As a fifth-year player, Mark Harrell is the elder statesman of the offensive line. He’s also still waiting for his opportunity to crack the starting lineup.
That chance won’t likely come unless something goes wrong. But Harrell is the closing thing to an insurance policy on the offensive line, a versatile reserve who has spent time playing virtually every position up front.
Likely a bridge at tackle between starters Mike McGlinchey and Alex Bars and talented freshmen Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, Harrell’s a program player, with loyalty running two-ways as he plays out his eligibility in South Bend.
6’4″, 306 lbs.
Grad Student, No. 75, OL
A three or four-star prospect depending on the service, Harrell was a first-team All-State player in North Carolina with offers from Michigan, Auburn, Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina, Stanford and Tennessee.
Freshman Season (2012): Did not see action, saving a year of eligibility.
Sophomore Season (2013): Did not see action.
Junior Season (2014): Played in two games, seeing action against Rice and Michigan. Served as a backup at center, with the ability to also play guard and tackle.
Senior Season (2015): Saw action in five games. Played 12 snaps at right tackle against UMass, earning a +1.2 grade from PFF-College.
WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR
Feels like I could copy and paste after swapping out Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin’s names.
Harrell has the type of positional versatility you want in a backup. He served as a reserve center last year during the Blue-Gold game, and while he’s no longer on the depth chart behind Nick Martin, he’d likely be called upon in a pinch rather than burning Tristen Hoge’s redshirt. What happens if Ronnie Stanley or Mike McGlinchey go down at tackle is largely a mystery as well, so there’s likely playing opportunities, but again, only if things start to go awry.
Harrell will likely spend some time on special teams in 2015, capable of taking some snaps on field goal and punt teams. But the depth chart is packed and one of the toughest spots to get on the field, and Harrell’s lack of opportunity is largely because of the talent in front of him.
A fifth-year backup, Harrell was tapped by Kelly this spring to move outside to tackle, hoping to solidify a depth chart that’s thinner than you’d expect, considering the impressive recruiting Harry Hiestand has done during his tenure in South Bend. But Harrell is likely on the outside because Jerry Tillery is playing defensive tackle and Ronnie Stanley was the first offensive lineman selected in the NFL Draft.
It’s hard to know what Harrell can do if we haven’t seen him do it yet. But at this point, the fact that the coaching staff preferred keeping him on the roster and serving as a backup (likely at right tackle) is telling—because there’s a very high likelihood that Harrell could’ve used his graduate transfer to step onto a campus of a lower-tier program and start right away.
If all goes according to plan, we’ll only see Harrell in mop-up situations or on special teams. If it doesn’t? Expect to see how he does at right tackle, with a redshirt preferred for both talented freshmen tackles.
Regardless, peg Harrell for more appearances in 2016 than his career total of seven games, knowing that it’ll be important to gain some experience and keep McGlinchey and Bars fresh.
2016’s Irish A-to-Z