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Notre Dame breaks in new linebackers

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame is grooming pair of new linebackers this spring, but only one knew he was going to be a linebacker when camp started.

John Turner entered the spring knowing he was going from safety, where he was his first two seasons, to linebacker. But James Onwualu, who was moving from receiver to the defense, was originally slated to be a linebacker.

But as the spring went on Onwualu found himself working at linebacker, and he said Friday, that's where he expects to play during the fall.

"John is starting to adapt," outside linebacker coach Bob Elliott said Friday. "I think he has found a niche for himself. At safety, he was maybe a little bit overmatched at the quickness area. Now he is a quick, fast outside linebacker. He didn't know he was making this move until right before spring ball, so I'd like to see what he looks like at the end of the summer.

"Need and the fact that (Onwualu) is used to be a wide receiver, and in high school, he didn't really play deep. He played at the line. He was just not trained as a guy that would backpedal. I think it was a natural move for him to do the perimeter things that you do as an outside linebacker without having to go backwards."

Turner said he played cornerback in high school, so moving to safety when he first arrived at Notre Dame has helped him make the transition now to linebacker.

"It's been nice," Turner said. It's transitioning, being able to learn all different types of positions on the football field.

"I'd say the biggest challenge is just playing closer to the line and having to deal with tight ends and dealing with run situations. I'm not like 235 pounds, yet, or 240. I have to have better technique than them when taking them on."

Onwualu said he played on defense in high school, and he thought it was a possibility that he would move to defense at Notre Dame.

"It was kind of in the back of the heads of everybody," Onwaulu said. "A lot of people had thought just because of my physicality that it might be an option. I ended up talking to coach Kelly one day, just having a casual conversation about it, seeing what the possibilities could be. It ended up working out."