Blue & Gold / Rivals

Early Enrollees: Spencer Perry

Newnan, Georgia

Measurables: 6’1.5″, 204 lbs.

Accolades: Three-star prospect who was a one-time Florida commitment. A top-50 player at his position as viewed by Scout, ESPN, 247 and Rivals. Missed majority of senior season at IMG Academy with shoulder injury.

Impressive Offers: Florida, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State

Projected Position: Safety

Quick Take: Notre Dame lands a big-bodied defender who has the chance to be a jumbo player at a clear position of need. Perry impressed the staff when he came to campus in the summer and Irish won a recruiting battle with Florida and plenty of others. Basketball background and athletic skill-set could add some positional flexibility.

What he means to the Irish: As Irish reload in secondary, bringing in Perry early and adding another SEC-level talent to the mix is a very good thing. At a shade below 6’2″, Perry’s length means he has the ability to grow into a Sam linebacker if his body allows it. Otherwise he’s a good enough athlete to cover ground on the backend and find a fit in Notre Dame’s defensive scheme.

Obligatory YouTube clip:


Early Enrollees: Khalid Kareem

Rivals / Yahoo Sports

Pontiac, Michigan

Measurables: 6’4″, 245 lbs.

Accolades: Semper Fidelis All-American, consensus Top 250 recruit, 2015 MLive Detroit Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-State.

Impressive Offers: Alabama, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford

Projected Position: Strongside defensive end

Quick Take: Another one of the Midwest’s top recruits, Kareem is another potential solution at defensive end. Physically impressive with room to grow, if Hayes projects as a future weakside pass rusher, Kareem looks like an anchor on the strong side.

Once committed to Alabama, Kareem decided to play his college football closer to home and chose the Irish over a slew of impressive options. With the Irish looking for a next generation of defensive linemen to replace standouts like Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones, Romeo Okwara and Isaac Rochell, Kareem is an easy candidate to put at the front of the line.

What he means to the Irish: Kareem could be the heir apparent to Isaac Rochell, a big athletic kid who could be an immediate performer for the Irish defensive front. Capable of developing as a pass rusher with good length, an extra semester in the weight room could be a huge advantage for Kareem, a natural athlete who is just starting to understand his physical potential.

Obligatory YouTube clip:

Notre Dame confirms Luatua’s transfer to BYU


Notre Dame made official the news that Tyler Luatua was transferring from the university. He’ll leave school at the end of the spring semester.

Luatua visited BYU last weekend, confirming his plans to spend the rest of his football career in Provo. He’ll sit out the 2016 season but have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

In two seasons in South Bend, Luatua served mostly as a blocker. He made three career starts and played in 20 games the past two seasons. The Irish return senior Durham Smythe, junior Nic Weishar and sophomore Alizé Jones.


Early Enrollees: Daelin Hayes


Ann Arbor, Michigan

Measurables: 6’3″, 254 lbs.

Accolades: U.S. Army All-American, 5-star ranking (Rivals), No. 4 in The Detroit News Blue Chip list.

Impressive Offers: Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC

Projected Position: Outside Linebacker / Defensive End

Quick Take: Maybe the biggest upside of any recruit signing with the Irish. Hayes looks the part of an NFL specimen right now, capable of coming off the edge, playing linebacker or doing anything on the field—if he can stay healthy.

He may be a 5-star talent, but Hayes hasn’t played a lot of football. He suffered a shoulder injury as a sophomore in the season opener. A custody battle between parents yo-yo’d him between California and Michigan as a junior, his season cut short after just three games. His senior season at Ann Arbor Skyline ended with another shoulder injury and surgery in November.

Getting Hayes on campus early is huge, but getting him healthy is even more important. He told the Detroit News that he’ll be ready for spring ball though that remains to be seen.  There’s a great football player here—or people seem to believe. But he’ll also deal with the burden of great expectations. That’s often times tougher than it sounds, especially when he’s had limited opportunities to play the game.

What he means to the Irish: A possible solution for a missing pass rush, Hayes could be the perfect situational weapon as a freshman. While there’s a need to be patient with both injuries and development, there’s no question that landing Hayes is a huge “get,” with Rivals Josh Helmholdt saying the following about his potential:

“I think he can be the best linebacker in college football. He has that ability,” Helmholdt said. “He unquestionably has a five-star skill set — No. 1, he’s on the plus side from a size standpoint. No. 2, he’s on the plus side from an athleticism standpoint, and No. 3 he’s on the plus side from a work ethic. All three of those factors come at a premium when projecting talent, and he checks all the boxes.”

Obligatory YouTube clip:

Last Look: Offensive Line

USA Today Sports

Protecting a first-year passer and a backfield of inexperienced runners, Notre Dame fielded what could be the school’s most explosive offense ever. While most of that praise has been heaped on Will Fuller, C.J. Promise, DeShone Kizer and Josh Adams, you could just as easily point to the performance of the Irish offensive line as the key driver for that success.

While the highlight reel might only show the big uglies catching up in the end zone to celebrate, Harry Hiestand’s group put together their most consistent showing of the Brian Kelly era, doing so with a talented front five that features NFL talent across the board. Exceptional at protecting the passer and creating running lanes, it may not have been an entirely consistent season, but the starting five deserved its reputation as one of the best units in the country.

While the current challenge is finding replacements for Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin, let’s take a final look back at the 2015 offensive line’s performance. With PFF College’s grading system as our guide, here’s the closest thing to a statistical breakdown you’ll find of an offensive line, a position group that never has an army of stats tracking their success, but is vital to a team’s performance nonetheless.

OL Grades









MVP: Ronnie Stanley. No, his season wasn’t perfect. But Stanley played 2015 with crosshairs on him and made it through with his first round grade intact. That Stanley wasn’t the team’s highest-graded offensive line might be a surprise. But a deeper dig into Stanley—not just the draft prospect, but the present-day football player—shouldn’t make this revelation so jaw-dropping. What makes teams covet Stanley isn’t necessarily his work on the field (yet) but the stunning skill-set that perfectly blends athleticism and size, a football player whose best days are still ahead of him.

So while Stanley’s final season wasn’t at Zack Martin’s level, it was still pretty solid. He struggled at times with penalties, though some of that could be attributed to an inconsistent snap count by rookie QBs and some of the growing pains that come with seeing and experiencing things for the first time.  Stanley struggled in the run game against Clemson (who didn’t?) and played subpar against Wake Forest. But other than that he received a positive grade in every start, a standout performer on the blind side en route to All-American honors and the team’s offensive player of the year award.

With another left tackle off to an NFL team in the first round, Notre Dame fans should look back on this incredible six-year run of Martin and Stanley and tip a cap. Because that duo has left huge shoes to fill—and Stanley looks poised to be another ND great succeeding at the next level.


Rising Stars: Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson quickly become anchors.  That McGlinchey and Nelson so quickly turned into dominant players is a great sign for the future. Both are mauling offensive linemen, hardly the finesse performers that have sometimes plagued Kelly’s (and Hiestand’s) lines.

McGlinchey stepped in at right tackle after Christian Lombard played through injury last season. That he led the Irish in overall grade makes you wonder not just if he should’ve been playing in 2014, but if he’s the next NFL prospect that’ll have scouts drooling. At 6-foot-8 and a skinny 310 pounds, outside of a tough night in Death Valley, McGlinchey was dominant.

Nelson’s toughness was on display when the sophomore gutted his way through a major ankle injury and fought his way back onto the field after Alex Bars went down. Nelson’s strength—literally—made his run blocking an immediate forte. While he struggled some in the three-game stretch of Clemson, USC and Temple (he missed a one game in the middle of that stretch as he struggled with an ankle injury), he finished the season strong, playing two nice games against Stanford and Ohio State, building blocks for 2016.

Yes, questions about replacing Nick Martin and Ronnie Stanley will certainly exist this spring. But this ascending duo will cushion that blow.


He’ll be missed: Nick Martin creates a huge hole at center. 

What Notre Dame does at center this spring should be revealing. Brian Kelly has praised the work of rising sophomore Tristen Hoge. Sam Mustipher filled in admirably for Martin in 2015, though a few shotgun snaps still felt like an adventure for the converted guard.

That Notre Dame finally recruited a natural center in Hoge is telling. Kelly has converted his centers since inheriting Braxston Cave when he arrived in 2010. Martin’s performance the past few seasons has him in line to be a mid-round draft pick, especially after a solid Senior Bowl week showing off his versatility. How the Irish replace him is maybe even a bigger question than how they find their next left tackle.


Needs Improvement: Steve Elmer needs to rally in his senior season. One look at PFF’s grades makes it apparent that Elmer had a down season. No starter had a grade even close to the negative number the junior put up. After seeing the field as a true freshman starter and then yo-yo’ing between tackle and guard as a sophomore, most expected consistency from Elmer in 2015. That wasn’t the case.

There’s still plenty to like about Elmer’s future and every reason to think he can not just rebound in 2016 but find a way to play on Sundays. He’s got exceptional size for an interior player. He’s a good enough athlete. But Elmer needs to correct his “big miss,” and we’ve seen it all too often in the run game as he’s badly whiffed on a block when his technique and body get out of position.

Last week rumors swirled after Irish Sports Daily’s Power Hour mentioned that Elmer might be considering an academics-only senior year, leaving behind his final season of eligibility. (I haven’t heard that rumor.) That move would force the Irish staff to replace a 30-game starter. Elmer’s far too talented to take off the field, but his backups also are too good to concede a starting job to someone underperforming. So Elmer will need to rebound in 2016 for the line—and Elmer—to reach their potential.


Biggest Question: Can Alex Bars step in at left tackle? After his sophomore season was cut short by an ankle injury, Bars will likely transition back to offensive tackle, the odds-on-favorite to get first crack at replacing Ronnie Stanley. While Bars served as a platoon-mate (or more accurately, understudy) to classmate Quenton Nelson at left guard, he’s a natural tackle.

It’s worth pointing out that it was Hunter Bivin who served as Ronnie Stanley’s backup in 2015. Bivin has bounced around the offensive line, trying everything from center to tackle in a quest to find a position. But this staff thinks the world of Bars, and Kelly has praised the young player from jump street. If Bars’ ankle is good to go come spring practice, we’ll see if he’s given the first shot to run with the first team or if Kelly and Hiestand stick with Bivin, a senior at a position where the staff certainly appreciates veterans.