Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion

Joey Tanona Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-5, 284 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Tanona has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Tanona will fall short of Notre Dame’s two-deep this fall no matter how the starting guards situation works out.
Recruiting: The first commit in the Irish class of 2022 — announcing that decision nearly two years ago now — the All-American and consensus four-star chose Notre Dame despite offers from the biggest names in the Big Ten, LSU and Arizona State. Rivals.com considered Tanona the No. 9 guard in the class and No. 178 overall player.

“I would say it was a pretty easy decision,” Tanona said in February. “It’s just a special place here, and there’s no place I’d rather be.”

Coming from Zionsville, Ind. — a town of about 30,000 people just north of Indianapolis — Tanona distinctly wanted to stay close to home.

“A lot of people don’t like the state of Indiana, because it’s always cold and dark here,” he said. “But I’ve been here my whole life, and I love it.”

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Tanona’s Indiana tourism pitch could use some work. Instead …

This one includes a personal emphasis. On his way to a workout, riding as the passenger, Tanona was in a car accident this spring. He suffered a rough concussion, to the degree that it kept him out for the rest of spring practices, but that was the worst injury suffered in what was apparently a decently ugly accident.

“It’s a blessing that he’s just dealing with what he’s dealing with — that it wasn’t worse,” Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “That was a terrible accident. I saw pictures of the cars. Terrible, terrible, right where he was sitting.”

This space went quiet for a few days last fall when this reporter’s truck suffered a steering column failure and yanked into the wall along the interstate while going 70-plus miles an hour. The previously indestructible Ford Ranger was totaled, but I walked away with nothing worse than a bruised wrist and a sore shoulder.

Public service announcements do not pay much, but Tanona would be uniquely positioned to remind folks of the wonders that are seat belts and airbags. In 1982, neither Tanona nor I walk away from those accidents in one piece.

Wear your seatbelts, y’all. No exceptions.

QUOTES
Of course, missing spring practices as an early enrollee must have been particularly frustrating. Tanona had skipped the conclusion of his high school life to get a headstart physically and academically, and the more tangible half of that was abruptly scrapped.

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman kept that in perspective.

“It was a pretty bad [concussion], so I think he’s very slowly starting to get back into physical work,” Freeman said in April. “But these young kids are supposed to be in high school now, so we’re taking our time and making sure we’re waiting for his mind and body to be right.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN TANONA SIGNED IN DECEMBER
“Tanona [is a] respected mauler in the run game, suggesting [he ends] up at guard down the line.”

2022 OUTLOOK
Get healthy. Get in the weight room. Work on the scout team.

Not much else needs to be said for Tanona. It would be a relative shock to see him play at all in 2022, even in mop-up time. The Irish have sophomore Rocco Spindler and early-enrolled freshman Billy Schrauth to work into those snaps so they are ready if absolutely needed this season. Tanona may be the same year as Schrauth, but even before the concussion, there was an expected gap between the two.

DOWN THE ROAD
Turnover is coming for Notre Dame’s offensive line, if slowly. The odds are the Irish will lose at least four of their 2022 starters by the 2024 season. That will lead to uncertainty and shuffling in years to come, moments that could come to Tanona’s benefit.

He already has decent size and proven abilities in the weight room. Some time spent under Hiestand’s tutelage should thus prepare Tanona for a contributing role in 2024, when he will be only a junior with three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Spindler and Schrauth will still be around, but with so many starting positions up for grabs, Hiestand’s mandate of getting the five best linemen on the field no matter their alignment will allow for some positional flexibility.

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
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65* Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59* Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 57* Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center