With the addition of JD Bertrand, Notre Dame has two four-star recruits at every defensive position for its 2019 class.
The Roswell (Ga.) Blessed Trinity Catholic linebacker became verbal pledge No. 21 for the class on Monday night. Bertrand had not been offered by the Irish until last Saturday, he told ND Insider. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder took two unofficial visits to ND — one for the Oct. 13 Pittsburgh game and the other for the Nov. 10 Florida State contest.
“I’m excited to join the family and happy everything got worked out,” Bertrand wrote through text. “Notre Dame is a great school in so many aspects, and in my opinion, no other school can compete with the combination of academics and football ND provides.”
Defensive tackles Jacob Lacey and Hunter Spears, defensive ends NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Howard Cross III, cornerbacks K.J. Wallace and Isaiah Rutherford and safeties Litchfield Ajavon and Kyle Hamilton are all rated four stars. Ajavon is a four-star on Rivals but a three-star on 247Sports, while Wallace is a four-star on 247Sports but a three-star on Rivals.
“(Defensive coordinator) Clark Lea told me that I have a chance to compete early on and that is a great place to start,” said Bertrand, who told ND Insider he plans to sign in December but will not early enroll.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly tweeted soon after Bertrand's announcement.
Bertrand marks the fourth linebacker to commit to ND for 2019. Honolulu Punahou linebacker Marist Liufau verbally pledged to the Irish last week. Royal Center (Ind.) Pioneer's Jack Kiser and Charlotte (N.C.) Providence Day's Osita Ekwonu are the other two linebacker commits.
Tom Lemming, a CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst, watched Bertrand play in April. He labeled him as a three-star-plus — lower than Bertrand's ratings on 247Sports and Rivals. Bertrand is not as athletic as the other three linebacker commits and could be 6-foot tall, Lemming said.
“The kid is a leader on the defense,” Lemming said. “Not super big, but he makes a lot of plays… He’s got good range, really good instincts for a linebacker. He will be an inside guy. He can make plays and plays the game on his feet. He’s got a high football IQ, which I like. He’s pretty athletic, not super athletic, but pretty athletic. And like I said, very productive.”
Kyle Hamilton, ND's top-rated safety commit for 2019, played AAU basketball with Bertrand and stayed with him for his FSU unofficial visit. Hamilton helped recruit Bertrand, whose recruitment opened up following his Oct. 5 decommitment from the University of Georgia.
“I’ve known Kyle since third or fourth grade and have trained with him for a long time as well,” Bertrand said. “It will be exciting to play with a guy I’ve known for such a long time. Being able to continue my college experience with him is super exciting.”
Before Bertrand visited for the Pitt game, Hamilton related him to a linebacker that has played a major role in ND’s 11-0 start.
“He reminds me a lot of Drue Tranquill actually,” Hamilton told ND Insider last month. “He’s not the most athletic kid. He does not have 4.4 speed, a 40-inch vertical or anything crazy like that. But he’s always at the right place at the right time. When he gets to that place, he gets there with a bad attitude and loves it.”
Through 12 games this season, Bertrand has 78 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, four sacks and an interception. 247Sports ranks Bertrand as the No. 15 outside linebacker and No. 234 overall player. Rivals tabs him as No. 12 at the position and No. 247 overall.
ND's 2019 class — which now ranks No. 8 on 247Sports and No. 10 on Rivals — has 15 four-stars on 247Sports and 12 four-stars on Rivals. Bertrand chose ND over Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Wisconsin and more.
The Irish took their time with Bertrand, as they were crunched for space. As of now, ND will have 13 linebackers and rovers on scholarship next season.
“In my opinion, you can never have too many defensive players, especially at Notre Dame, where they seem to struggle on that side of the line besides last year and this year,” Lemming said. “Clark Lea is doing a really good job of getting guys that he believes fit into his system.”