Notre Dame landed an important commitment when Hilton Head (S.C.) High School linebacker Jaylen Sneed picked the Irish over Oregon and Tennessee.
Let's break down how this commitment impacts the Notre Dame 2022 recruiting class and depth chart.
NOTRE DAME CLASS IMPACT
Sneed becomes the 18th player to commit to Notre Dame in the 2022 class. He is also the 10th defensive player and the fourth linebacker.
Sneed joins linebacker commits Josh Burnham, Nolan Ziegler and Niuafe Tuihalamaka in the class. It gives Notre Dame four players that earned at least a 4.0-star grade on the Irish Breakdown board and three linebackers that are ranked in the Top 100 by at least one recruiting service.
This is significant because linebacker is a major question mark beyond the 2021 season, which made it a huge need in the 2022 class. Notre Dame whiffed at linebacker completely in the 2020 class and signed just two in the 2021 class.
Notre Dame needed an influx of talent at linebacker, and it now has that. Landing Sneed, Burnham, Tuihalamaka and Ziegler gives the Notre Dame staff an elite linebacker haul, one that no team in the country will be able to top.
NOTRE DAME FIT
Notre Dame is recruiting Sneed to play the Rover position, but part of what makes him such a unique prospect is his versatility. Sneed could eventually grow into a Will linebacker or possibly a third inside linebacker in a 3-3-5 look, and the inside positions are ultimately where I see his game fitting the best. I could even see him playing some Mike linebacker in certain situations, or if the defense wants to go with more speed than size.
Sneed played defensive end as a junior and displayed an impressive ability to rush the quarterback, something that should come in handy for the Irish on third down. He has the explosiveness and range to play rover, and there's a chance he could stay there in order to make sure the best three linebackers are on the field. Ultimately, however, I can't help but be enticed by the notion of getting his explosiveness closer to the football as either a Will, or even a Mike player.
Sneed isn’t the biggest linebacker, checking in at 6-2 and 215 pounds, but his length is impressive and he has plenty of room to fill out that frame. He shows a strong lower body and the potential to add a good 10-15 more pounds, which will only enhance his power and explosiveness.
What makes him a top prospect at this point is his athleticism and upside. Sneed is an extremely explosive athlete, one with elite burst, impressive lateral quickness and good speed. Much like former Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Sneed likely won’t blow you away with an elite 40-yard dash time, but his initial burst, short-area quickness, change of direction and flexibility makes him play with exceptional speed.
Sneed has the kind of foot quickness and downhill explosiveness that should allow him to eventually develop into an impactful inside linebacker. His range, length and instincts also lend to him being an effective player in space. Sneed is also an outstanding edge rusher thanks to the aforementioned initial burst I talked about and ability to chew up a lot of ground in a hurry.
The Hilton Head star shows a good feel for the game, possessing quick reaction skills and the ability to diagnose between run and pass relatively quickly. At times he doesn’t take the best angles, but that can certainly be improved. He’s a bit of a free-lancer, which needs to be harnessed a bit, and he played defensive end as a junior, so there’s plenty of technique work needed with Sneed, but the tools are truly outstanding.
What we don't see from Sneed on high school film is much work in coverage. He has shined as a coverage player at multiple summer camps, which certainly raises optimism about him having the instincts to play the position. What we do know, however, is that Sneed has the athleticism, range and length that you want in a top coverage linebacker.
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