Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard

Rocco Spindler
Notre Dame Athletics

Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ⅝, 315 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A freshman, though a semester ahead, Spindler has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Spindler rose up Notre Dame’s depth chart fast enough this spring to force fifth-year Dillan Gibbons to transfer to Florida State in search of playing time, but not so definitively as to keep the Irish from bringing in Marshall All-American guard Cain Madden as a graduate transfer.
Recruiting: The Under Armour All-American and consensus four-star prospect spent most of his recruiting process visiting Michigan (six times), Ohio State (three times) and Penn State (once) before choosing the Irish. Rivals.com considered Spindler the No. 4 guard in the class and the No. 67 overall recruit in the 2021 cycle.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Be it Carhartt, Bass Pro Shops or Spindler’s local tractor shop Rosy Bros., an opportunity awaits someone to capitalize on his outdoor preferences.

QUOTE
In the name of efficiency, this section can remain unchanged from last week’s Blake Fisher entry, as the two were discussed exclusively as a pairing this spring, a surprising pairing that changed all conversations around Notre Dame’s offensive line.

“You have Rocco and Blake come in, they’re playing at a very high level right now through spring,” fifth-year offensive lineman Josh Lugg said in mid-April. “That’s awesome to see.

“That gets the guys so juiced, when you watch film and you see these young guys, they’re applying what they’re learning in the meeting room so quickly. They’re very coachable, and they should be in high school. They should have prom next weekend, but instead, they’re blocking Kurt Hinish in a scrimmage today.”

And Hinish noticed those blocks.

Rocco Spindler and Blake Fisher are damn good,” Hinish said. “They’re really good offensive linemen and they’re going to be really good here. They’re the best two freshman offensive linemen that I’ve ever seen or have gone against. They’re supposed to be seniors in high school, but these guys are grown men playing with us, and they play with us, it’s not like they are seniors in high school and just compete with us here and there.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN SPINDLER SIGNED
“The Irish are well-stocked at every position along the offensive line, a testament to the continued quality recruiting from Jeff Quinn, so Spindler should have plenty of time to fine-tune his technique and pulling skills. That said, if Dillan Gibbons does not return for a fifth year or struggles as a starter, Notre Dame could look long-term in the short-term.”

2021 OUTLOOK
This would have been simpler to outline before the weekend. It also would not have held up long.

The incoming transfer of second-team All-American Cain Madden from Marshall throws the Irish offensive line back into flux. By the end of spring practices, there was a tentative starting lineup of, from left to right, Fisher or sophomore Tosh Baker, Spindler, junior Zeke Correll, senior Jarrett Patterson and fifth-year Josh Lugg.

But Madden will start somewhere along there. More precisely, he excelled at right guard in his 31 career starts (as many as Notre Dame otherwise returns up front), so Patterson should be expected to move.

Patterson can move into any spot. The challenge for Irish head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Jeff Quinn is to find the best five-man grouping.

“What’s good for the five, what’s good for Notre Dame and what’s good for Jarrett Patterson, I have to look at all of those things,” Kelly said over the weekend at a charity golf outing. “We’ve got some things that we’ve got to figure out. We’ll get the right five guys in there.”

Kelly added, Patterson’s best position is center. But that is also Correll’s only position.

Point is, Spindler’s 2021 fate is back up in the air. He could be a precedent-setting freshman starter or a backup to an All-American.

If the former, that speaks for itself. If the latter, Spindler would likely be the first man off the bench if the Irish suffer an injury to either guard or the center.

RELATED READING: ND OL comes into focus thanks to early-enrolled duo and a fifth-year utility man
Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter

DOWN THE ROAD
Those questions will change in a year, when Madden is out of eligibility and Lugg presumably turns down his pandemic-possible added season. At that point, Spindler will start.

Notre Dame’s coaching staff is clearly high on the Michigan native. Kelly once again throwing the center position into doubt in June may have been as much about getting Spindler onto the field as it was about challenging Correll.

Spindler will start for at least two seasons in South Bend. If fewer than that, it is only because he plays so well, but if that is the case, then playing time in 2021 and thus three years already feels like the minimum.

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
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog

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