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 hard nosed interior lineman from the buckeye state.
OG, Jimmy Byrne
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
247Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 17 OG, No. 13 OH, No. 299 USA, 0.8927 Score
Need at Position: Low
Expected Spot on 2015 Depth Chart: 3rd Team, Possibly Moving into a Backup Role
Out of the 11 offensive linemen that have signed with Notre Dame since the 2013 class Jimmy Byrne is the second-to-last rated recruit of the bunch. Yes, a top 300 national recruit is that far down the list of top linemen for the Fighting Irish. Here's what I had to say about Byrne last February following National Signing Day.
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.
When discussing Byrne the gut reaction is probably to say that it'll be tough for him to see the field soon, if not over his entire career. With so many good linemen currently on campus that might be the realistic assessment. After all, there are several more highly rated players from the class prior to Byrne's that have yet to touch the field. But this is Reviewing the Redshirts and we don't need any of that dour attitude.
The coaching staff is notorious for playing the best 5 linemen, however, I think sometimes should be said for Byrne being a guard's guard--the type of lineman who knows his future is only at one of the guard spots and can focus solely on achieving that goal. For the bigger and more physically gifted players like Quenton Nelson they'll force their way into any position. But for a player like Byrne I believe there's a distinct advantage for him knowing what's in front of him and honing that craft.
Byrne also has the sufficient nasty streak in his DNA that is so necessary at the guard position. His size at a young age is also decent although he's quite a bit smaller than some of the jumbo guards that are becoming common in college football and who will be starting this fall for the Irish.
The move of classmate Quenton Nelson to guard all in the name of getting the best five on the field ultimately wasn't good news for Byrne. Nelson, along with Bars, were supposed to be the twin tower tackles from the 2014 class and having the former move inside makes Byrne's job to see the field a lot more difficult. Now, Byrne has his classmate Nelson at guard, plus three others from the 2013 class (Elmer, Montelus, McGovern) all sandwiched around him on the inside.
There is a rumored medical injury with an offensive lineman so if that happens to be someone like Montelus or McGovern that could potentially open up a spot at guard with the second team this season. Ultimately, slotting guys in based on class year isn't how things always play out though, and at some point Byrne will simply have to prove he's better than others even if they are older than him.