RECRUITING

Notre Dame LB signee Jack Lamb healthy, ready to enroll early

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Jack Lamb admits that he thought about it.

How could he not? Last August, the Temecula (Calif.) Great Oak linebacker partially tore the patella in his left knee in the first half of the first game of his senior season.

The injury, as it turns out, demanded a decision.

On one hand, he could have chosen to end his prep football career early, and no one would have blamed him. After all, the 6-foot-4, 207-pound senior linebacker was already a consensus four-star recruit. He had already competed with the best players in the 2018 class at “The Opening Finals” earlier last summer. He was already verbally committed to Notre Dame.

At this point, what would a few extra football games prove?

“I basically said, ‘This kid’s got a future beyond the next nine games, plus playoffs.’ I never wanted anybody to say that I put any pressure on any kid to play when they shouldn’t,” Great Oak head coach Robbie Robinson said this week. “So I just told him, ‘Look, your role on this team is transitioning. You need to be a coach.’ ”

Lamb could have traded his cleats for a comfortable seat on the sideline. It would have been the safe decision. Maybe even the smart decision.

But it wasn’t the right decision — for Lamb, at least.

“It does go through your mind,” Lamb said on New Year’s Eve, after a practice leading up to the Under Armour All-America game in Orlando, Fla. “You’re like, ‘Man, do I risk getting hurt? I’m already committed somewhere. If I get hurt, what if something happens with that?’

“But in the end I trusted Notre Dame’s staff, that if I did get hurt again they were going to keep me.”

Luckily for Lamb, his trust never had to be tested. He rehabbed the injury, and eventually, he returned.

“He’s a phenomenal teammate. He’s a phenomenal kid,” Robinson said. “He was frustrated all season long. He wanted to come back and finish the season with his team and with his guys.

“My whole thing throughout the process was, ‘Until you’re cleared and we have the paperwork, you’re not doing squats.’ He went through the process and got cleared.”

Then, he got even.

Great Oak, Robinson explained this week, had never — in the entire history of the program — beaten nearby Vista Murrieta. So what did Lamb do?

“It was a big deal to our senior class,” Robinson said. “He had 23 tackles and led us to our first victory over them in school history.”

Twenty-three tackles, on a rehabbed patella.

Plus a forced fumble, a fumble recovery … and a few lessons along the way.

“You learn a little bit about yourself, getting hurt and having to come back,” said Lamb, who played the final five games of the season after missing five games with the injury. “I tried my hardest to get back out there for my team, and it was really fun in the end.

“I was glad I was able to get back out there and play with those guys I’ve played with for so long.”

It’s easy to see why Lamb — ranked as the No. 2 inside linebacker in the 2018 class by Rivals, as well as the No. 8 inside linebacker by 247Sports — is such a valuable commodity for his next crop of coaches at Notre Dame.

But will he be an inside linebacker in South Bend?

“Honestly, he’s got the frame to put more weight on,” Robinson said. “He can run. I think he’ll end up playing inside, to be honest with you, because I think he’ll end up bulking up. Then he’ll be a very fast inside linebacker.

“But he can play outside. I’m interested to see what the Notre Dame staff does with him.”

Especially considering it’s not exactly the same staff that recruited him. After first-year defensive coordinator and safeties coach Mike Elko accepted the same position at Texas A&M last week, Irish linebackers coach Clark Lea was officially promoted to defensive coordinator on Tuesday.

It’s still unclear whether junior linebacker Te’von Coney, who would likely be Notre Dame’s starting middle linebacker in 2018, will return for his senior season.

But regardless, Lamb’s plan is to enroll early this month and compete, regardless of who else is on the roster.

“I love the challenge,” Lamb said. “That’s what it’s all about: putting yourself up against guys that are four years older than you and being able to compete with them. So it’s going to be fun.”

Lamb is currently one of 21 Irish signees and 22 commits, seven of which are planning to enroll early. Six of those defensive signees are ranked as four-star recruits by either Rivals or 247Sports.

Plus, according to Lamb, they also pass a different kind of test.

“We’re just a really well-rounded class,” Lamb said. “We’ve got guys all over. It doesn’t matter about the stars. The people matter, and they’re all great people.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame linebacker commit Jack Lamb, a 2018 recruit, walks into Notre Dame Stadium before the Georgia-Notre Dame game. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)