Notre Dame sets sights on 2019 LB J.D. Bertrand

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Osita Ekwonu’s June 15 commitment marked the last time a linebacker pledged to Notre Dame.

No one at the position has made an official visit since Tristian Sinclair — now a Stanford commit — journeyed to South Bend on June 22. Since then, the Irish have not been in the market for a linebacker.

That is, until J.D. Bertrand decommitted from Georgia last Friday.

The 6-1, 215-pound four-star visited the University of Florida last week and made Notre Dame his second destination. He will make an unofficial visit this weekend for Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.

The Irish already have a pair of linebackers committed in the 2019 class: Ekwonu and Indiana star Jack Kiser. Bertrand has yet to receive a Notre Dame offer.

“I don’t know if he’s quite as quick as a couple of them, but he’s got good size, he’s got excellent production and he’s just a talented all-around guy,” said Tom Lemming, a CBS Sports recruiting analyst. “He does not take missteps and knows how to play the game.”

Bertrand named Florida, Stanford, Notre Dame, TCU, Wisconsin, LSU, FSU and Tennessee as schools he is interested in. He took a Notre Dame unofficial visit for the Virginia Tech game on Nov. 19, 2016. 

"Notre Dame has great football and a great education," Bertrand wrote through text. "Those are two things that attract me greatly to a school like Notre Dame."

Bertrand of Blessed Trinity (Ga.) Catholic competes against Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame’s 2019 safety commit. They played park league football and were on the same AAU basketball team for a few years.

Hamilton’s Marist fell in last year’s state championship game to Bertrand's BTC, 16-7. The Titans will host a rematch in two weeks.

For now, though, Hamilton will focus on recruiting Bertrand and texts him often.

“I thought it was a little bit of a surprise,” Hamilton said of Bertrand’s decommitment. “He had been committed to Georgia for so long, so I thought that’s where he definitely would go. I understand if you have a change of heart.

“He just needs to do what is best for him. For selfish reasons, I’m kind of glad he did so that maybe he can take a look at Notre Dame.”

pic.twitter.com/plrFJroJ7w

— JD Bertrand (@JDBertrand1) October 6, 2018

Bertrand is on pace for another year with 60-plus tackles. He registered five sacks and 8.5 TFLs as a junior and already has three sacks and seven TFLs in 2018. He’s recorded at least eight TFLs each season.

“He reminds me a lot of Drue Tranquill,” Hamilton said. “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.”

TCU, Wisconsin and FSU offered Bertrand following last week’s decision. 247Sports rates Bertrand as the No. 15 outside linebacker and No. 227 overall player. Rivals slates him No. 12 at the position and No. 247 overall.

“He is a really intense guy to play against,” Hamilton said. “Off the field, he’s the nicest kid you will ever meet. But on the field, he is a totally different dude. You just love to have someone on your team like that.”

2019 linebacker JD Bertrand (left) earned an offer from Notre Dame on Nov. 17, 2018.