Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle

Hunter Spears
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-3⅝, 304 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: Though a junior, Spears has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Notre Dame’s two-deep at guard is uncertain, and from a numbers standpoint, it could include Spears. Presuming early-enrolled freshman Rocco Spindler and senior Jarrett Patterson end up as the starters, the backups will come from some assortment of juniors Quinn Carroll and Andrew Kristofic, senior John Dirksen and Spears.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, an ACL tear that cost Spears his junior season — the film used for the majority of recruitments — did not cost him scholarship offers from most of his homestate Texas (Tech, TCU, Baylor).

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
There are high school senior photos and then there are … senior photos.

CAREER TO DATE
Spears not only tore his ACL heading into his junior year of high school, but also late in his senior season. He enrolled early at Notre Dame just a few months later, but that first spring (2019) was spent rehabbing, not acclimating to collegiate contact.

He played in three blowouts that fall, making two tackles and preserving a year of eligibility. As the Irish bolstered their defensive line depth to the extent that it is now the deepest position on the roster, Spears was slated to move to offensive guard in the spring of 2020, only for that spring to be canceled after one practice by the coronavirus pandemic. He then did not play in 2020.

To sum that up, Spears has suffered as many torn ACLs in his life as he has made tackles in college, not to mention as many positions as he has played in college. That type of trend cannot be skewed favorably, though Spears has done nothing to make it such.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN TWO YEARS AGO
“Get healthy first. Stay healthy second.”

✅ Get healthy.
⬜ Stay healthy.

2021 OUTLOOK
Spears has yet to get a genuine chance at working at guard. Notre Dame had to prioritize its time in 2020 with practices altered and interrupted by pandemic protocols. Player development was not the priority it usually is — nor was offensive diversification, as admitted by Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees — and that came at the expense of someone trying to learn an entirely new position.

Undoubtedly frustrating for Spears, but Notre Dame should be able to allow him that runway in 2021.

DOWN THE ROAD
None of this is what Spears expected, but as soon as he tore his ACL late in the fall of 2018, all those expectations went out the window.

This is not yet a situation where any contribution from Spears should be lauded, but it is not far from one.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit