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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 67 Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 294 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Byrne has yet to find traction in moving up the depth chart. Most would list him as the No. 3 option at right tackle currently. If anything, he offers a piece of depth along the line that would not cost a freshman eligibility if needed for only a handful of snaps.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Byrne committed to the Irish in December of 2012, a full 14 months ahead of his National Signing Day. Thus, his offer sheet never developed the length of many — opposing schools knew his commitment was firm. When he committed, his top choices were Notre Dame and Ohio State. Rivals.com ranked Byrne the No. 19 player in Ohio and the No. 30 tackle in the class of 2014.

CAREER TO DATE
Byrne preserved a year of eligibility in 2014 and did not see any action in 2015 or 2016.

QUOTE(S)
At the start of spring practice, Irish coach Brian Kelly indicated Byrne would be in the mix as Notre Dame looked for a starting right tackle after senior Alex Bars moved from right tackle inward to right guard.

“We feel pretty good that we want to get a competitive situation over there,” Kelly said. “[Sophomore Tommy] Kraemer, [sophomore Liam] Eichenberg, [fifth-year senior Hunter] Bivin, all those guys will get an opportunity to get some work …

“Jimmy Byrne looks really good. He’s probably had his best offseason. All those guys are going to get an opportunity to get out there and compete.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
I see a season of special teams duty for Byrne, an interior offensive lineman on long snaps and some time as a second-stringer or garbage time participant. One player to watch that could impact Byrne’s future is Tommy Kraemer. The Irish staff thinks [it has] a special player in Kraemer. They also really, really want to redshirt him if possible.

“Byrne’s development at this point in his career doesn’t mean his fate is sealed when it comes to playing time. It should take well into a lineman’s career to earn snaps and starts. But it’s telling that the right guard job opened up and Byrne wasn’t all that close to competing for the gig.

“It’s year seven of the Kelly era. Harry Hiestand has been recruiting like an ace, making limited offers and landing at a very, very high rate. Byrne’s a victim of circumstance — getting a starting job on the O-line is one of the hardest to earn at Notre Dame. That means Byrne is going to have to show patience, all while working his way slowly up the ladder.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Considering Byrne never seemed to threaten the sophomore duo of Kraemer and Eichenberg for the starting right tackle job, his prospects for the coming season seem dim. In many respects, Keith was right, Byrne is a victim of circumstance. The class of 2014 included four offensive linemen, all four-star recruits: Byrne, Bars, Quenton Nelson and Sam Mustipher. Three of those four will start on the Irish line this season. Two of them started 12 games last year. Nelson has racked up two seasons of starting duty already and will be an early NFL Draft pick in the spring.

With results like that, someone gets stuck on the backside of the depth chart. In this instance, that is Byrne.

Should Notre Dame suffer a few serious injuries and then a minor one, he could find himself filling in for a few snaps. In that hypothetical instance, using Byrne while a lineman is evaluated could prevent someone such as early-enrolled freshman Robert Hainsey burning a year of eligibility during a quick three-and-out only to find out Bars’ sprained ankle is mild, at worst. Even to get to that point, though, Irish linemen would have needed to fall at a rate greater than seen in 2013. (See: Friday at 4: Offensive Line Depth)

DOWN THE ROAD
An offer of a fifth year at Notre Dame in 2018 would be an unprecedented surprise for a player yet to see playing time and likely to see minimal time this season, at best. At that point, it will be up to Byrne if he wants to pursue a graduate transfer elsewhere to enjoy one season of genuine college football action or if his career will have reached the end of its road.

As a one-time consensus four-star recruit now with four years under Hiestand’s tutelage, it is safe to assume some programs would be interested in Byrne’s services.


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

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. 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…)