May 5, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT
Next month, Alex Bars comes to campus, adding another talented offensive lineman to Harry Hiestand’s fleet. The tackle prospect has the size and athleticism that made him one of the elite prospects in the country. Now he’ll have an opportunity to compete for playing time at a position that’s filled with young, promising personnel.
Bars follows in his father’s footsteps, with dad Joe playing linebacker for Notre Dame from 1981-84. His brother Brad is a senior defensive end at Penn State and brother Blake plays along the offensive line at Michigan. Only Alex received an offer from Notre Dame.
Let’s take a closer look at one of Notre Dame’s top incoming freshmen.
6’6″, 290 lbs.
A top 100-150 player, Bars is one of the elite offensive line prospects in the country. With offers from Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Stanford (among many others), he fits the mold of a blue-chipper. Projecting where he fits in and how he’ll do at the college level is next to impossible until seeing him in South Bend, though the fact that his two brothers are part of major programs gives Bars an idea of the work that needs to be done to be a contributor at this level.
Bars committed to the Irish early, pledging in May as one of the key building blocks to this recruiting class. He played his high school football at Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy, one of the top programs in the area. He was an Under Armour All-American, second-team on USA Today’s All-USA team, and the Rotary Lombardi Chip Off the Old Block Award winner, for the South’s top high school lineman. All are strong data-points for the future.
Projecting what the Irish’s offensive line looks like in a few years is quite fun. With Ronnie Stanley entering his second year of eligibility and Mike McGlinchey a redshirt freshman, the tackle position looks fairly solid, with Steve Elmer the next man in if McGlinchey slips up.
While the starters seem to be in place, the tackle depth still isn’t ideal, though Bars and fellow freshman Quenton Nelson do quite a bit to solidify it. In the interim, both Hunter Bivin and Colin McGovern have been practicing on the outside, even though both projected to play on the interior of the offensive line.
But Bars didn’t come to South Bend to provide depth. And on paper, he’s every bit the prospect that Stanley or McGlinchey is. Physically, he’s the type of prospect that just about every program in the country wants to have on their roster. While a redshirt makes a ton of sense, we’ll see how he impresses the staff when he arrives on campus in June.
It’s getting clear that under Hiestand and Kelly, the best five linemen play. The past two seasons, they’ve shifted players to make that happen. So if Bars works his way into that conversation soon, he might find a role at right guard, where Christian Lombard departs. Nick Martin is the next lineman off the board after 2015, and at that point you begin to wonder what the optimum number is for the depth chart, with some fifth year options coming up that could be telling.
That Bars is in South Bend and not anywhere else tells you that he’s a prospect that this Irish coaching staff truly coveted. But he’ll likely spend his freshman season learning the ropes and hitting the weight room, as most freshman offensive linemen should. If Mike McGlinchey struggles at right tackle, Bars will challenge for the job in a year or two. Otherwise he could break into the rotation at guard before shifting outside to tackle during his junior and senior seasons.