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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 56 Quenton Nelson, left guard

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5, 329 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two seasons of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Nelson starts at left guard and will start on the Irish line until the day he heads to the NFL Draft.
Recruiting: A rivals.com five-star recruit, Nelson chose Notre Dame over offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford and many others. The No. 2 prospect in New Jersey, No. 3 tackle and No. 29 player overall in the class of 2014, Nelson committed to Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand in May of his junior year of high school, robbing recruitniks of any drama in the high-profile lineman’s process.

CAREER TO DATE
Nelson preserved a year of eligibility in 2014 before starting 23 of the 25 games in the following two seasons, only missing two starts in 2015 due to an ankle injury, though he still appeared in one of those two games.

QUOTE(S)
Spring conversations tend to rotate around question marks, and Nelson at left guard is anything but a question. As a captain, Irish coach Brian Kelly indicated Nelson is a point of reliance for the team as a whole.

“Guys with a lot of experience you’re going to continue to count on,” Kelly said the week of the Blue-Gold Game. “… You look at the captains first, because you know you’re going to count on them off the field, and that means you can probably count on them on the field, as well. Take those guys. Quenton Nelson, [fifth-year senior left tackle] Mike McGlinchey … guys you can count on right out of the gate.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
Notre Dame could have two All-Americans lined up next to each other. That’s my bold prediction heading into the season, with both Nelson and McGlinchey earning those honors. In seasons past, we saw the Irish become left-handed in the running game, with Chris Watt and Zack Martin the trusted preference of Brian Kelly in critical running situations. It’s hard to think that won’t be the case in 2016.

“Nelson’s strength has turned him into an elite run blocker. Expect to see his game round out this season, with his improved fitness helping bring the physical traits of a tackle into play as well. A special season is possible.”

2017 OUTLOOK
While Notre Dame does have some questions about the right side of its offensive line, and about the overall offensive line depth, not having to worry about half of those protection possibilities is quite a luxury. Nelson, combined with McGlinchey, provides that luxury.

Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long preaches a scheme more focused on field/boundary designs than on left/right patterns, so there may not be the development of an over-reliance on the left-side combination a la Keith’s example of Watt and Martin. Nonetheless, in short-yardage or goal-line situations, expect Nelson to be the lead blocker as often as not. He is strong in pass protection, as well, but run blocking is his specialty.

DOWN THE ROAD
Nelson’s returning despite a second-round NFL Draft grade makes sense. He can get his degree and most likely improve his draft positioning drastically. Some rated Nelson the top guard in the 2017 draft, but that simply meant he would hear his name called early the second day, as Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp did, going No. 38 overall as the first guard off the board and the fourth offensive lineman.

It is simply less likely for a guard to go high in the draft than it is a tackle unless the guard has truly established himself as a step above the rest. That will be Nelson’s task this year, one he is presumably up to given his career trends thus far. At that point, look for McGlinchey to be the first tackle drafted, and Nelson to be grabbed shortly thereafter as the first guard.

It is possible Nelson returns in 2018, and Hiestand would jump at that chance, but — barring injury — it will most likely be in Nelson’s best interests to head to the NFL after his third season as a Notre Dame starter. One wrinkle to a possible return would be if Hiestand offered Nelson the chance to succeed McGlinchey at left tackle. While Nelson has thoroughly established himself as a guard, displaying potential at tackle could pique the NFL’s interests.


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

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 ended by medical hardship

Notre Dame adds four-star TE, loses four-star WR

Rivals.com
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Win some. Lose some. Such as recruiting goes.

Hours after Notre Dame lost the commitment of a speedy receiver Wednesday afternoon, the Irish gained the verbal pledge of consensus four-star tight end George Takacs (Gulf Coast High School; Naples, Fla.).

The subtraction of consensus four-star receiver Braden Lenzy (Tigard H.S.; Portland, Ore.) and subsequent — though, it should be specifically noted, unrelated — addition of Takacs keeps the Notre Dame class of 2018 at 12 commitments currently, with Takacs the first tight end.

The No. 10 tight end in his class, per rivals.com — the No. 48 prospect in Florida and the No. 234 in the country — Takacs will join a depth chart in flux at tight end. Current fifth-year senior Durham Smythe will be gone come 2018. That much is certain. Senior Nic Weishar will have another year of eligibility after 2017 should the Irish coaches offer him a fifth year, and junior Alizé Mack will have a possible decision to make regarding early entry into the NFL Draft.

Early-enrolled freshman Brock Wright and incoming classmate Cole Kmet, both consensus four-stars themselves, will welcome Takacs, with or without Weishar and Mack.

That tight end depth may have played a part in Takacs’ commitment. Notre Dame’s offense is expected to feature tight ends, often in two tight end sets, under the direction of offensive coordinator Chip Long. Those theories obviously necessitate both quality and quantity at the position in order to become realities.

“Coach Long is a big tight end guy, so talking to him about the offense has been fun,” Takacs told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “The fact that he’s the offensive coordinator and the tight ends coach really excites me.”

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Takacs chose Long and the Irish over the likes of Wisconsin, Florida and Georgia.

LENZY TO OREGON
In switching his commitment to his homestate Ducks, Lenzy left the Notre Dame class of 2018 with only one receiver currently, rivals.com four-star Micah Jones (Warren Township H.S.; Gurnee, Ill.).

Taking Lenzy’s track intentions at face value, and he has certainly shown the speed for a possible future in the pursuit, Oregon makes sense as a landing spot. Eugene, Ore., is known as TrackTown, U.S.A., for a reason.

In many respects, Wednesday may be the epitome of the recruiting aspects Irish coach Brian Kelly referenced on National Signing Day (Feb. 1) when discussing the pros and cons of an early signing day this December.

“Our mindset is we’re going into it business as usual,” Kelly said. “We’re all going to have to fight until February.”

RELATED READING: Four-star WR Micah Jones chooses Irish

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman

Rivals.com
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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ½, 303 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Ruhland provides a crucial piece of depth along the interior of the offensive line. Along with fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin, Ruhland could spell either guard.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star prospect, Ruhland shut down his recruitment 10 months before National Signing Day even though he had interest from Big Ten schools such as Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota. Rivals rated Ruhland as the No. 6 player in Illinois in 2015 and the No. 30 in the country at his position.

CAREER TO DATE
Ruhland preserved a year of eligibility in 2015 and saw action in nine games last season.

2015 NATIONAL SIGNING DAY HIGHLIGHT REEL

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
With John Montelus back on the offensive line and shifting outside to right tackle in fall camp, Ruhland will be among the depth battling to get into the two-deep at guard. What looks like a three-man race at right guard likely means Colin McGovern could slide over to the left side behind Nelson, keeping Ruhland as a third-stringer, nothing to be upset about at this point.

“There are opportunities coming — especially with Nelson capable of heading to the NFL after this season and other pieces coming and going. So I’m capping my expectations for Ruhland’s 2016 at a few mop-up time snaps, and maybe securing some special teams work.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Don’t take this the wrong way: The Irish hope Ruhland does not see much action in 2017. If he does see significant playing time, that is a sign of equally-significant injuries along Notre Dame’s offensive line.

Bivin will be the first backup to see action if fifth-year senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey, senior left guard Quenton Nelson or senior right guard Alex Bars were to suffer an injury. Bivin would also see imminent playing time if senior center Sam Mustipher went down, as Irish coach Brian Kelly has indicated Bars would slide to the middle. If Bivin is already filling in for one of those spots and another injury were to occur, Ruhland would be the likely next man in. (At right tackle, whoever finishes second in the competition between sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg will naturally back up the winner.)

This is not an indictment of Ruhland. Depth is needed. This is football, after all. Injuries occur. But Notre Dame would certainly rather escape the season without much more than a turned ankle along the offensive front line.

DOWN THE ROAD
Still largely an unknown, Ruhland will have his chance to make an impression when Nelson heads to the NFL following this season. Along with some of the incoming freshmen — namely Dillan Gibbons and early enrollee Robert Hainsey — Ruhland will be in the mix to fill that starting role. In both last year’s and 2015’s A-to-Z entries regarding Ruhland, Keith preached patience, and rightfully so. The opportunity presented by Nelson’s moving on will be the moment Keith was looking toward for Ruhland’s future.


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

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 ended by medical hardship

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 58 Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle

Rivals.com
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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3, 280 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: A LisFranc fracture early in spring practice clouds Taylor’s placement on the depth chart. Before the injury, he was backing up senior Jonathan Bonner at defensive tackle, perhaps getting ready to challenge for that starting position. If he returns fully healthy, Taylor will now compete with junior Micah Dew-Treadway for that support role.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star recruit, Taylor boasted an offer sheet typical a more-heralded prospect, including the likes of Florida State, Michigan State and Miami. The No. 39 defensive tackle in the class per rivals, Notre Dame’s most serious competition for Taylor’s commitment came from Ohio State.

CAREER TO DATE
Taylor preserved a year of eligibility in 2015. Last season, he saw action in four games, including the final three. Now-senior Daniel Cage missed the last four games of the year, creating a need for another big body on the defensive interior, hence an increase in action for Taylor.

With Cage out, Taylor recorded his first career tackles in the first half against USC, notching three takedowns including one for a loss.

QUOTE(S)
Taylor’s LisFranc injury changed the trajectory of his spring from contending for playing time to worrying about rehab. Irish coach Brian Kelly was optimistic about Taylor’s chances at being ready for fall camp.

“Typical LisFranc fractures, we’ve had good success with their repairs,” Kelly said in March. “[Taylor] got stepped on in the second practice. We’ll be able to train around the injury. Full range of motion moving around and doing things in June. Probably full clearance sometime in July.”

Per the South Bend Tribune’s Mike Vorel, Kelly pushed that timeline back toward August earlier this week while speaking at The Kelly Cares Foundation’s annual golf invite. Kelly still expects Taylor to be ready for the start of camp in August, though.

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
If Taylor can find his way into the rotation, it’s a successful season. Because if Jarron Jones stays motivated and Daniel Cage can shake off a few training camp bumps and bruises, this will be a stout interior.

“The defensive tackle group is lacking guys who can step in for Sheldon Day. [Current junior] Jerry Tillery is going to have first crack at that and Jon Bonner is still an option as a guy who hasn’t shown much yet.

“I think Taylor is a role player at best — mainly in the trenches. If he can jump ahead of guys like Bonner and [senior] Pete Mokwuah, he’ll be a two-deep player. I’d call that a successful season as a redshirt freshman.”

2017 OUTLOOK
The timing of all injuries is unfortunate, but Taylor’s LisFranc fracture truly came at an inopportune time for his career progression. The opportunity was there for Taylor to establish himself as a known presence in the two-deep roster. Instead, he will have to work his way back into the rotation once healthy, and LisFranc fractures can be fickle, despite Kelly’s confidence. Such concerns come with routinely placing 300-plus pounds of force on the intricate bone structure of a foot.

For this exercise, let’s presume Taylor is indeed healthy by the start of August drills. If he can match Dew-Treadway, Taylor will likely be given the edge by the coaching staff partly in deference to the time lost to injury and partly due to projecting a higher ceiling. At that point, Taylor will be called on plenty to provide relief for Bonner, who while not undersized for the defensive interior, is far from a looming force at 6-foot-3 ½ and 284 listed pounds.

Incoming freshmen Darnell Ewell and Kurt Hinish will add to the defensive tackle depth this spring, and unlike most freshmen, they will have a chance at playing time due to the unproven and shallow nature of the position group as is. Ewell, especially, could force the issue. While he is more likely to line up behind Tillery on the depth chart, an additional capable body will impact the playing time of everyone in the mix.

DOWN THE ROAD
Cage will be out of eligibility following this season. Tillery will likely have an NFL Draft decision to make. While the Irish would assuredly prefer he returns, if he went it would create ample opportunity for Taylor—and Dew-Treadway and, even more so, Ewell and Hinish.

Of the Dew-Treadway/Taylor/classmate Brandon Tiassum grouping, Taylor may have the clearest path to capitalizing on that experience vacuum in the future. He needs to get healthy first, obviously.


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

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 ended by medical hardship

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 65 (theoretically) Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman

Rivals.com
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Editor’s Note: Today would have featured No. 66, junior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge, but with Hoge’s transfer to BYU, the slate moves up a slot. A version of a 99-to-2 entry did accompany the post regarding Hoge’s transfer.

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 315 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Incoming freshman with four years of eligibility remaining
Depth chart: Gibbons’ placement on the depth chart is largely superfluous at this point, but if he slots in anywhere, it would be as a third-string guard. More than that, expect him to spend 2017 on the scout team.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star recruit, Gibbons committed to the Irish in April of 2015, the spring semester of his sophomore year of high school. Though he had an Ohio State offer to consider at the time, Gibbons shut down his recruitment following that commitment, never wavering from Notre Dame.

QUOTE(S)
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 [fifth-year senior tackle] 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.”

WHAT WE SAID WHEN GIBBONS’ NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
Gibbons very well could be a prototypical [offensive line coach] Harry Hiestand offensive guard. Already coming in at a good size, some time in a college strength and conditioning program should serve to turn Gibbons into a stout offensive lineman. Just remember the spelling of his first name. That –an ending is bound to trip up some of us in the coming years.”

2017 OUTLOOK
There are no guarantees in life, but if there were, it would be a guarantee Gibbons spends 2017 preserving a year of eligibility while working with the offensive scout team. That is simply the trend of freshman linemen in Hiestand’s program, with the rare exception of an early enrollee.

DOWN THE ROAD
If Gibbons’ future is indeed at guard — and both his size and style seem most-applicable inside — then he will have chances at playing time beginning in 2018. Current senior left guard Quenton Nelson will head to the NFL after this season, and a number of Notre Dame linemen will vie for that slot, with Gibbons’ classmates such as Robert Hainsey and Josh Lugg presenting as his main competition.

Supposing Gibbons does not win that competition, he is likely to have another chance at a starting slot in 2019 once current senior right guard Alex Bars uses up his eligibility.

Gibbons projects as a piece of patience. In time, he will have his chances, plenty of them, at that. Just not for a few years.


Aside from the five early enrollees, the numbers are not yet known for the incoming Irish freshmen. A little educated guessing can garner estimates for those numbers, and those estimates allow the proceedings to continue sans pause.

The NCAA recommends guards wear a number between 60 and 69. In that range, Notre Dame’s roster does not already have Nos. 60, 61, 65 and 66, that last number formerly being Hoge’s. Which of those this arbitrary exercise assigns to Gibbons does not change much — the next entry comes in at No. 58, anyway.


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

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 ended by medical hardship