Notre Dame's future at linebacker looks incredibly bright, and a key reason is 2023 linebacker Drayk Bowen, who today was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Indiana.
Bowen committed to Notre Dame in November, which was near the end of an outstanding junior season for Merrillville (Ind.) Andrean. Bowen racked up 105 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions for the Fighting 59ers.
Like 2022 linebacker commit Josh Burnham, who won the honor in Michigan, Bowen is also a two-way standout. Bowen rushed for 965 yards and 18 touchdowns as a running back, and he also scored three more times through the air.
According to the release announcing his honor, Bowen has a 4.11 grade point average in the classroom.
Here is my film breakdown of Bowen:
Bowen has the athleticism to play the rover position but his game and upside is that of a Will or Mike linebacker. He's built a lot like Drue Tranquill was during his career with the Irish. He's 6-2 but longer than Tranquill, and Bowen has a frame to be as thick, and likely thicker than what Tranquill was for the Irish. As he fills out I expect Bowen to quickly look more and more like an inside linebacker.
Freeman wants length, athleticism and power at linebacker and that's exactly what Bowen brings to the game. His size is above average, but his athleticism and power are elite. Bowen is an explosive athlete that gets downhill in a hurry and he has the range to play to the sideline. When he commits to attack the ball he covers a lot of ground in a hurry, and when he arrives at the football he arrives with power.
Adding more physicality is a must for the Notre Dame defense, and Bowen adds plenty of that. He's not a Mike linebacker right now, but I could certainly see him becoming that kind of player down the road. He's got the size potential, he has the first-step explosiveness, he closes on the ball extremely well and his natural hand strength and power will allow him to be extremely good at block destruction once his technique improves.
His agility and balance are impressive physical traits, and when his footwork gets better his ability to scrape, flow and explode to the ball should allow him to make a lot of plays in the run game. Bowen has to improve his timing as a blitzer, but he explodes downhill, easily dismisses high school blockers and closes on the football extremely well. In coverage he has the athleticism to thrive but his footwork and ability to look up routes will need to be improved.
Bowen is a bit on the raw side, thriving on God-given ability and effort. He's still a young player that hasn't yet finished his junior season. He'll continue to improve from a fundamental standpoint, and as that happens and he gets more and more experience his game will truly take off. He is a legit five-star upside player that possesses the kind of athleticism and natural power you simply cannot teach. Once he improves in the areas that can be taught he'll have a chance to be a special linebacker for the Irish.
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