With the 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football season behind us, we can start to look towards the future. Next up in the grand scheme of things is spring football. This series will provide a quick look at all the position groups for Notre Dame football as we enter winter workouts, and spring practice.
It’s hard to say if the Notre Dame offensive line exceeded expectations or fell short of those expectations in 2018. They certainly weren’t as good as the unit from 2017 that won the Joe Moore award for being the best offensive line in college football — but we knew that coming into 2018.
How big was the drop-off going to be? How would the change from Harry Hiestand to Jeff Quinn affect the impact of the line?
As it turned out, the line was good, but not great. That’s a pretty big compliment considering they lost TWO players in the top 10 of the 2018 NFL Draft (Quenton Nelson & Mike McGlinchey) as well as the sudden loss of their best offensive lineman, Alex Bars.
So yeah... not having your 3 best offensive linemen from the year before is going to cause some issues. The line had trouble giving up stuffs (121st in the nation), but their Power Success Rate (percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown) was pretty solid.
Here is the full stat line from Football Outsiders:
The Bars injury also caused a a lot of movement along the line, and when inconsistent play happened — it obviously caused even more moves. This wasn’t a line that was able to dominate its opponents, but they still found a way to be pretty productive.
DEPARTURES FROM 2018
The Irish lose another two starters to the NFL Draft in Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars. Mustipher and Bars were both 3 year starters at Center and Offensive Guard respectively. They were also team captains, so besides the talent and playing experience that they leave behind, there is also a 600 pound leadership void as well.
Departing OL Snap Count 2018
RETURNING FOR 2019
I think we can be very optimistic about the offensive line in 2019. While the Irish still lose two players as they did this past season, it won’t be nearly as impactful. To begin with, the Irish have already dealt with and moved on from the Alex Bars injury that happened against Stanford. Eventually the Irish settled in with Aaron Banks at the LG position, and it seemed to be developing well.
The biggest question will be who replaces Sam Mustipher at center. Will Trevor Ruhland slide to his more natural spot at center, or will sophomore Luke Jones (no action in 2018) win that battle in the spring and fall? I tend to lean more towards the former as Ruhland has already a good amount of experience (at least at guard) from 2018.
The rest of the starters:
- Liam Eichenberg will continue to anchor the line at LT
- Aaron Banks solidifies his spot at LG
- Tommy Kraemer stays home at RG
- Robert Hainsey continues to play at RT where he has started since his freshman year
It will be a line full of experience. Along with Jones, there were two other Irish offensive linemen that didn’t see action in 2018:
- John Dirksen
- Darnell Ewell (Ewell switched to OL from DL in the fall)
Returning OL Snap Count From 2018
To sum it all up... the Irish are returning 4 of 5 starters along the offensive line. It will be a veteran unit, but will still need a leader to emerge. Fun Fact: Of all of Notre Dame’s offensive linemen, only Trevor Ruhland runs out of eligibility in 2019.
Once again, the Irish recruited a strong offensive line. The Irish signed 4 players for the 2019 class:
- 4 Star Quinn Carroll
- 4 Star Andrew Kristofic
- 4 Star Zeke Correll
- 4 Star John Olmstead
The best part is that all four are enrolling early and will be a part of spring football this year. None of the four are expected to compete for much playing time — but that’s absolutely fine with freshmen offensive linemen.
I guess we have pretty much said it all. The offensive line should be pretty good for the Irish in 2019 if they are able to develop into a more consistent unit. The stuff rate from last year is concerning with the dynamic Dexter Williams on his way out at running back, so Jeff Quinn will have all eyes on him to do a better job coaching these guys.
We’re pretty certain who the starters will be in 2019 (yes, I think Ruhland does take over at center) but the next man in depth will be equally important. Injuries happen, and the guys behind the guys have to be ready to contribute at a high level for Notre Dame to have a successful offense and a successful season.
RANDOM RANDOMNESS TO PONDER
How do you feel about Notre Dame’s OL situation in 2019?
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