his traits.
The 6-3, 215-pound Simon already looks physically ready to play college football. And his athleticism allowed him to end his senior season as the leading receiver for St. Peter’s Prep in receptions (52), yards (840) and touchdowns (six). The Marauders (9-3) finished the season as state runners-up in New Jersey’s highest classification for private schools.
On defense, Simon totaled 55 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, five INTs and three sacks.
Elko made Simon a priority soon after joining the Irish program. Simon committed to Notre Dame in July and has kept in regular contact with Elko and linebackers coach Clark Lea since then.
“Defensively, coach Elko and coach Lea have come in and changed the program a little bit,” Simon said. “They've really helped the defense. They've been playing fast, playing athletic, playing truly tenacious on defense. That was cool to watch."
Simon caught the finish of Notre Dame’s 21-17 Citrus Bowl win on Monday with high school teammate and fellow Notre Dame signee Jayson Ademilola. The two are rooming together this week as East teammates for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
“Jayson and I were actually in our room,” Simon said. “We were going crazy when Miles (Boykin) caught that touchdown.”
With only five linebackers on the East roster, Simon should see plenty of playing time in Saturday’s Army Bowl. He created a bit of buzz from recruiting analysts with his work in the first two days of practice in San Antonio. A strong finish to the week would likely result in a rankings bump.
Simon isn’t too concerned on that front. He’s already focused on his future at Notre Dame.
"It's been great playing with this high level of competition and having fun,” Simon said. “It's been a great time."