Notre Dame Football 2014 Recruiting – Offensive Line Review

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Brian Kelly and his staff brought in four talented offensive line prospects for 2014.

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Welcome to the first of what will be a six part, in-depth series on the 2014 Notre Dame football recruiting class. Yesterday, we unveiled the OFD average grades for the newest members of the Fighting Irish family.

The first installment will focus on the offensive line: OT Alex Bars, OG Jimmy Byrne, OG Sam Mustipher and OT Quenton Nelson.

The transcript from Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.

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Irish Offense Line - Signed
Score Player City/State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.947 Alex Bars Nashville, TN 6-6/309 Offensive Line
.892 Jimmy Byrne Cleveland, OH 6-4/290 Offensive Line
.912 Sam Mustipher Olney, MD 6-3/285 Offensive Line
.967 Quenton Nelson Red Bank, NJ 6-5/295 Offensive Line

Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight/40 times as listed on 247Sports.com

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OT Alex Bars

(Nashville, TN - Montgomery Bell Academy) - 6'6"/287

OFD Average: 91

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Alex Bars, offensive lineman from Nashville, Tennessee, Montgomery Bell Academy. You know, again, looking at the offensive line as a need for us in terms of building that depth across the board, as you know, this year an area that we lost some key starters, and we have to really go and we had to play true freshmen this year, and then we had to play some guys that had not had any experience at all, and we were in a position that we needed to really augment that position across the board.

Alex at the offensive line position, 6'6", can play the tackle position, again, another young man that we got a chance to see in the summer, has a great pedigree, a couple of brothers that play college ball, dad played here at Notre Dame, and it's one of the things sometimes -- you know, everyone thinks, well, if the parent played here you have an easy connection. Sometimes it's the most difficult, right. Dad played here, it's an easy leap; not so much. Sometimes you've got to work harder to get that young man to come to Notre Dame because he wants to go off on his own sometimes.

You know, Alex is a young man that we think has all the gifts necessary to be a great student athlete here at Notre Dame. Coach Hiestand did a great job recruiting Alex, and our entire staff was involved in that process, as well. So Alex Bars from Nashville, Tennessee.

Eric: 86

Reminds me a lot of Christian Lombard. Excels in high school blocking down and playing like a guard. Bars has the athleticism when he's pulling and does a good job targeting blocks downfield without over-shooting the defender. Toughness and physicality aren't going to be a problem. Unfortunately, he doesn't look natural at tackle which could stunt his development at Notre Dame. He struggles getting out of the block, lunges a lot, and doesn't have great footwork. This is obviously fixable and if he's really all of 6'6" he can develop into a starter down the road. I'm not quite as high on him as the ranking services.

alstein: 94

Another very athletic tackle prospect, but one that needs some strength and technical work before he is ready to contribute.

pburns2010: 92

Another good OL recruit, who is going to have to work to find a spot. His film looks like a bit of a "tweener" with respect to how he blocks. Whether he settles at Tackle or Guard will likely fall on his footwork and work in the weightroom. I wouldn't be surprised to see him rise to a starting spot for the 2015 season.

4pointshooter: 91

Jim Miesle: 90

Bars will have a few years' worth of strength & conditioning in addition to refining his technique. He took a bit of a hit from the recruiting services after his performance at the Under Armour All-American game-but he hadn't participated in any football-related activities for while leading up to the game. I think his best asset as an offensive lineman is his ability to move, whether pulling from the backside or getting to the second level. I think he is probably best suited as a right tackle or possibly guard moving forward.

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OG Jimmy Byrne

(Cleveland, OH - St. Ignatius) - 6'4"/275/5.10

OFD Average: 85

Jimmy Byrne - 2014 Notre Dame Football Signee (via WatchND)


Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Jimmy Byrne out of Palmer Heights, Ohio, St. Ignatius, a great program. Really love the way Jimmy has progressed, especially his senior year. We liked Jimmy last year. He was an early offer for us and committed, and then really had a great senior year from our standpoint. Physical, moves his feet well, and again, I think what you'll see with all of our offensive linemen, they all can get out and move their feet. They all have the ability to run block, pass pro. We like our guys to move, whether we're running zone schemes or gap schemes, screens, all those things. You're going to see that there's an athletic component to all of these guys, and Jimmy certainly fits that, and really excited about him. He's a great student, great young man, and a great fit for Notre Dame.

Eric: 85

Tenacious down blocker who clearly loves to drive defenders into the ground. He fires off the ball really well. A little clumsy when he's at tackle and doesn't have the best footwork so he's clearly going to stay on the inside at college. Byrne does get to the second level well and has the potential to be a devastating pulling guard. I'm interested to see how he fares when he's blocking defenders that are the same size as him. If his physicality translates to the next level Notre Dame will get a nice long career out of Byrne. Very much a mean and nasty prototypical guard.

alstein: 90

Forgotten OL in this class but shouldn't be. Dominant tackle against solid Ohio competition in a run-based offense translates inside in college and should compete early for playing time.

pburns2010: 81

Byrne strikes me as somewhat undersized for the current OL profile, where we're seeing OT-size guys across the front. He will certainly play on the interior, and I do think he has the ability to be effective. I see him struggling with the size/speed he will see in college defenses

4pointshooter: 87

Jim Miesle: 83

The thing that sticks out the most about Byrne on film is that he is a finisher-he plays until he has his man on his back or the whistle blows. Eric makes a good point about how he develops when he is competing against defensive linemen that are as big and as strong as he is. Being the first OL commitment from this class, I think he became more of the forgotten one of the group (as pointed out above). He is another guy that moves extremely well-a key trait for what CBK and company want to do offensively.

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OG Sam Mustipher

(Olney, MD - Our Lady of Good Councel) - 6'4"/285/5.10

OFD Average: 87

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Sam Mustipher, an offensive lineman out of Good Counsel High School, great program, and I think, again, Sam was another young man that we got a chance in the summer to see and spend time with. I think Coach Hiestand has done a great job in building relationships with all of these young men, and in particular all of these young men at Good Counsel High School or St. Joseph's By the Sea, they've already made that decision once to go to private schools for a reason, to get that quality education, and they're continuing to do that here at Notre Dame. So Sam was a good fit there.

Here's a powerful guy inside, and again, I think what stood out for us with Sam was his ability to move his feet again. All these guys can be big and strong and physical, but if they can't move their feet, if they can't bend, if they can't get out of their stance and do a good job and moving and bending, then we're moving on, and I think -- I sound like a broken record with the offensive line, but those are the characteristics. They've got to be good people. They've got to be tough, competitive kids. They've got to be benders. They can't be waist benders, they've got to be knee benders. And again, they've got to be able to move their feet.

Eric: 81

Nice prospect but doesn't seem to overpower the competition in high school which is a concern. This fact alone, unless he's made tremendous strides during his senior season, makes me think he's at least a couple years away from serious playing time. Mustipher down blocks well and shows good motor, even if he blocks a little high sometimes. I think there's a lot of potential here but it's largely untapped. I'd really like to see him get stronger in his lower half and increase his overall strength. The expectation for a Notre Dame recruit on the line is to do plenty of mauling in high school and he's the weakest of the four in this regard for the 2014 class.

alstein: 94

Not content to "win" blocks, he has a rare mean-streak and wants to destroy opponents and could even convert to DT as a result. All-American potential with a couple years of college-level S&C under his belt.

pburns2010: 87

Another interior lineman type, similar to Byrne, but he plays much "meaner" than Byrne (at least on tape). I also think he has some more room to excel with the Longo plan, if he attacks it right. I'm probably a bit too high here, but between Byrne and Mustipher, I do believe I have the order correct.

4pointshooter: 87

Jim Miesle: 85

Mustipher gets the distinction of earning the widest range of grades from the staff-ranging from future multi-year starter to likely back-up. I can see him fighting for a starting spot in a few years, as he has the tools to be an excellent guard at the collegiate level. There was some speculation before the staff brought in two additional defensive tackles that Mustipher would move to the other side of the line. CBK put that speculation to rest during his time with the media. Similar to Byrne, he is a finisher on blocks and plays well in space.

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OT Quenton Nelson

(Red Bank, NJ - Red Bank Catholic) - 6'5"/295

OFD Average: 94

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Quenton Nelson out of Red Bank, New Jersey, Red Bank Catholic High School. Again, physically one of the stronger kids we've got, 6'5", 302 pounds. I think the one thing that stands out about Q is that here's a guy that just is relentless. He's going to come after you play after play after play. And again, his desire to want to be great is what always stood out about Quenton is that he's always pushing himself. Every time we talk to him he's coming back from something. He plays basketball, he's working out, he's a guy that's driving himself always to be the best he can be.

Again, one of the best players in the country at his position, but physically strong, and at 6'5", 300 pounds as a senior in high school, I mean, this kid can still move his feet and he'll continue to work on that, and he's a guy that is so focused on what he needs to work on, that's what we loved about him. He wasn't looking at his star rating, he was looking at the things that he needed to work on, and that's all we needed to see from Quenton. He's a pretty funny guy, too, if you saw his video.

Eric: 94

Nelson's definitely in the conversation as the top player in the class. He's received rave reviews at all-star camps which is always encouraging. I actually think he's needs a decent amount of work as a pass blocker but he's already got great feet and will get up to speed at the college level very quickly. He sometimes is a little slow out of the blocks but let's his quick feet re-settle his body and dominate as a blocker. His physicality and athleticism is the best of Notre Dame's haul by a good bit. He might not contribute as a true freshman like Steve Elmer, but I think he's a very similar prospect who offers the same type of versatility but projects long-term as a blue-chip tackle.

alstein: 95

As athletic as they come and quite sound technically. Something of a Steve Elmer clone, even if not the prototypical left tackle size.

pburns2010: 94

The most put-together of any of the OL recruits, he will immediately push for playing time, much like Elmer last season. I expect him on the two deep by the first game next year.

4pointshooter: 94

Jim Miesle: 93

Nelson earned tons of praise for his performance during the US Army All-American Bowl preparation, by far the best OL in San Antonio for the week. He is the most polished and college-ready of the group, but won't need to contribute as a freshman due to excellent depth for the Irish in 2014.

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