Getty Images

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 69 Aaron Banks, left guard

Leave a comment

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 ¾, 325 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Banks has three years of eligibility remaining, including the 2019 season.
Depth chart: Banks will start at left guard, just as he did throughout 2018’s second half after Alex Bars tore his ACL. Banks will also be the first man moved if senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg is injured, perhaps also true if junior right tackle Robert Hainsey goes down.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, the California native turned down West Coast offers from Oregon and UCLA, and was not persuaded by a late recruiting visit to Michigan. The No. 13 tackle in the class, per rivals.com, and the No. 121 recruit in the country chose Notre Dame less than a month after that official visit northward.

CAREER TO DATE
Banks preserved a season of eligibility in 2017, and then looked like the seventh man along the line entering 2018. When left guard Alex Bars lost his season in week five, Trevor Ruhland (the sixth man) started the next two games. Once the Irish reached the October idle week, though, Ruhland moved into a temporary timeshare with right guard Tommy Kraemer and Banks moved into the starting lineup at left guard, where he spent the next six games.

The delayed start of Banks came as both a result of his initial move in practice following Bars’ injury and a result of Kraemer’s inconsistencies requiring Ruhland’s stability. Banks had been working as Notre Dame’s backup left tackle, only moving to guard when Bars went down.

“[Banks has] always been ascending,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the week after Bars’ injury. “Opportunity, as you know, is probably the chief reason why he is much more in the mix. He’s a big and athletic kid that has gained confidence in his ability, to put it bluntly. I think what we like about him the most is that he’s adapted well to go from tackle to guard this week.”

QUOTE(S)
A sprained foot limited Banks at the beginning of spring practice, which sparked some speculation he may be falling to the second-unit. Instead, Kelly doubled down on his left guard.

“The continued strength, growth as a player, knowledge of the position,” Kelly said. “There were times where just being on the same page as the guy next to him, whether it be the tackle or the center, building continuity among the group, but he’s an extremely gifted player.”

Not only is he gifted, but to hear offensive coordinator Chip Long tell it, Banks is also assured of his gifts.

“Banks doesn’t have a problem with confidence,” Long said in early March. “He gets going, he makes a mistake, it’s sorry coach, but he’s going to get after somebody, too. … He’s a big, powerful man that loves to play.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
The obvious, and true, summary of these possibilities is Banks will be at least considered to fill the hole left by fifth-year left guard Alex Bars following this season. Banks will have some competition in that pursuit from Gibbons, classmate Josh Lugg and a few of the incoming freshmen.

“Banks could make things interesting by excelling in all regards in 2018 while Eichenberg perhaps struggles as a first-time starter. That would create a chance for a position competition next spring at tackle, where Banks is one of the clearer likelihoods on the Irish roster.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED TWO YEARS AGO
“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 Hunter Bivin. One of the [then-] 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.”

2019 OUTLOOK
Two years of this series’ projections are included above to illustrate what the expectation has always been for Banks: That he would play, somewhere, soon. It came down to where the first opportunity would be, and it happened to be at guard, albeit in an unfortunate manner.

Banks’ raw power has been apparent from day one. Now that he has spent enough time at guard to become more comfortable there, that power should equate to run-paving. Look for junior running back Jafar Armstrong to frequently attach himself to Banks’ hip in hopes of gaining a needed yard or two.

DOWN THE ROAD
Banks is a year behind both Eichenberg and Hainsey eligibility-wise, meaning a move to tackle could come in 2021, or even 2020 if one of those two jumps to the NFL. But it is more likely he remains at guard as a three- or four-year starter.

There was once a time when a player may have pushed the coaching staff to move him to tackle in that situation, but the success of Zach Martin and Quenton Nelson as guards at the next level has made it clear how much an impact that position can have, meaning another season of excelling on the interior could help Banks’ draft stock just as much as moving out to tackle might.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 71 John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star

rivals.com
1 Comment

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4 ½, 280 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Olmstead has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Up to, and most likely, six other names fall ahead of Olmstead’s at guard, led by returning starters senior Tommy Kraemer and junior Aaron Banks. Thus, Olmstead will spend the season on the scout team.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Olmstead’s recruit was devoid of drama and consternation. The No. 16 tackle in the class, per rivals.com, and the No. 111 overall player, he never wavered from an early commitment to Notre Dame.

QUOTE(S)
Given his high school success at tackle, this space initially anticipated Olmstead would remain on the outside for the Irish, but his size suits him better on the interior.

“Obviously he’s a guy that we feel physically is probably best suited at the guard position,” head coach Brian Kelly said upon Olmstead’s signing. “We like his physicality.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN OLMSTEAD’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“Getting into the weight room next month as an early enrollee will help Olmstead, who could use some added upper-body strength to balance out his pass blocking.”

2019 OUTLOOK
Strength and conditioning, scout team work, repeat. It may be monotonous and borderline mundane, but that will be Olmstead’s life for the next 12-15 months, and one he needs to embrace.

He has the technical abilities to serve well at guard, but added strength will be vital, and that is what traditional redshirt years are for.

DOWN THE ROAD
Rather than focus on being fourth on the depth chart, Olmstead should endeavor to catch and/or pass those immediately ahead of him. The top tiers of guards will matriculate in due time, but sophomores Dillan Gibbons and John Dirksen are still between Olmstead and playing time.

That is not an indictment of Olmstead, simply the reality of being a freshman at a deep position.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, three-year starter

Getty Images
19 Comments

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4 ⅝, 298 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Hainsey has two years of eligibility remaining, including the 2019 season.
Depth chart: Hainsey will start at right tackle for the second year, though he essentially already has two seasons of experience at the position.
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.

CAREER TO DATE
Hainsey turned early enrollment into a rare playing opportunity for a freshman offensive lineman. He was originally expected to serve as a backup at left tackle in 2017, but instead split time with Tommy Kraemer throughout the season. Kraemer was given credit for 12 starts, compared to Hainsey’s one, but the two both gained starter-caliber experience.

Kraemer then moved inside to right guard in 2018, leaving Hainsey to handle the right tackle gig on his own. Though some muscular issues set Hainsey back a step in the preseason and into September, he played through it and improved as the year progressed. Even with that early struggle, one can easily argue Hainsey was Notre Dame’s most consistent offensive lineman last season.

QUOTE(S)
Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long, in fact, made that exact argument at the start of spring practices.

“Going through all out cut-ups that we do after the season, a player from our first game to our last game, [Hainsey] might have been our best player on offense,” Long said. “Just the way he executed game-in and game-out. The level of consistency he played with was outstanding. He’s a confident young man, too. You can see that in the way he’s leading.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
Presuming health, this should be simple: Hainsey will start 13 games at right tackle, excel as a pass blocker and grow as a run blocker. Moving Kraemer to right guard will only benefit Hainsey’s progress in the run game. Kraemer is the better run blocker of the two and should ease some of the right-side burden in those situations.

“Otherwise, another steady season from Hainsey is all that is expected. That is not to knock steady. Last year such a campaign included limiting 2018 NFL draft picks Harold Landry (Boston College), Bradley Chubb (North Carolina State) and Duke Ejiofor (Wake Forest) to minimal impacts. To keep those pass-rush threats away from (Mike) McGlinchey, opposing defensive coordinators frequently lined them up against Kraemer or Hainsey. The young rotating duo stymied them, nonetheless. Landry managed all of one tackle, though he was later taken in the draft’s second round. Chubb did get to the quarterback once, only one yard behind the line of scrimmage, part of a very slow day for the eventual No. 5 overall pick. Ejiofor, a sixth-round selection, made two total tackles.”

2019 OUTLOOK
There are reasons to expect Hainsey to improve upon his 2018: Health, for one, and experience, for another. But even if he delivered the same performance he did a year ago, Hainsey will have delivered what Notre Dame wants. Relying on him at right tackle certainly reduces Long’s stress levels.

On top of that, Long would prefer to utilize a run-blocking duo of senior right guard Tommy Kraemer and Hainsey at right tackle. They are the most experienced pair along the line, and Kraemer, in particular, excels in run blocking. If Hainsey develops in that regard, he may end up in a few highlights springing a running back loose, rather than going through another entire season catching nearly no attention whatsoever.

DOWN THE ROAD
If discussing any other three-year starter along the Irish line, thoughts of leaving early for the NFL would need to be weighed heavily. That is less likely with Hainsey, a bit undersized. Sure, in 2021 he may hear his name called in the NFL draft, but the push will probably not be there for Hainsey to leave eligibility unused.

Thus, he should end up a four-year starter, manning the right tackle position through the 2020 season.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star

Notre Dame lands commitment of No. 1 RB in country, Chris Tyree

rivals.com
14 Comments

It is only May, and National Signing Day is a full five months away, but as of Thursday afternoon, the top running back recruit in the class of 2020 has committed to Notre Dame. Consensus four-star Chris Tyree (Thomas Dale High School; Chester, Va.) chose the Irish over Oklahoma, Alabama and, well, everyone else. Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford, Florida and LSU all offered the No. 1 all-purpose back, per rivals.com rankings.

With both top-end speed and quick acceleration, Tyree has been timed at sub-4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He is quite able in the passing game, a fact underscored by his time at cornerback in high school. He also has the quick hips of a cover corner, which help create some shiftiness when carrying the ball. That helps Tyree avoid defenders squaring him up in attempts at tackling him, allowing him to slip many arm tackles.

He will need to add muscle to power through tackles at the collegiate level, rather than simply relying on evading good tackling form.

Landing a running back of Tyree’s ability is a rare occurrence at Notre Dame. In Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s nine recruiting cycles, six backs have signed as four- or five-star prospects; none of them were considered the top running back in their class and none are on the roster currently. Only Greg Bryant, a 2013 five-star and the No. 19 recruit in the country, per rivals.com, rated higher than Tyree, currently listed at No. 60.

That list is marked by the off-field struggles which played a role in players not fulfilling recruiting expectations. An academic suspension led to Bryant’s departure from Notre Dame. C.J. Holmes (2017 four-star) and Will Mahone (2012 four-star) were both dismissed following legal issues. George Atkinson (2011 four-star) spent enough time in Kelly’s dog house to declare early for the NFL draft, then going undrafted. Tarean Folston (2013 four-star) also jumped to the NFL with eligibility remaining, a torn ACL costing him his junior year.

Only Dexter Williams (2015 four-star) played four years for the Irish, though he went through multiple off-field incidents before breaking through this past fall, and only then after serving an unspoken four-game suspension.

All that said, it can be argued none of them had the talent of Tyree, and certainly no current prospect should be condemned by the transgressions of his predecessors.

He will join a roster headlined by Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones, if both return next season. A breakout 2019 could spur Armstrong to jump to the NFL, a possibility largely due to the position’s natural shelf life, and Jones will be a fifth-year in 2020, needing to agree with the coaching staff his return is in both his best interests and Notre Dame’s.

Aside from that elder duo, the Irish running back room currently sits sophomores Jahmir Smith and C’Bo Flemister, and early-enrolled freshman Kyren Williams.

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, early-enrolled tackle, consensus four-star

rivals.com
7 Comments

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 ¼, 275 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Kristofic has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Kristofic will not crack the two-deep as a freshman, buried behind the likes of junior Robert Hainsey and fellow early-enrolled freshman Quinn Carroll at right tackle.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Kristofic was long on Notre Dame’s radar as the high school protector of Irish sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec. That head start helped Notre Dame outpace Clemson, Ohio State and Wisconsin in pursuing the All-American and No. 27 offensive tackle in the country, per rivals.com.

QUOTE(S)
To be blunt, there is little-to-no reason to change this section from the Carroll entry earlier this week …

The Irish rarely play freshmen offensive linemen. The surprises of Steve Elmer (10 games and four starts in 2013) and Robert Hainsey (13 games while splitting duties with Tommy Kraemer in 2017) should be considered the exceptions that prove the rule. Thus, once signed, the discussions of offensive linemen recruits is often short and sweet: What position are they most likely to play, or at least begin at?

Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Kristofic will be at tackle.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN KRISTOFIC’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“If a lineman puts in his time, develops and adds weight, he usually ends up with a chance at Notre Dame at some point. See: Ruhland, Trevor. That is as much about the depth needed at the position as anything else. The point is, Kristofic has a high ceiling, but there need not be a rush to get him to reach it. His time will come.

2019 OUTLOOK
Kristofic may not even see mop-up duty this season, instead spending it focusing on strength and conditioning. The Irish will be better served devoting blowout snaps to injury contingencies such as junior Josh Lugg, sophomore Cole Mabry and perhaps even Carroll.

DOWN THE ROAD
Expecting an early-enrolled freshman to wait and wait and wait is the usual, and the presumed future for Kristofic. Notre Dame’s line is set for the next two seasons, so there is no need to hurry his development.

After 2020, though, the Irish will need two first-time starting tackles. Kristofic will be in the mix for either gig, along with Carroll, Mabry and whatever recruits join the mix in the current cycle (headlined by consensus four-star Tosh Baker).

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter