Notre Dame linebacker recruiting keeps rolling with commitment from Jaylen Sneed
Four-star linebacker recruit Jaylen Sneed earned the nickname “Sandman” from his head coach, because he hits opponents so hard that he can put them to sleep.
On Monday night, Sneed provided a jolt to Notre Dame’s 2022 recruiting class when he announced his commitment to the Irish over fellow finalist Oregon. His offer list also included the likes of Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC.
"When I stepped on campus, it just felt like home," Sneed said at a commitment ceremony at Hilton Head Island (S.C.) High. "It felt like the place I wanted to be and where I needed to be. It just felt like the whole family atmosphere of it, the tradition of it, just the way they play football is the way I want to play football."
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Sneed became the fourth linebacker prospect to commit to the Irish in what’s become arguably the best linebacker class in the country and in recent Notre Dame history.
Sneed has a case to be the most talented of the group too. Rivals ranks him as the No. 5 outside linebacker and No. 46 overall in the 2022 class. 247Sports slates Sneed as the No. 10 linebacker and No. 97 overall.
“I love him,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He’s a great player. He has good length, can run and can hit. There’s no doubt he’s the best linebacker in South Carolina and one of the best in the country.
“He has very good athletic ability. He’s a ferocious hitter. He has all the tools to be a legit guy.”
Sneed, who played defensive end during his junior season, could be an inside or outside linebacker at Notre Dame. He may even be asked to rush the passer in defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s scheme that utilizes multiple fronts.
Part of what makes Notre Dame’s linebacker class so special is the mix of abilities they will bring to the Irish. Sneed has physical versatility near the line of scrimmage and has reportedly recorded a 38-inch vertical jump. Four-star athlete Nolan Ziegler (6-4, 210) has versatility in space as a safety at Grand Rapids (Mich.) Central Catholic. Four-star linebacker Joshua Burnham (6-4, 215) does it all for Traverse City (Mich.) North including on offense as a dual-threat quarterback. Four-star linebacker Niufae Tuihalamaka (6-3, 230) possesses the skills of a classic middle linebacker at Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany.
Rivals ranks Sneed, Burnham (No. 140) and Tuihalamka (No. 144) among the top 150 recruits in the 2022 class. Burnham and Tuihalamaka are slated as the No. 4 and No. 5 inside linebackers, respectively. Ziegler’s four-star rating didn’t land him among the top 250 prospects in the class, but he’s pegged as the No. 20 athlete due to his ability to play multiple positions.
Only Ohio State and Oklahoma currently have two linebacker commitments from recruits ranked in the Rivals 250.
Notre Dame hasn’t signed a class with four linebacker prospects given four-star ratings or better by Rivals since the recruiting service implemented its star system in 2002. The Irish have signed three four-star linebackers twice during head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure: Te'von Coney, Asmar Bilal and Josh Barajas in 2015 and Shayne Simon, Bo Bauer and Jack Lamb in 2018.
Prior to Kelly, Notre Dame signed a trio of four-star linebackers in 2008 with Darius Fleming, Steven Filer and Anthony McDonald. The 2009 class paired four-star linebackers Zeke Motta and Dan Fox with five-star linebacker Manti Te’o.
Those lists provide good reminders that it will be difficult for Notre Dame’s entire foursome to reach individual expectations. Nonetheless, it’s a truly impressive collection gathered for Freeman, who also coaches the linebacker position, in his first six months at Notre Dame. He only inherited a committed Ziegler from previous defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Clark Lea.
“Sneed’s addition gives Notre Dame the best linebacking group,” Lemming said, “they’ve had in the 43 years I’ve been doing this.”
Sneed made official visits to Notre Dame and Oregon in June before making his commitment. Four other recruits have committed to Notre Dame after making an official visit to the school in June: Tuihalamaka, defensive backs Jayden Bellamy and Devin Moore and offensive lineman Ashton Craig.
Five recruits who made official visits to Notre Dame in June have since committed elsewhere: wide receiver Nicholas Anderson (Oregon), offensive linemen Joe Brunner (Wisconsin) and Jake Taylor (Oklahoma), and running backs Dallan Hayden (Ohio State) and Nicholas Singleton (Penn State).
Twelve recruits who made official visits remain undecided.
Notre Dame’s 2022 class grew to 18 commitments again with Monday’s addition of Sneed. The class shrunk to 17 on Sunday when three-star defensive end Darren Agu dropped his commitment to the Irish.
Both Rivals and 247Sports ranks Notre Dame's class second-best in the country behind only Ohio State's 17 commitments.
Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.