Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football
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www.BLUEANDGOLD.com APRIL 2017 27 OFFENSIVE LINEMEN 2 A l l - A m e r i c a m e n t i o n s for Notre Dame linemen in 2016, with Mike McGlinchey earning third- team honors and Quenton Nelson receiving second-team accolades. 8 Bench press reps of 225 pounds that Mc- Glinchey has improved since the end of last season, going from 16 to 24. 49 Combined career starts for McGlinchey and Nelson, forming perhaps the best offensive line tan- dem in college football. 163.3 Rushing yards per game behind Notre Dame's offensive line in 2016, down from the 207.9 the Irish averaged per game in 2015. POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH Notre Dame must find a fifth starter along the offensive line, and a number of young prospects are in the mix. Rising sophomore Tommy Kraemer is considered a top candi- date to start. Kraemer is a physical player who could play tackle or guard. He'll battle classmate Liam Eichenberg, who is more of a pure tackle. Should Eichenberg win a starting nod, senior Alex Bars will likely have to slide inside to guard. Junior Tristen Hoge and senior Sam Mustipher will compete at center, and the loser of that battle could get into the mix at right guard. 2017 SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW QUOTABLE "We know who the guys are on the left side … there are four or five guys that get an opportu- nity now to get in there and compete right away [on the right side]." — HEAD COACH BRIAN KELLY ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE N otre Dame entered the 2016 season with a highly re- garded line. What it lacked going into the year was experience, with just 27 starts returning to the lineup, and almost none on the right side and at center. It was an up-and-down campaign for the line, but it goes into this offseason with a unit that returns 76 career starts. Notre Dame's disappointing outcome in 2016 could have played a major role in the decision of left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson to return to South Bend, which gives the Irish arguably the best one-two punch in the country. Despite playing below expectations, McGlinchey was still named a third-team Associated Press All-American. He will once again play beside Nelson, a second-team All-American last season according to Sports Illustrated and arguably the top returning guard in the nation. Even if McGlinchey and Nelson play like All-Americans, Notre Dame needs more in order to field a championship- caliber offensive line. A breakout season from Alex Bars on the right side is important for Notre Dame, and he is capable of that type of season. Notre Dame must solidify the middle of its line, which means getting more consistent play at center and figuring out who starts alongside Bars on the right side. Mustipher had good moments in his first year as a starter, but his snap- ping troubles and inconsistent play held him back. If line coach Harry Hiestand can get his more seasoned troops playing together and playing to its potential, the Irish offensive line could be the driving force to Notre Dame becoming one of the nation's premier offensive football teams. Returning Year Starts 2016 27 2017 76 MIKE MCGLINCHEY BY THE NUMBERS PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA WHO'S GONE Mark Harrell The fifth-year senior started the final three games of 2016 at right guard and was a con- sistent backup during his career. Colin McGovern He started eight games at right guard last season, but injuries derailed his season. He transferred to Virginia for his final year. WHO'S BACK Fifth-year senior Mike McGlinchey He is expected to return to his dominant 2015 form. Returns with 26 starts under his belt and was a third-team All-American in 2016. Senior Quenton Nelson He passed up a chance at being a first- round pick in the NFL Draft, and now he's expected to be a leader of the Irish offense. Senior Alex Bars He made two starts at left guard in 2015, but made 12 starts at right tackle last season. Senior Sam Mustipher The 6-2, 305-pounder started all 12 games in 2016 at center. TOP NEWCOMERS Freshman Robert Hainsey He is a technically sound player and a quality athlete that projects well at both tackle and guard. Freshman Aaron Banks The 6-5, 310-pounder is an early enrollee and was Rivals No. 13 offensive tackle in his class.