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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 68 Mike McGlinchey, left tackle

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-8, 312 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Fifth-year senior with eligibility remaining in only 2017
Depth chart: Let’s keep it simple: As long as he is healthy, McGlinchey will start at left tackle.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, McGlinchey committed to Notre Dame over the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin and State. Rivals.com rated McGlinchey as the No. 22 tackle in the class of 2013.

CAREER TO DATE
McGlinchey preserved a year of eligibility in 2013, and has seen time in every game since. He started the 2014 Music City Bowl against LSU at right guard in place of the injured Christian Lombard, beginning a streak of 26 consecutive starts across three positions.

In 2015, he held steady at right tackle before moving to left tackle last season.

QUOTE(S)
If McGlinchey was not discussed much this spring, it was because there are few questions regarding him. He is not only a known commodity, he is a known commodity of value.

The only question was just how high that value was, as in, why didn’t he enter the NFL Draft after his senior season? McGlinchey received an undoubtedly tempting draft evaluation, but felt there was room to improve. For Notre Dame’s part, Irish coach Brian Kelly said the program could offer the chance for that improvement in exchange for one more year of dominant edge blocking. That improvement would start, as it has with most of the team in the past six months, in the weight room under the direction of new director of football performance Matt Balis. (Editor’s Note: The following quote is lengthy, but all ties back to McGlinchey’s return to Notre Dame and mutual expectations for the coming year, so it will be included in full.)

“[McGlinchey] came back with a want and a desire to improve in the weight room,” Kelly said in March. “There was a commitment that we needed to make to him that we were going to get it to the end with him. In other words, bigger, faster, stronger.

“He’s gone up almost 8-10 pounds with good weight. He has gone from 16 to 24 in terms of 225 bench reps. He’s made significant gains in the weight room.

“We owed him something on our end, as well, and that is to physically develop him, to mentally develop him as a captain and as a leader, and then to develop his skill. We moved him over to left tackle, and there was an adjustment period for him there. [Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s] work with him is crucial.

“This was kind of a deal: You come back, you finish off at Notre Dame, you help us win a championship, and we’re going to develop you physically, we’re going to help you in your leadership skills, and we’re going to help you obviously on the field with your skills to that translates next year as you help Notre Dame football, it’s also going to help you individually [in the future].”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
I expect All-American honors for McGlinchey, who took about two practices to convince Brian Kelly and Hiestand that he’s talented enough athletically to make the transition to left tackle seamlessly. As one of the nation’s premier run blockers already, all that’s needed is a smooth transition against speed rushers, something McGlinchey should handle just fine with his length and athleticism.

“McGlinchey will earn his degree this spring, meaning a fifth year likely isn’t in the cards if he’s weight a first-round grade. And while we can look back on a season spent on the bench in 2014 behind Steve Elmer and Christian Lombard, two frontline seasons in South Bend could be enough to cement McGlinchey’s legacy as the next great tackle coming out of Notre Dame — and if he stays around for 2017 it’d be gravy.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Welcome to gravy. McGlinchey received that first-round draft grade, but returned for a third season as a starter, anyway. His reasoning doesn’t much matter, but one would presume Kelly’s comments above stemmed from conversations he had with McGlinchey. The left tackle’s return will immensely help Notre Dame, but he wanted more than to be a good teammate. He wants a return on the investment, as well.

Presuming health, McGlinchey will start at least 38 — and 38 consecutive, at that — games in his Irish career. That is far from a small accomplishment. It is certainly production no one can scoff at.

Some will remember McGlinchey’s penalty woes from last season. One might guess rectifying those mental errors played a part in thinking a return could help his draft stock. Whether that motivation is pure enough or not is superfluous as long as it is motivation enough to keep McGlinchey on side this season. Between him and senior left guard Quenton Nelson, the Irish should enjoy having a solid left side of the line while it lasts. Both will be off into the NFL next season following early first-round picks.

DOWN THE ROAD
The quick NFL success of former Notre Dame left tackles Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley will help McGlinchey’s draft projections. Much like some offensive systems supposedly fail to produce NFL-quality quarterbacks and thus those quarterbacks slide down draft boards, Hiestand’s outstanding track record with linemen is noticed.

It should also be noted Kelly knew McGlinchey’s exact 225-pound bench press rep count. That is a fine metric of evaluation, but it is really used only once as that metric: at the NFL Draft combine. Tracking it this past February is as sure a sign as any Notre Dame knows McGlinchey expects an enjoyable April of 2018.

Looking past that April, he projects as an NFL-level tackle, be it on the left or the right side. In many respects, his 6-foot-8 frame precludes a move inside in most minds.

PRESESASON HYPE
This will not often be a section in these parts. Most preseason hype revolves around watch lists and yawn.

But when someone makes the cover of Phil Steele’s annual preview magazine, that warrants notice.


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

TRANSFERS
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

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

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive lineman

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 ½, 310 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Early-enrolled freshman with four years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Banks may have looked the part this spring, but with four 12-game starters returning on the offensive line, he stands little chance at cracking the starting rotation. Given Notre Dame’s propensity to start off offensive linemen — no matter how highly-rated — with a season on the sidelines, only a rash of injuries would bring Banks playing time. That scenario would likely include a crisis at the guard positions, at which point Banks, fellow early-enrolled freshman Robert Hainsey, junior Trevor Ruhland and fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin would be among the group filling in. Even then, it is more likely Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand relies on Ruhland and Bivin rather than burn a year of Banks’ eligibility.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Banks chose Notre Dame over Michigan, Oregon and UCLA, among a litany of other offers. His December commitment came only a month after an official visit to Michigan. Rivals.com rated Banks as the No. 13 tackle in the class, the No. 16 prospect in California and the No. 121 recruit in the country.

QUOTE(S)
Banks and Hainsey impressed Irish coach Brian Kelly with their ability to match their elders’ competitiveness and physicality this spring.

“We’ve seen some really impressive compete levels in some of our young players,” Kelly said in March. “Aaron Banks … and Hainsey, those two guys, [but] does that mean they’ll start? No, but competitiveness. We threw those two kids in today on 11-on-11 and they battled their butts off. I’m not sure they knew exactly what they were doing, but their compete level is so high.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD SAID UPON BANK’S EARLY ENROLLMENT
Banks and Hainsey enter an offensive line room that may welcome back five starters, but needs to infuse depth.”

2017 OUTLOOK
As recently as a week ago, a year of preserving eligibility seemed like a sure thing for Banks. Now, that remains most likely but the departures of junior Tristen Hoge and sophomore Parker Boudreaux open the door to playing time by a crack. Nonetheless, injuries and injuries alone would get Banks on the field.

DOWN THE ROAD
In 2018, Notre Dame will need to fill at least two starting positions — left tackle and left guard — and will be without its current offensive line utility knife in fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin. One of the sophomore duo of Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg is likely to fill that tackle position, though Banks and Hainsey will undoubtedly be given fair shots at it. The left guard slot, though, is a better possibility for Banks.

If he shows the necessary aggressiveness, he could slot in there until a day comes when the Irish need a tackle. At that point, as a veteran, Banks very well may be the ideal choice. For that matter, if he were to excel for a season at guard and, as an example, Kraemer struggled at tackle, a swap could occur be it midseason or in the subsequent offseason.

One way or another, opportunity will be there for Banks entering the 2018 season. Even if Hainsey beats him out for that chance, two more starting positions should open entering 2019 at center (currently manned by senior Sam Mustipher with two seasons of eligibility remaining) and right guard (senior Alex Bars, also with two seasons remaining). Banks may not be agile enough for the center slot, but whoever fills in there will not be competition at the remaining opening.


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

TRANSFERS
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

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

Notre Dame adds Navy safety Alohi Gilman as transfer

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Let the roster addition and subtraction continue. Notre Dame added transferring sophomore safety Alohi Gilman from Navy on Friday.

“First of all, Alohi is a great fit here in terms of his character and also what he wants to achieve academically,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “Clearly, that’s primary in our recruiting. Secondly, in terms of his football fit, we got a good look of him against us last season. He plays the style of safety we want in this program. Alohi’s a run-and-hit safety that fits perfectly in the [defensive coordinator] Mike Elko defense.”

Gilman recorded 12 tackles for Navy in its 28-27 defeat of Notre Dame this past November, finishing the season with 76 tackles and five pass breakups. Those 12 tackles do include the one pictured above, lest anyone think Gilman was flagged for face-masking. He was not. Notre Dame then-sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was forced out of bounds on the play after a gain of 26 yards and a first down.

“I’m extremely grateful to be a part of the Notre Dame family,” Gilman said. “I’m thankful to the coaching staff and the man above for not only believing in me, but also providing this opportunity. I’m excited for this next chapter in my journey.”

His transfer was sparked in part by a decision far up the chain of command to not allow prospective professional athletes at military academies to defer their service to pursue their careers. Presumably, it is this reasoning that leads some to believe he could appeal to the NCAA to play in 2017. For now, Gilman will need to sit out the typical year of an undergraduate transfer.

Heading into this coming season, the Irish lack proven safeties. Junior Nick Coleman and sophomore Jalen Elliott will be the most likely starters in the season-opener against Temple. Coleman moved from cornerback to safety this offseason, while Elliott made 14 tackles in his debut season.

So while Gilman will most likely sit out this season, thanks to a year of starting at Navy, he will essentially be on even footing come 2018 as far as experience with the rest of the defensive backline. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, he may seem slight, but consider that Notre Dame lists Coleman as 6-foot, 187 pounds, and Elliott as 6-foot-½, 208 pounds.

With Gilman’s transfer into the program, rough math indicates the Irish now have 84 scholarship players, one fewer than the maximum allowed by the NCAA.

Friday at 4: Offensive Line Depth

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I would not have this idea if the usual distraction had shown up to Wednesday night trivia this week. Alas, the opportunity to hear the front man from The Messengers was more alluring than debating what countries Reebok, Puma and Asics were founded in (United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, respectively).

So instead of making unfortunately-idle conversation about the luxurious pleasure of smoking a cigar during a long drive across Wisconsin, I had to engage in real conversation with an aforementioned friend, Corey. It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking with Corey. It’s that I do it enough already. I’ve always preferred the devil I don’t know.

Corey’s question was valid, posed only hours after the announcement of sophomore offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux’s transfer release. Combined with Monday’s news of junior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge’s transfer to BYU, Corey had reason to wonder about the Irish offensive line depth.

“But really, how often does Notre Dame actually need more than one backup offensive lineman?” he asked.

In order to hide my lack of an immediate answer, I asked him to focus on what the name was of Paul Tibbets’ mother. Tibbets flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in World War II. Unfortunately for me, Corey had already written down “Enola” and it was back to his offensive line query.

The short answer: Not since 2013.

The long answer: Transfers of non-starters along the offensive line are not the huge deal they are made out to be, especially in the short-term. Boudreaux was working as a third-string center. Hoge did provide depth along the three interior line positions, but he was not a starter this year and would have needed to beat out a number of competitors at left guard next year (or right guard if senior Alex Bars were to move to the left side). That list includes, but is not necessarily limited to, early-enrolled freshmen Robert Hainsey and Aaron Banks, senior Jimmy Byrne and incoming freshmen Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons. Hainsey, specifically, could loom large in that positional struggle in a year.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget about junior Trevor Ruhland. He is, after all, now the presumptive seventh offensive lineman behind the starters and fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin.

While answering Corey’s question, let’s grant the assumption Bivin has continued to progress. Even without the transfers of Hoge and Boudreaux, that theory needed to become reality. The question regarding depth has never been about the sixth offensive lineman. It regards the seventh.

But will that seventh be needed?

Last year, Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was blessed with four 12-game starters, and it should be noted all four returned this season. Right guard Colin McGovern started eight games last year, with injuries limiting him in three of the other four and keeping him out of the Stanford game entirely. Bivin and Mark Harrell filled in for McGovern. While Bivin’s performance against Stanford and eventual No. 3 overall NFL Draft pick Solomon Thomas prompted the move to another option in Harrell, only one capable substitute was genuinely necessary. (more…)

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 70 Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6, 318 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Fifth-year senior with eligibility remaining in only 2017
Depth chart: Bivin provides depth across the entire offensive line with the possible exceptions of right tackle and center. In theory, only an injury would lead to Bivin starting, but he quite literally backs up at least three positions, and could become the primary support at center now thanks to this week’s transfers of junior Tristen Hoge and sophomore Parker Boudreaux.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Bivin committed to Notre Dame early, in March of his recruiting cycle. That seems to be a theme when Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand identifies a high-priority target. An Under Armour All-American, Bivin chose Notre Dame over offers from Clemson, Florida and Michigan, among others. Rivals.com ranked him the No. 12 tackle in his class, the No. 2 prospect in Kentucky and the No. 162 recruit in the country.

CAREER TO DATE
Bivin preserved a year of eligibility in 2013 before seeing action in five games in 2014. In his junior season, Bivin saw spot duty on the offensive line while contributing on special teams, seeing time in 12 games.

Last season, Bivin played in all 12 games, including a start at right guard against Stanford due to a Colin McGovern injury. Stanford star defensive tackle Solomon Thomas had his way with the Notre Dame interior line that day, but it is hard to knock Bivin too much for struggling against the eventual third overall NFL Draft pick. Nonetheless, Mark Harrell received the starts when McGovern went down again at the end of the season.

QUOTE(S)
Bivin was never much in the competition for a starting spot this spring. Per Irish coach Brian Kelly, that was partly to give the younger options — namely sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg — chances to prove themselves before inserting Bivin into the conversation.

“We had asked [Bivin] to give up some reps, but we’re going to crank him back up next week and give him the opportunity to get in the mix as well,” Kelly said in March.

More realistically, Kelly compared Bivin to Harrell from a year ago, a stopgap across the offensive line providing depth when needed.

“We think Hunter is going to be a Mark Harrell for us, a guy that’s extremely valuable, can play a number of positions,” Kelly said. “We trust him, but we want to see these two younger players.

“Hunter is a guy that can play right or left tackle for us. He’s going to be a valuable player for us to be a swing guy for us.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
I have Bivin penciled in at right guard for the start against Texas. Whether he stays in the lineup will likely be dictated by how quickly this offensive line gels. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that Kelly and Hiestand reshuffled their starting lineup, 2014’s offensive line swapped out mid-season after a disappointing start to the year. That’s a real scenario that could take place if this line doesn’t come together.

“Being the fifth-best starter on an offensive line that features guys like Mike McGlinchey and [current senior left guard] Quenton Nelson is no shame, especially when we’ve seen and heard such good things about first-time projected starters like [current senior right guard Alex] Bars and [current senior center] Sam Mustipher. Bivin is a big body — he’s got prototype tackle size — and that’ll make the transition inside easier.

“But I’m still waiting to see how he does as a mauler. There’s not much room for finesse at right guard, especially with the Irish wanting to establish a ground game early and often in 2016.

“If Bivin brings that type of aggressiveness to the job and takes to guard over the summer, he’s a potential two-year starter. If not, he goes back to being a sixth man, capable of backing up essentially every spot on the offensive line.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Obviously, Bivin did not bring Keith’s prerequisite of aggressiveness to the guard position. This spring, it was a foregone conclusion in Kelly’s and Hiestand’s minds it would be better to establish a sophomore at right tackle and move Bars to right guard than to keep Bars at right tackle and consider Bivin at right guard.

Perhaps that is done with an eye on the offensive line’s ceiling, or perhaps with an eye on the future. Most likely, that is done with a belief that setup will be best for 2017.

Thus, Bivin is indeed in the sixth-man role Keith projected. Keith just had no way of knowing how vital that role could prove to be this year. Presume Eichenberg backs up Kraemer, or vice versa, at right tackle. After that, Bivin very well could be the primary backup at each position if injury should arise. For example, if McGlinchey were to fall, Hiestand said Bivin would step in.

“Then we’d have to see how serious [the injury] was before we flipped sides for those young guys.”

At left guard, the best other option behind Nelson may be junior Trevor Ruhland, who saw action in nine games last season but none of significant note. At center, thanks to this week’s departures, if Bivin is not the top backup, an injury to Mustipher could still lead to him starting if, for example, Bars moves to the middle.

The point is, aside from sophomore quarterback Ian Book, Bivin will be Notre Dame’s most vital backup in 2017. It may be preferable he see meaningful snaps only here-and-there, but he will need to be ready for those snaps at all times at a number of positions.

DOWN THE ROAD
This is it, and, frankly, if you can’t start for a college team as a fifth-year senior, the NFL isn’t going to sniff around much.


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

TRANSFERS
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

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