Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2014.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we take a look at a highly promising lineman seeking playing time next fall.
OT, Alex Bars
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
247Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 10 OT, No. 4 TN, No. 107 USA, 0.9471 Score
Need at Position: High
Expected Spot on 2015 Depth Chart: Backup Left Tackle
I have to give you a warning. I wasn't quite as high on Bars last year as mostly everyone else. He was a fringe Top 100 player and the 10th best tackle in the country and usually with those kind of ratings you see an amazing high school player. I thought Bars was really good at the level, but not quite to the level of classmate Quenton Nelson--who to be fair was also rated higher and nearly a Composite 5-star. Anyway, here's what I had to say about Bars last February:
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.
I really thought the Lombard comparison was spot on. Even if Lombard wasn't quite as highly rated out of high school it's not like his career was a big disappointment. If not for injuries Lombard would have been a starter for three full years with some backup minutes and plenty of special teams work as a redshirt freshman, as well. With the recruiting at offensive line nowadays anyone who can stay in the starting lineup that long is doing something right.
As you can see above I wasn't sure about Bars' feet at tackle and with Nelson coming in during the same year I felt like Bars might move inside. After their redshirt seasons it appears that it'll be Nelson being the one moving to guard.
While there was plenty of talk last year about Nelson (more on that in his own Reviewing the Redshirts soon!) we didn't hear anything about the progress of Bars until Brian Kelly dropped a bomb on the media in the press conference leading up to the Music City Bowl.
Kelly: Noted that freshman Alex Bars is one of the best he's seen in 25 years. Upperclassmen should be nervous about him taking a job— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) December 20, 2014
Kelly says Alex Bars one of the best he’s seen in 25 years. "Clearly the guy that stands out on offense." among younger players.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) December 20, 2014
Well, then. There's dishing out praise and then there's saying that.
About a year ago when Bars was getting to enroll at Notre Dame the log-jam at tackle seemed overwhelming. However, heading into his first spring practice the sea has parted in most respects. In fact, according to practice reports leading up to the bowl game the Irish were basically running with 4 tackles: Stanley, McGlinchey, Bivin, and Bars.
Obviously, left tackle is going to be manned by Ronnie Stanley and it's probably unlikely that Mike McGlinchey will be unseated at right tackle after his promising start against LSU and plenty of his own positive comments received from Brian Kelly in 2014. The question then moves to which side of the line Bars and Bivin are going to train at when practices begin shortly.
You'd probably expect Bars to start making a home at left tackle, right? I mean, if Kelly's throwing around one of the best lineman in a quarter century of coaching then it's safe to say he's probably moved past Bivin as the third tackle. And since Stanley is moving on to the NFL after 2015 that left tackle position looks to have Bars name all over it for 2016 and onward.