Early Tuesday evening Notre Dame received some welcome off-season news as redshirt sophomore left tackle Ronnie Stanley announced that he'll be returning to South Bend for the 2015 season.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - University of Notre Dame junior offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley (Las Vegas, Nevada/Bishop Gorman High School) announced today he will remain at Notre Dame for his senior year and not enter the 2015 NFL Draft.
"This was a difficult decision," Stanley said. "My dream isn't just to play in the National Football League. I want to win a national championship. I've waited to this point so I could watch the actual game and see if I felt any emotion, and I felt a great deal. I am a competitor. I want to play on the top stage so I've decided that I'm returning to Notre Dame for my senior year.
"We've got a chance to have a special season next year. Many of my teammates are returning and I've made strong bonds with lots of them. If all of them weren't coming back this year it would've made it an easier decision to leave. All this, the opportunity to graduate, and much more, led to my decision to stay."
"Ronnie has developed into a premier offensive lineman," head coach Brian Kelly said. "With another year at the position, and gaining more knowledge under the outstanding coaching of Harry Hiestand, Ronnie could be the best tackle in all of college football.
"I know this decision wasn't an easy one for him, but, as his coach, I'm proud of the manner in which he handled it. He's matured so much since he first arrived on campus, and this is just another example. Ronnie now has a chance to leave Notre Dame as both a graduate and first-round NFL pick."
Stanley, Notre Dame's Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2014, started all 13 games this past season at left offensive tackle. He replaced four-year starter, first-round National Football League draft pick and Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro Zack Martin - who also bypassed the NFL Draft to return for a final season with the Irish in 2013. Stanley was the first Notre Dame player other than Martin to start at left offensive tackle since Oct. 16, 2010, and the 6-5.5, 315-pounder barely missed a beat.
Stanley recorded 16 knockdown blocks and yielded just one sack - the fewest of any Irish offensive lineman. He faced some of the top defensive linemen in the country, including Michigan's Frank Clark, Arizona State's Marcus Hardison, Louisville's Sheldon Rankins and Lorenzo Mauldin, Stanford's Henry Anderson, USC's Leonard Williams and LSU's Daniel Hunter. That group of seven players combined for 92.5 tackles for loss and 46 sacks on the curse of the 2014 season but managed just six tackles for loss and two sacks in their outings against the Irish.
Stanley was on full display in Notre Dame's 31-28 victory over No. 22 LSU in the 2014 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The Irish held LSU without a sack, rushed for 263 yards, recorded 449 total yards and scored 31 points. Only Auburn and Mississippi State (both 268) ran for more yards against the Tigers this past season. The 31 points scored by Notre Dame tied for the most against LSU by a non-conference foe since Texas scored 35 in the 2003 Cotton Bowl.
Stanley has started 26 consecutive games for Notre Dame dating back to the start of the 2013 campaign. He started all 13 games at right offensive tackle as a sophomore. He was part of an offensive line that allowed just eight sacks and ranked second in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in fewest sacks allowed.
On pace to graduate in May 2016, Staley is majoring in management-consulting in Notre Dame's prestigious Mendoza College of Business - the five-time reigning No. 1 undergraduate business school in the nation according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
Stanley could find himself near the top of most 2016 NFL Draft boards ¬- a spot rather familiar to Irish players at his position.
Stanley could become the 14th different offensive lineman in school history to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft - a list that already includes Frank Szymanski (sixth overall by the Detroit Lions in 1945), George Connor (fifth overall by the New York Giants in 1946), Bill Fischer (10th overall by the Chicago Cardinals in 1949), Art Hunter (third overall by the Green Bay Packers in 1954), Frank Varrichione (sixth overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955), Paul Seiler (12th overall by the New York Jets in 1967), Tom Regner (23rd overall by the Houston Oilers in 1967), George Kunz (second overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 1969), Andy Heck (15th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 1989), Aaron Taylor (16th overall by the Green Bay Packers in 1994), Luke Petitgout (19th overall by the New York Giants in 1999), Jeff Faine (21st overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2003) and Martin (16th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2014).
Under Kelly, ND 21-5 in seasons when 65+ starts return on the O-line; 24-15 in seasons under that number. Irish bring back 81 in ’15.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) January 13, 2015
Just read about Ronnie Stanley returning to ND...He was the best OT I studied this year.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 13, 2015