The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have already finished an early signing day, concluded their season with a bowl win over the LSU Tigers, and wrapped up the final signing day. Now, it’s time to begin the transition to Spring Football. To prepare for that, we’re going to take a look at each positional group heading into spring. Early enrollees will be included in this, but signees who did not enroll early will not be included. Without further ado, let’s get right into it.
- Aaron Banks (SO)
- Dillan Gibbons (SO)
- Robert Hainsey (SO)
- Josh Lugg (SO)
- Liam Eichenberg (JR)
- Tommy Kraemer (JR)
- Trevor Ruhland (SR)
- Alex Bars (5th-Yr)
- Sam Mustipher (5th-Yr)
Losing Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, that hurts. A lot. There’s no getting around that. In the former, you have arguably the best offensive lineman to come through South Bend in a long time - only rivaled by Zack Martin. In the latter, you have a longtime starter, solid anchor on the left side of the line, and a fantastic leader for the team.
And it goes without saying, losing Harry Hiestand was a blow, too. Jeff Quinn could end up being a fantastic coach, but living up to Hiestand’s legacy is going to be extremely difficult.
In 2018, Notre Dame’s offensive line shouldn’t be expected to replicate the performance of the 2017 line. It’s just not a reasonable expectation. However, the talent and ability is there. It’s simply a matter of putting it all together.
It’s not entirely clear what the composition of this upcoming season’s line will look like. The most sure things are Sam Mustipher at center and Alex Bars at guard, but beyond that nothing is for certain.
A popular projection has Tommy Kraemer sliding inside to the guard spot opposite of Alex Bars, with Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey anchoring each tackle position. Whether or not that comes to fruition, there will be plenty of talent along the line next season with the way Notre Dame has recruited.
Bars and Mustipher will be the leaders of this group, being that they are both in their fifth season and have been a starter for multiple seasons. They will have to be a steadying force for a group of relatively inexperienced yet capable linemen that will join them as the starting five.
Kraemer, Eichenberg, and Hainsey are the names to know that look to fill in at the other offensive line positions. Kraemer and Hainey are essentially shoe-ins at this point, while Eichenberg’s time in the program and undeniable natural ability makes him an appealing option to take the fifth spot. However, Aaron Banks and Josh Lugg are both linemen who have impressed the coaching staff and could potentially press for playing time if they have a strong spring.
Trevor Ruhland and Dillzn Gibbons will likely be backups on the interior O-Line, but that’s no knock on them as players. This is a very talented group of offensive linemen, and while they may not crack the rotation, their value as reserves is clear to this Irish staff.
It seems as if the Irish offensive line will take a few steps back minus Nelson and McGlinchey, but don’t be surprised if some of the young talents show out when given the opportunity. Progress will need to be made. That progress begins in spring.