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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 72 Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4 ½, 292 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Early-enrolled freshman with four years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Hainsey made positive impressions this spring, taking second-string snaps at left tackle behind fifth-year senior and early-round NFL Draft prospect Mike McGlinchey. Nonetheless, those snaps may have been only for practice purposes. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has indicated fifth-year lineman Hunter Bivin would be called upon if spot relief is needed for McGlinchey. Should a longer-term fix be required, one of the sophomore duo of Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg would be a more-likely solution than Hainsey, with the other remaining at right tackle.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, rivals.com rated Hainsey as the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country, the No. 21 prospect in Florida and the overall No. 108 recruit nationally.

QUOTE(S)
Hainsey and fellow early-enrolled offensive tackle Aaron Banks 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.”

Kelly also briefly mentioned Hainsey as a possibility in the competition at right tackle, though as spring practice reached its latter stages, that duel focused entirely on Kraemer and Eichenberg.

“Robert Hainsey’s had a really good spring,” Kelly said. “He’s a guy that may find himself competing a little bit as well. He’s really been the surprise for us among all the guys in his maturity, his ability to really pick up what we’re doing as well as from a fundamental, technique standpoint. He’s been really good.

“I’m not saying that he would unseat those guys but he’s worth mentioning because he’s had such a good spring. … Hainsey could be in the mix [at right tackle], too.”

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

2017 OUTLOOK
Hainsey’s early enrollment and subsequent praise from Kelly makes the possibility of him seeing the field in 2017 rise from non-existent to slim. Former Notre Dame offensive lineman Steve Elmer once parlayed an early enrollment into four starts as a freshman when an upper-classman (Christian Lombard) went down to injury.

Unlike the incoming Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons, Hainsey will likely need to stay ready this season in case of such an occurrence. Obviously, no one hopes for an injury to McGlinchey, but should such a misfortune befall the Irish, Hainsey would be an option to consider, along with Bivin, Kraemer and Eichenberg.

DOWN THE ROAD
On the surface, it is obvious how an early enrollment can help Hainsey elevate himself over his classmates. He gained a semester’s worth of classroom acclimation, weight room development and immersion into the Notre Dame playbook. But it goes further than that.

As outlined above, it does not take much conjuring to create a hypothetical situation in which Hainsey plays in 2017. Thus, he will spend the season with the offense, most likely the second unit, rather than with the scout team.

While Lugg is most likely learning to mimic Temple, Georgia and Michigan State, Hainsey will be working with Hiestand and watching McGlinchey. When the latter departs for the NFL following 2017, Hainsey will be immediately in the same grouping as Kraemer and Eichenberg in working to claim the starting left tackle honor.

Predicting that position competition is a task for beyond the summer of 2017. Simply being involved in it, though, will give Hainsey a chance to be a four-year starter at one of the game’s most-important positions.


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

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

Notre Dame adds commitment of DT Ja’Mion Franklin

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Notre Dame received its 12th commitment in the class of 2018 on Tuesday morning. Consensus three-star defensive tackle Ja’Mion Franklin (North Caroline High School; Ridgely, Md.) announced his decision at a press conference the last day of the school year. He chose the Irish over the likes of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and Virginia.

At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds already, Franklin should not need much time before being ready to contribute at the college level. Considering Notre Dame’s ongoing struggles to find proven depth on the defensive interior, a ready big body is no small commodity.

Rivals.com ranks Franklin the No. 36 defensive tackle in his class.

In theory, Franklin will join a defensive tackle depth chart exceedingly short on experience. Junior Jerry Tillery very well may head to the NFL after this season, and even if he doesn’t, 2018 will be his final collegiate season barring injury. Brandon Tiassum will be a senior in 2018 with an additional year of eligibility available, but given he has yet to appear in a game through two seasons, an invitation for a fifth year would yet need to be earned.

That leaves incoming freshmen Darnell Ewell and Kurt Hinish as Franklin’s primary competition for the backup role in 2018, or he could be backing up one of them if Tillery does depart early.

With consensus four-star defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola (St. Peter’s Prep; Jersey City, N.J.) also already among those 12 commitments and the class likely to be capped at about 20 given the current roster breakdown, it is unlikely the Irish coaching staff pursues the commitment of more than one additional defensive tackle this recruiting cycle.

Franklin visited Notre Dame’s campus in late March, receiving a scholarship offer then.

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

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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.

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 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.”

WHAT WE SAID WHEN LUGG’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
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.”
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Notre Dame adds WR Cameron Smith from Arizona State

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Notre Dame may not need additional receiver depth this fall, but it certainly cannot hurt. The Monday evening addition of graduate transfer Cameron Smith from Arizona State should give the Irish just that.

As a graduate transfer, Smith will be allowed to play this fall, and even though he is joining Notre Dame after spring practice, it should not take him much time to get up to speed. Irish receivers coach Del Alexander was at Arizona State for Smith’s entire career until Alexander joined Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long’s staff this winter. Long, himself, was at Arizona State from 2012 to 2015, overlapping with Smith for three years.

The receiver suffered a knee injury in 2015, costing him the season and halting his momentum following a sophomore year that included 41 catches for 596 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers include four catches for 67 yards and a score against Notre Dame in a Sun Devil victory Nov. 8. If nothing else, Irish fans should remember the speed displayed on that score.

Smith’s speed could land him at the slot, or Z, receiver position in Long’s offense. Sophomore Chase Claypool projects as the current likely starter, but if Long, Alexander and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly opt for a more prototypical blazer, Smith would seem to fit the bill, presuming health. (more…)

Notre Dame OL Tristen Hoge announces transfer to BYU

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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…)