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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…)

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, right tackle

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6, 294 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Eichenberg and classmate Tommy Kraemer engaged in a back-and-forth competition at the right tackle spot throughout spring practice. Kraemer appears to have an edge for the starting honor, albeit a slight edge, as it pertains to the 2017 season.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, rivals.com listed Eichenberg as the No.11 tackle in the country and the No. 6 recruit in Ohio. (Kraemer was the No. 4 tackle and the top player in Ohio.) The Under Armour All-American spurned offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Florida State, among many others, to commit to Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

CAREER TO DATE
Eichenberg preserved a year of eligibility in 2016. So, instead, here is the highlight video Notre Dame propagated upon Eichenberg’s signing in February of 2016.

QUOTE(S)
As Eichenberg and Kraemer alternated practices with the first unit, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly spent much of spring comparing and contrasting the two. Many of these quotes are repeated from Kraemer’s 99-to-2 post from last week. Simply put, when it comes to pertinent bits about either of the young linemen, progress was measured as much in its relation to the other as it was in overall growth.

“Those two are the guys we have mapped out at right tackle and they’re going to battle,” Kelly said in March. “… They’re going to keep battling and splitting the action out there.”

Kelly was asked multiple times throughout the two months of spring practices if senior Alex Bars was an option at right tackle. Kelly insisted Bars would remain at right guard and one of the sophomores would need to step forward as the outside protector. It should be noted, Bars started 12 games at right tackle last year as the Irish returned four offensive line starters.

“I think it’s firmly established at the right guard position,” Kelly said. “Alex Bars is going to be the right guard. I don’t see that there’s going to be any real change there. He was a starter for us last year.

“It’s the right tackle position that continues to be a competitive situation with Kraemer and Eichenberg still working and splitting reps there. Each one of them is a little different. Kraemer at times a little bit more physical. Liam a little bit longer, maybe. Longer translates itself into pass [protection]. Both of them still are on that learning curve but both of them are really good players.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
A redshirt for Eichenberg.

“Then a spring where he could be in a battle to replace Notre Dame’s next first-round left tackle. (It’s too early to predict if McGlinchey is heading to the NFL, but he certainly will have all eyes on him.)

“Regardless, it’s a critically important season for Eichenberg on the practice field and in the weight room. Because there’s every reason to believe that the Irish will be reloading on the offensive line this recruiting cycle, and there [will] be competition in the ranks from the moment he steps on campus.”

2017 OUTLOOK
To continue to pull from the Kramer entry, his slight lead over Eichenberg for the starting right tackle position has some uneasy. The Irish coaches would have undoubtedly preferred to see one of the two — or, certainly ideally, both — emerge as a bona fide seal on the outside. Instead, both delivered an up-and-down spring, leaving the eventual starter open to ready second-guessing.

Kraemer will likely start against Temple, but Eichenberg will have a chance in August to make his claim. Even if he does not prevail, Eichenberg will see playing time this season.

DOWN THE ROAD
In some respects, spending 2017 as a back up could bode better for Eichenberg’s long-term career. Fifth-year senior Mike McGlinchey will not be Notre Dame’s left tackle in 2018. If Eichenberg spent this season readying for that role, it could be his while Kraemer remains — hypothetically — at right tackle.

It is not to say one position is more important than the other, but the NFL does pay left tackles much better than right tackles.

Either Eichenberg or Kraemer will start at right tackle this year (unless Kelly backtracks on insisting Bars will be right guard). One or the other will have first crack at starting at left tackle in 2018.


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. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 75 Daniel Cage, defensive tackle

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 329 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with only one season of eligibility remaining
Depth chart: Cage fell behind junior Jerry Tillery last season and remains the primary back up at the defensive tackle position.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star prospect, Cage popped up on Notre Dame’s radar late in the 2014 recruitment cycle. A combination of defensive coordinator change (from Bob Diaco to Brian VanGorder) and positional need led to Cage getting a late offer. Cage committed on National Signing Day, surprising many who pegged him for a Michigan State likelihood.

CAREER TO DATE
The stats tell a misleading story when it comes to Cage’s career. When on the field, he has consistently performed, but injuries have hampered his playing time. A knee injury cost him a game in his freshman season, a concussion kept him from two games in 2015, and concussion issues last season again cut short his season.

2014: 11 games, four tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
2015: 11 games, 18 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss
2016: 8 games, 10 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble

QUOTE(S)
Cage’s concussion issues last season lead to muffled conversations about him to date. Until he shows he is back in football shape and entirely good-to-go, the Irish coaches will likely not publicly place too much of an emphasis on him, and understandably so. Thus, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s only reference specifically of Cage this spring came in passing more than anything else.

“Daniel Cage has had his best spring,” Kelly said in April. “I think that’s going to continue to transfer [over].”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
I think a season like the one Jarron Jones had in 2014 might be a nice ceiling for Cage, with a7.5 TFL and 40 tackles being a really nice year. (Remember, that was done in 11 games, too.) Realistically, Cage might get some of his productivity eaten up by a highly-motivated Jones, who is playing a fifth-year that’s essentially an audition for NFL talent evaluators.

“Reading between the lines, Keith Gilmore and VanGorder have talked about a larger rotation up front for the defensive line. That’ll likely be some by necessity—Sheldon Day isn’t walking through those doors anymore—and the fact that there’s some versatility among the group of linemen who will hopefully provide answers this season.

“Cage is a huge piece of that ensemble. Even last season, he was Notre Dame’s fifth-most productive player, per the PFF College rankings. He’s got the bulk and strength to play in the trenches, assuming his fitness and health cooperate this year.

“He’s not going to get confused for a NFL-sized monster like Jones, though he does have the ability to flash at the level of someone like Ian Williams—a guy who is wearing a ‘C’ on his jersey in the NFL right now. So all in all, Cage is a good player who could put together a great season.”

2017 OUTLOOK
This is a tricky spot to project. Concussion issues don’t follow a set timeline. If they are indeed in Cage’s past, his senior season could be a surprising success. If they are not, his time would be better spent tending to those than anything football-related.

For this spot’s sake, let’s operate as if Cage is past any health concerns.

In 2017, he will have abundant chance to contribute, and his track record indicates he will make the most of those moments. Rather than focus on tackle totals, the best measurement of Cage’s success will be how he fills the holes, theoretically stemming an opponent’s running attack. Similar to the Louis Nix/Manti Te’o dynamic, if Cage does his job properly, senior linebackers Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini will see the benefits on the stat sheet. Cage fits that role much better than Tillery or even senior Jonathan Bonner.

From the first game of his freshman season, Cage has shown ability. That has never been the question. It is simply a matter of him staying on the field.

DOWN THE ROAD
If Cage were to suffer an injury, a fifth year would be possible. Otherwise, this is it. To this point, he does not present as an NFL prospect, but agile 320+ pounders are not found easily, so his playing career could have more of a future than necessarily presumed.


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. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State