Freshman Focus: Ronnie Stanley

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(The fifth in a multi-part series profiling select members of the incoming class of 2012. For more, see wide receiver Chris Brown, safety Elijah Shumate, defensive lineman Jarron Jones, and wide receiver Davonte Neal.)

Most of the attention was heaped on the lineman that got away. While three-star recruit Taylor Decker walked away from his commitment to the Irish to join former offensive line coach Ed Warinner and area recruiter Tim Hinton in Columbus with Urban Meyer, Notre Dame held on to offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley out of Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman high school. At the time, Irish fans were happy, but still more worried about the offensive tackle that wouldn’t end up in South Bend.

Stanley’s commitment was a welcome one. The Irish not just added a second offensive lineman to the class (joining guard Mark Harrell), but pulling Stanley from one of the West Coast’s premiere football programs — and a school that’s never sent a player to Notre Dame — was an especially impressive grab, particularly at a position where there won’t be a ton of depth in 2012 or 2013.

Let’s take a closer look at the 6-foot-6, 285-pound tackle prospect.

The Skinny: There’s a ton to like about Stanley, a guy Brian Kelly called one of the most “gifted offensive linemen that we have seen in many years.” Offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington all seem to confirm that evaluation. Athletically, Stanley stars at center for one of Nevada’s top prep teams. On the field, he’s looks the part of a bulldozing left tackle, adept at pulling in the run game and in pass protecting. We’ll see how easy it is for him when he’s matched up against players closer to his size, but there’s a ton to like about the Nevada State Player of the Year.

How ready is he? Athletically, he’s probably there. From a strength point of view, probably not very close. Stanley’s MaxPreps basketball profile lists him at 6-foot-7, 270 pounds, giving him plenty of room to grow into his impressive frame.

Best Case Scenario: The offensive line solidifies the right side with Christian Lombard and Tate Nichols while Stanley gets to be best friends with Paul Longo and his strength staff. There’s no reason to rush Stanley onto the field, and the year watching lets Stanley force his way into the tackle conversation next spring.

Worst Case Scenario: Thanks to some nice work solidifying the roster over the past 3-4 recruiting classes, the worst case scenario would probably be forcing Stanley onto the field. The Irish were forced to do that in 2007 and it certainly didn’t help any of the offensive linemen.

What should make people happy? Hearing occasional good things about Stanley on the scout team while he grows behind the scenes into a mauling left tackle that could potentially replace Zack Martin.  There’s no reason Stanley should see the field before he’s ready. It also doesn’t make sense to use a year of eligibility in ’12 unless the Irish can really help it.

How badly do the Irish need him? There’s not a ton of short-term need for Stanley to see the field (thankfully), but he’s a key piece to the long-term puzzle. With Zack Martin becoming more and more recognized as one of the country’s premiere tackles, the depth chart ahead of Stanley could lose depth rather quickly. Getting two linemen in before the monster class of ’13 was important.

One tidbit for the road: How important is it for the Irish to get in at Bishop Gorman? Consider they’ll have over a dozen alums playing D-1 football next year, it’s mighty important. Las Vegas might turn out to be a friendly outpost for Notre Dame sometime soon.