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Notre Dame Football: Bars, Mustipher & Tillery Named to Outland Trophy Watch List

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The watch list for best interior lineman — offense or defense — includes three Irish players looking to have breakout years.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

A Notre Dame Fighting Irish player has won the Outland Trophy three times, including the first time the award was given to the nation’s best interior lineman in 1946.

That number should be four.

Quenton Nelson was the rightful winner of last year’s award, but the Football Writers Association of America gave it to Ed Oliver, then-junior defensive tackle of the Houston Cougars. Oliver had a great season, no doubt, and he must be considered the favorite to win this trophy again.

But Nelson...Nelson was a once-in-a generation talent.

The writers made a grievous error. Will they correct it this year? Three Notre Dame players — graduate students Alex Bars, a guard, and Sam Mustipher, a center, and senior Jerry Tillery, a defensive tackle — were named Tuesday to this year’s Outland Trophy watch list.

But so too were 79 other dudes, including Oliver and a host of Irish opponents: Wake Forest Demon DeaconsRyan Anderson (center) and Phil Haynes (guard); Michigan WolverinesBen Bredeson (guard); Stanford Cardinal’s Jesse Burkett (center) and Nate Herbig (guard); Northwestern WildcatsTommy Doles (guard); Florida State Seminoles’ Alex Eberle (center); USC TrojansToa Lobendahn (offensive tackle) and Virginia Tech HokiesRicky Walker (defensive tackle).

We’ll know much better by November, at which point the football writers will narrow the finalist pool to seven (on Nov. 14) and then three, five days later. The winner will be announced Dec. 6 during the College Football Awards on ESPN.