Listed measurements: 6-foot-5 ¼, 295 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A senior, Kristofic has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Kristofic started the final seven games of the 2021 season at left guard, so until further notice, it is expected he will start there again when Notre Dame opens its 2022 season at Ohio State on Sept. 3 (in 96 days).
Recruiting: The Irish coaching staff first started pursuing Kristofic because it was devotedly recruiting his high school teammate, quarterback Phil Jurkovec. That gave Notre Dame a head start on the likes of Clemson, Ohio State and Wisconsin. By the time they were chasing the All-American and consensus four-star tackle, the Irish had been after him for quite some time.
CAREER TO DATE
Kristofic played in four games as both a freshman and a sophomore, none of the appearances particularly notable. Then halfway through the 2021 season, he stepped in for classmate Zeke Correll at left guard. The combination of Kristofic and then-freshman left tackle Joe Alt entering the starting lineup steadied the Notre Dame offensive line.
Then-head coach Brian Kelly repeatedly pointed to their size. Kristofic and Correll are both currently listed at 295 pounds, but Kristofic stands more than two inches taller, and Correll has long struggled to keep weight on.
Kristofic’s early-career cameos usually came at left tackle late in a blowout. His height, and respective length, combined with his quick feet appropriate for a high school basketball player all made him a prototypical future tackle.
But he was also moved around in spring and preseason practices to create a facsimile of depth along the offensive line. When a new look was needed at guard, Kristofic was clearly up to the task, not that he couldn’t have done it better.
Now, those reps at guard are exactly what Kristofic is using to improve his game at his newfound position.
“After playing guard for the second half of the season, it gave me a lot of things to work on at the end of the season,” he said in April. “Go back and watch the film of all the games I was in and really try to hone in the new position. Having time played in actual games now gave me a lot of good film to review.”
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
The continued lack of a deal with Bass Pro Shops for much of the Irish offensive line, more than a year after these delights first graced the internet, is one of the greatest failings of the early NIL era.
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“If he impresses this preseason, he could become the line-wide utility man, a role that Lugg embraced the last two years and then buoyed him into a starting role. …
“The bounty along Notre Dame’s offensive line is so thorough it comes at the expense of players like Kristofic. A four-star once pursued by the sport’s blue bloods and the No. 32 offensive tackle in his class, per rivals.com, Kristofic enters his junior year entrenched as no better than the fourth Irish offensive tackle. Sophomore Michael Carmody, junior Quinn Carroll and even freshman Caleb Johnson all loom as candidates who could leapfrog Kristofic when Lugg finishes his career. Not to mention, the runner-up of the Baker-Fisher competition to start at left tackle in 2021 will be in the mix to step forward at right tackle as Lugg’s successor.
“But Kristofic could also presumably start at most programs in the FBS.
“Program growth like this is a good thing, and transfers with immediate eligibility make it so that growth does not cost individuals their chances elsewhere.
“A potential Kristofic transfer would not come before the 2021 season, and his play as the utility man could change this entire conversation, but a transfer at some point in 2022 might not be too shocking. With four seasons of eligibility remaining currently, his possible years of service available would be appealing to most teams.”
Perhaps a mid-year position change to find a new starter should not be viewed as a long-term plan. Kristofic’s entry into the starting line last season unquestionably helped Notre Dame chase a Playoff berth, but that was more a move out of desperation than it was thought out.
Returned offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is not one to do anything out of desperation. He will weigh all his options heading into the 2022 season in order to have his line ready in Columbus, one of the few spots on that field where the Irish should actually have an edge.
That could include Kristrofic starting. It could include fifth-year center Jarrett Patterson moving to guard and Correll starting at the fulcrum. Hiestand has options.
In the middle of the summer, it is difficult to figure which of those options is most likely and which has current traction because … it is the middle of the summer.
Kristofic will get his fair shake, though. That is what has changed for him since August of 2021. Back then, there was never any thought of Kristofic as a starter. Now, the idea of him as a starter is one that Notre Dame is nothing worse than comfortable with.
DOWN THE ROAD
A year ago, the concept of a transfer was pondered at some point in 2022. That phrasing was deliberate, to suggest it could come following either the 2021 season or the 2022 season. Kristofic’s starting role last year ruled out the former, but the uncertainty heading into the 2022 season keeps the thought afloat that he may leave after this year.
There would be no harm in that, for him or for the Irish. Notre Dame has future guards, namely sophomore Rocco Spindler and early-enrolled freshman Billy Schrauth. Offensive line recruiting never slipped during Hiestand’s four years elsewhere.
If Kristofic looks at 2023 and doubts he will start, then he should transfer. It will be best for him, and he already has a degree in hand. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
The numbers crunch very much still coming as players like Kristofic have an extra year of eligibility thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver will make some of those transfers more valuable for the programs welcoming the players and more needed for the programs saying farewell. The concept of a former starting offensive lineman heading to play somewhere else may make fans uneasy, but it is best for the players to have that option. Notre Dame will be alright; there is plenty of talented offensive line depth to enjoy.
However, if Kristofic starts in 2022, returning to do so in 2023 could set him up to be an NFL draft pick, simply because multi-year starters along the Irish offensive line are de facto draft picks.
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end
No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77* Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery