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Four-star UGA commit JD Bertrand has been a force this season for Blessed Trinity. His Titans face Marist Friday night in the GHSA Class 4A state final.

4-star JD Bertrand one of several UGA commits playing for state title Friday night

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet for this edition calls for a focus on one of five UGA commits who will be playing for a state title Friday night. That’s Eagle Scout and 4-star inside linebacker JD Bertrand. 

John Thompson coaches JD Bertrand at Blessed Trinity. His Titans will face Marist tonight for the Georgia High School Association Class 4A state championship.

The well-traveled Thompson has 30 years of experience coaching at the college level. He’s worked as the defensive coordinator in the SEC, with Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina among many stops on the college level.

Thompson has been the well-qualified defensive coordinator for the Titans this season.

JD Bertrand-UGA recruitingWhen a gentleman with a resume like that points out the many things he likes about one of his players ― in this case Bertrand ― it is worth sharing.

Thompson is not big on player parallels but he sees some traits in Bertrand that bring to mind an all-timer like Dick Butkus.

That’s just to name one name.

DawgNation has written before about Bertrand’s off-the-field endeavors that have allowed him to follow the family path in becoming an Eagle Scout.

This breakdown will take a different path about a player DawgNation should get excited about.

Bertrand committed to UGA in July. He rates on the 247Sports composite as the nation’s No. 12 outside linebacker for the 2019 cycle, but his future is in the middle.

What is his sharpest tool?

“Effort,” Thompson said. “Absolute effort. He goes hard, hard, hard every snap. He’s physical. He’s nasty. He plays football the way it was designed to be played.”

Bertrand might lead the state in snaps played to the very echo of the whistle. These would be the faintest of decibels.

“It is not past the whistle and it is not cheap,” Thompson said. “It is not dirty. He just plays to the whistle with his utmost physical ability. He uses his pads. These are not late hits. He doesn’t trash talk or anything like that. He is just going to hit and is a very physical guy.”

Thompson could go on and on about a talent he said will “take your head off.”

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“He wants to make every play,” Thompson said. “He plays that way and is so very hungry every day for practice. He’s always asking for a little bit more. He wants the toughest scout team running back in there. JD will come to me and say that he needs to work on this and this and drill that today.”

Those late night texts usually do not poke at Thompson making sure he gets some sleep.

“He’ll text me at night when I am watching the tape and he will ask me what he needs to get better at,” Thompson said.

Bertrand missed the first half of the regular season with a hairline fracture in a foot. When he came back, he worked with a high level of intensity to knock the rust off.

“He kept up with everything we were doing over the six to eight weeks he was out,” Thompson said. “He did all the tests and watched all the film and was still right with us step-for-step in everything. He’s not your average junior in high school. His maturity and his drive goes well beyond that.”

Thompson doesn’t think those player parallels are fair for either party. So I’ll make one: If that sounds a lot like Roquan Smith’s approach to football, well then it should.

The work ethic for JD Bertrand stands out 

Bertrand played a big role in knocking out top-rated Cartersville in the Class 4A state playoffs. He harassed 5-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence at every turn. Thompson said that Bertrand picked up a couple of sacks. At least a couple.

“He had Trevor Lawrence on the run and in that game, we did blitz JD quite a bit,” Thompson said. “Sometimes when you blitz you kind of look around and tip-toe a little bit. But JD doesn’t do that. He comes hard. He probably had a couple of sacks in the game, but he had Lawrence running. I think that Lawrence knew who was coming to get him to so he was smart to take off or get rid of it when we blitzed him.”

Four-star UGA commit JD Bertrand (right) usually hangs out with 5-star wide receiver Dominick Blaylock on his trips to Athens. Those two are lifelong friends. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What does Thompson like better about the future Georgia linebacker? Is it his relentless motor on the field? Or his desire to prepare to get better?

“Those two are right there, neck and neck,” Thompson said. “I haven’t seen either one of them shut off. … I don’t know if he has a governor or a clutch. Just don’t know about that one yet. I haven’t seen either one from him yet.”

The best scheme fit for Bertrand does seem to be at inside linebacker. He would project well in the box in a 4-3, a 3-4 or even in a 4-2-5 look.

Thompson called it a “blessing” to be a part of a school community like the one at Blessed Trinity, adding it has been “awesome” to coach a player of Bertrand’s caliber and character.

“He’s the kind of guy that I get a text from [Thursday] night,” Thompson said. “It is a little before nine 0’clock and he says, ‘Hey coach, I hope you are in bed. You need all the rest you can get’ for [Friday night]. He has really been a joy to coach.”

His energy is perhaps his greatest benefit to his team. It is infectious.

“When you see the way he works and the way he gets after it, then you can’t help but raise your level of play to match it and try to keep up with it,” Thompson said. “What he does there in that area makes our whole team better every day in practice. He plays so hard that everyone else better play hard or they will stand out like a sore thumb.”

The scouting report on Marist TE John FitzPatrick

Thompson has seen football played at its highest levels up close, making him an invaluable resource for a reporter or analyst who wants to know if a certain player lives up to the hype or his commitment to play for a certain school in the SEC.

John FitzPatrick-UGA recruiting
John FitzPatrick recently picked up his fourth star on the 247Sports composite rankings. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Thompson said the Bulldogs are getting a very good one in 6-foot-7 Marist tight end John FitzPatrick.

“He’s a really good player and a mismatch in every way,” Thompson said. “They throw the jump ball up to him and we don’t have anybody that can get up that high. They spread him out. Then he blocks. He will have a couple of matchups with him and JD with that. I’m sure they are going to try to use him to block JD [Friday night]. He’s a really, really good player.”

FitzPatrick was an X-factor in the first meeting between the schools this year. He made several big plays in the Marist victory.

“Just a great player,” Thompson said. “We are for sure going to have to do something about him tonight.”

The senior recently received a boost in his recruiting ranking. The newly minted 4-star now ranks on the 247Sports composite metric as the nation’s No. 16 TE for 2018.


Bulldogs commits will be busy Friday night

Bertrand and FitzPatrick aren’t the only future Bulldogs playing for a state title tonight. Georgia will have commits vying for Georgia High School Association state titles in Class 2A, 4A, 5A and 7A.

Chris Smith and Hapeville Charter will face Rabun County for the GHSA Class 2A state title Friday night. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

All games are at 7:30 p.m. The snow forced the postponement of the GHSA championship slate at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for all but two classes. Now, the games will be played at various school sites.

  • 7A: 4-star senior center Warren Ericson and North Gwinnett host Colquitt County.
  • 5A: 5-star Rome senior outside linebacker Adam Anderson and his Wolves are at Warner Robins.
  • 4A: Bertrand and FitzPatrick will take part in the Blessed Trinity-Marist rematch. The game is at Marist.
  • 2A: 4-star Hapeville Charter senior cornerback Chris Smith II will lead his Hornets at Rabun County.

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed faster than Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith can find the football after the snap.

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