The football career of offensive tackle Tate Nichols is over. Brian Kelly confirmed the news in an interview with the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen. The 6-foot-8, 320-pound right tackle will go on a medical hardship scholarship and finish his degree at Notre Dame. His scholarship no longer counts against the 85 man limit.
Nichols’ career never had a chance to get started. Injuries plagued the massive tackle from the moment he stepped foot on campus, with shoulder and knee maladies making it next to impossible for Nichols to push his way into playing time. Heading into last spring, many projected Nichols to be the heir apparent at right tackle. But the 2012 season was another lost year for one of the most intriguing recruits of Kelly’s early “profile” recruits, and in the end the injuries — which Kelly hinted at during his Signing Day press conference — were too much to overcome.
Nichols came to the Irish in Kelly’s transitional recruiting class, a one-time Stanford commitment that was a jumbo-sized tight end in high school. While Kelly joked even on his Signing Day that his days at tight end were over, Nichols represented a larger, more athletic offensive line prospect that Kelly has committed to recruiting since taking over. Some have looked at the Irish’s 2012 offensive line, an assembly of Charlie Weis recruits, and called them five guards. Nichols certainly broke out of that mold.
With an influx of offensive linemen coming in this class, the spring will have another void at the position with Nichols’ departure. Nichols joins Brad Carrico as Irish linemen that have gone on medical hardship, and ends any hope of getting to see the nasty, road-grader type tackle that had many Irish fans excited.