Javon McKinley


Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 53 Sam Mustipher, center


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2 ½, 305 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two seasons of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Mustipher starts at center. The questions come when figuring out who is behind him after the outgoing transfers of junior Tristen Hoge and sophomore Parker Boudreaux.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Mustipher chose Notre Dame over the likes of Alabama, Michigan, Stanford and most other top-tier programs in the country. An Under Armour All-American, rivals.com rated him as the No. 3 prospect in Maryland, the No. 12 guard in the country and the No. 203 overall recruit.

Mustipher preserved a year of eligibility in 2014 and then backed up Nick Martin in 2015, seeing sporadic action in nine games. With Martin gone in the second round of the NFL Draft, Mustipher started all 12 games at center last season.

Irish coach Brian Kelly knows what he has in Mustipher, a captain and a returning 12-game starter. Nonetheless, Mustipher impressed Kelly this spring.

“We know who the guys are on the left side,” Kelly said at the start of spring practice. “Sam has had a really good eight weeks, as well.”

Kelly also cited Mustipher — along with fifth-year senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey and senior left guard Quenton Nelson — as a leader on and off the field.

I don’t think Mustipher will be as solid as Martin was last season (a deep-dig into game tape had Martin surging up draft boards before the Texans took him), but expect a strong season. Perhaps the best version of Mustipher is the one you don’t notice. First-year centers who spend a lot of time in the shotgun need to make sure that every play gets started correctly, and from there he can make sure the Irish win the battle at the point of attack. (It sounds remedial, but let’s not take the snap for granted.)

“Mustipher’s strength let him win more than his fair share of battles last spring with Daniel Cage, a physical force on the interior. If Mustipher can anchor, play with solid technique and get to the second level, Notre Dame’s running game should continue to surge.

“When Tristen Hoge signed with Notre Dame, most thought the high school center had the inside track to multiple seasons starting. That still could happen, but Mustipher might end up the one with three seasons at center, while Hoge battles to be one of the two linemen playing next to him.”

Mustipher will start against Temple on Sept. 2. (That’s 75 days away, for those counting.) The Irish desperately hope he will be starting against Stanford to close the season. With both Hoge and Boudreaux gone, Notre Dame does not have a clear-cut backup at center. Whether junior Trevor Ruhland trains at the position or senior Alex Bars readies to move over from right guard should Mustipher get hurt, avoiding those contingencies is an obvious preference.

Mustipher will continue to be the fulcrum on the Irish line next season, as well. McGlinchey and most likely Nelson will be off to the NFL, leaving Mustipher and presumably Bars as established starters, plus whoever gets the final nod at right tackle between sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg.

With three seasons of starting experience in college, Mustipher will have NFL prospects, though projecting those odds for a center this far ahead of time is a fool’s errand.

More pertinent will be who fills in behind Mustipher at center in 2018. That backup in 2017 will be more of a bandage than a long-term solution, though Ruhland, or perhaps freshman Dillan Gibbons, could certainly turn into that forward-looking answer. Neither will be in 2017, though. Notre Dame could also find a center in the developing recruiting class and give him a year behind Mustipher to learn the craft.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92 (theoretically): Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90 (theoretically): Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 (theoretically): Jafar Armstrong, receiver
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84 (theoretically): Michael Young, receiver
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 73: (theoretically) Josh Lugg, offensive tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 65: (theoretically) Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper

No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship

Notre Dame TE Tyler Luatua’s career ended by medical hardship

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Senior tight end Tyler Luatua’s football career has come to an abrupt end. Irish coach Brian Kelly announced a medical hardship will prevent Luatua from continuing to play, though he will remain enrolled at Notre Dame on scholarship as he pursues a degree.

“It’s always a difficult decision for a player to step away from football,” Kelly said. “Most importantly, Tyler will still have an opportunity to earn his degree from the University.”

In the case of a medical waiver, the scholarship no longer counts against the NCAA limit of 85, putting Notre Dame now at 83 scholarship players by rough math.

Luatua appeared in all 12 games last season, though largely on special teams. Before last spring’s practices, he briefly publicly entertained a transfer to BYU, before changing his mind in time for Kelly and the Irish to accept him back onto the roster.

This spring early-enrolled freshman Brock Wright appeared to pass Luatua on the depth chart, partly due to the latter’s limitations in the passing game. With Wright ahead of him, Luatua was, at best, the fifth tight end in offensive coordinator Chip Long’s scheme.

Nonetheless, it is never a happy ending when medical reasons truncate a passion.

No. 13
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ½, 260 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with only 2017 eligibility remaining
Depth Chart: As mentioned above, Luatua had slid down the depth chart largely due to the talent influx provided by the incoming freshman class and the return of junior Alizé Mack. Fifth-year senior Durham Smythe and Mack headline the tight ends, and senior Nic Weishar’s better receiving acumen than Luatua elevated Weishar to the No. 3 spot, a coveted position in Long’s offense which often depends on two tight ends. With Wright also moving past Luatua, and incoming freshman Cole Kmet looming, Luatua did not project for much action this season.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star prospect, and the No. 12 tight end in the class of 2014, Luatua enjoyed offers from many of the nation’s premier programs, including Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State. Aside from Notre Dame, Luatua most considered Alabama. (more…)

Notre Dame OL Parker Boudreaux granted transfer release


Two days after his backup center counterpart transferred, sophomore Parker Boudreaux has been given permission to do the same.

Irish coach Brian Kelly announced a release for Boudreaux to seek a transfer Wednesday afternoon.

“We thank Parker for his work, dedication and commitment to our program over the last year and wish him nothing but the best moving forward,” Kelly said.

Both Boudreaux and junior Tristen Hoge were stuck behind senior center Sam Mustipher, who started 12 games last season and has two seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2017. That said, with Hoge’s departure to BYU earlier in the week, Boudreaux appeared to be one snap away from playing time.

Without them, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand will need to look for another option to provide depth on the interior. Fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin has been the prime candidate to back up the other four positions on the line, and could be considered along with junior Trevor Ruhland. A few freshmen could also provide peace of mind, though admittedly all hopes would be Mustipher avoids injury.

Boudreaux marks the third transfer in nearly exactly one week, with junior linebacker Josh Barajas (FCS-level Illinois State) kicking things off May 31.

No. 50
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 288 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Sophomore with four seasons of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season, though if Boudreaux transfers to an FBS-level program, he will need to sit out 2017 and then will have only three years of eligibility remaining
Depth Chart: Boudreaux was never going to be the top option in 2017 unless Mustipher suffered an injury.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Boudreaux chose Notre Dame over a bevy of offers, including from Alabama, Clemson and Florida. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 21 line prospect in the class and No. 46 recruit in Florida in the class of 2016.

Boudreaux preserved a year of eligibility in 2016. (more…)

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 73 (theoretically) Josh Lugg, offensive tackle


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6, 280 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Incoming freshman with four years of eligibility remaining
Depth chart: Lugg’s length makes him an ideal left tackle candidate in years to come. With that in mind, he joins a roster featuring fifth-year senior and early-round NFL Draft prospect Mike McGlinchey who is so entrenched, Notre Dame does not have a specific left tackle backup. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has indicated fifth-year lineman Hunter Bivin would be called upon if spot duty is needed. If a longer-term fix were required, Robert Hainsey did enroll early, but one of the sophomore duo — Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg — would be a more likely solution, with the other remaining at right tackle.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Lugg’s dedicated commitment helped hold the Irish class together amidst coaching staff turnover. The U.S. Army All-American was rated the No. 22 tackle prospect in the country and No. 6 player in Pennsylvania by rivals.com.

When discussing the four offensive linemen in the class of 2017 on National Signing Day, Irish coach Brian Kelly framed their arrival in terms of who is already around.

“If you take a look at the recruiting on the offensive line, Josh Lugg, Aaron Banks, Dillan Gibbons, Robert Hainsey, these are guys that are rated as high as any offensive linemen in the country,” Kelly said. “But they’re coming into a situation where we have, for example, on our left side with [senior guard] Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, two guys that are arguably the best at their position in the country.

“We have very, very good offensive linemen coming in, but we’ve got talented players at that position with experience across the board. We feel great about the depth that we’ve developed at that position.”

Kelly also praised Lugg along with defensive lineman Kurt Hinish and linebacker David Adams, all three from the Pittsburgh area, for helping keep the Notre Dame commitments united.

“All those guys were kind of together at once,” Kelly said. “They kind of ran in a pack. That helped.”

Those aren’t typos. 6-foot-7. 293 pounds. If they are typos, they are not by much. Notre Dame is touting Lugg as 6’6”, 280. His frame appears ready to hold more [weight], at that. His long arms set him up well for pass protection. Do not be surprised to see Lugg continue the recent Irish tradition of top-tier offensive linemen.”

Notre Dame OL Tristen Hoge announces transfer to BYU


Junior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge will finish his college career at BYU after announcing Monday an intention to transfer from Notre Dame.

A heralded recruit, Hoge was the presumptive Irish center of the future upon his arrival as an early enrollee in January of 2015. The consensus four-star recruit was fresh off a trip to the U.S. Army All America Bowl and held the honor of being the No. 1 center in the class per rivals.com.

After preserving a year of eligibility that fall — and being named the offensive scout team player of the year — Hoge lost a competition with current senior Sam Mustipher to be the starting center last season. That alone did not bode overly poorly for Hoge. Mustipher had an additional year in offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s system, as well as in a college weight room.

With Mustipher still having two seasons of eligibility remaining, Hoge tried his hand at right guard this spring but could never gain much traction on senior Alex Bars. Bars started 12 games last year at right tackle before moving inward this spring to make space for sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg.

Hoge’s departure marks the second in the last week. Junior linebacker Josh Barajas announced Wednesday he will play for FCS-level Illinois State next year. (more…)