J.D. Bertrand finds success at linebacker amid injuries
Nate Moller | Sunday, September 12, 2021
A few weeks ago, junior linebacker J.D. Bertrand was not at the top of the depth chart at his position, but a season ending injury to Marist Liufau made Bertrand the starter at the weakside inside linebacker position. Bertrand has proven himself so far this season, and in Saturday’s 32-29 victory against Toledo, Bertrand received the game ball for his efforts.
In the victory against Toledo, Bertrand finished the game with 11 total tackles, which included three tackles for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery. Bertrand also finished with eleven total tackles against Florida State.
Bertrand’s fumble recovery occurred with just under 30 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory for the Irish.
Bertrand gave credit to graduate student tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa for forcing the fumble.
“Credit to Myron, I was just making sure I was hustling to the ball, and I was there to get it in the scramble, but Myron was there to strip it,” Bertrand said. “Obviously it’s a team sport, and I’m just trying to do my part.”
Bertrand talked about different things that the defense prioritized in Saturday’s victory.
“Coach Freeman has emphasized before that it’s not the calls that are going to win us the game,” Bertrand said. “We got to make sure we don’t go one for one on blocks, and everyone’s hustling with an effort and attitude towards to the ball. That’s just something I prioritize, and that’s what our defense prioritizes.”
Bertrand discussed how injuries are part of the game and that everything happens for a reason.
“At the end of the day with football, there are going to be injuries,” Bertrand said. “I’ve made sure to follow my process and put my trust in God. Marist [Liufau] and I have talked about this before. We just need to trust God because everything happens for a reason.”
Despite stepping into the starting role abruptly, Bertrand has felt very comfortable on the field in the first two games.
“I felt super comfortable. I think it’s a big credit to our coaches. They do a great job preparing us They’re giving us formational cues. They’re making sure that we study and understand the defense inside and out. When you know the defense, and you kind of have an idea of what the offenses are going to do, you’re going to be able to be comfortable when you get out there and be able to find the ball from there,” Bertrand said.
Bertrand wants to make sure that his teammates are bringing the intensity to every game and practice.
“Football is obviously a physical sport, and we need to make sure we bring it every day. It probably would have been nice to have that rest day last Sunday, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. We at least need to make sure that we bring it every day. I think that’s going to be an emphasis in practice. And we’re going to make sure everyone is going to bring that intensity,” Bertrand said.
Toledo had a couple of big plays in Saturday’s game, and Bertrand understands the importance of limiting big plays going forward.
“At the end of the day it comes down to execution, and we got to make sure everyone’s doing their job,” Bertrand said. “So, we’ll look at it, get it cleaned up, and from there we will learn and get better this week and throughout practice continue to emphasize to do better.”
Despite giving up the go-ahead touchdown to Toledo, the defense was tasked with stopping the Rockets only a minute later in the game to seal the victory for the Irish.
Bertrand discussed the importance of resetting after allowing touchdowns and big plays.
“[Defensive coordinator Marcus] Freeman makes a big point about the idea of one play, one life. And at the end of the day, that’s the biggest thing that matters. We need to make sure we just play one play at a time and those past plays don’t matter,” Bertrand said. “I think we did a good job dealing with any kind of turnovers or even the goal-line stand at the beginning of the game. We just need to make sure that we continue to have that attitude as the game goes on.”
Bertrand is confident in the defense’s ability to be very successful going forward.
“This was a good game for us in the sense that we’re going to be able to learn from this. I think it was an eye-opening game and it was bittersweet. I think we’re going to be able to take it from here and identify where we need to get better. I think every guy in that room knows that they need to look at their own play individually and look at where they can get better. We will go from there,” Bertrand said.
Despite being thrown into a starting position this season, Bertrand has already proven himself as one of the best players on the Irish defense, and he appears set to have a very successful season and future with the Irish.