The month of July brings us close to the beginning of another fall camp for Notre Dame football. With practices set to begin soon we are taking a look at each position group ahead of the workouts. We start this week with a look at Notre Dame’s talented but re-tooled offensive line.
Where We Left Off in Spring
Things aren’t usually this active on the offensive line, particularly with several veterans returning. Here’s the quick recap from the spring:
Rising sophomore Robert Hainsey led off spring at left tackle and was eventually moved to right tackle where he eventually settled. Liam Eichenberg started out in a shared battle at right tackle and left guard before moving over to left tackle. Tommy Kraemer worked in that battle at right tackle, then moved to left guard, then moved to right guard.
Alex Bars started out at his familiar right guard position then flipped over to left guard. Josh Lugg was participating in competitions at left guard and right tackle before settling in as the backup left tackle. Aaron Banks was in the mix at left tackle and then switched to right tackle. Trevor Ruhland was briefly involved in the left guard battle, as well as backing up Sam Mustipher at center, before an injury slowed him down.
Got that all?
Going into fall camp we believe to have the starters as Eichenberg (LT), Bars (LG), Mustipher (C), Kraemer (RG), Hainsey (RT) with Lugg, Banks, and Ruhland the favored backups.
Number One Camp Storyline
Quite simply, will we see any (engage stereotypical football writer comment) cohesion by the time the season begins? We’re used to the starters–even if they’re really not officially starters–controlling most of their positional battles. The offensive line is usually really boring when it comes to this stuff.
And yet, each of Eichenberg, Kraemer, and Hainsey don’t feel super assured of locking down their spots. Likely yes, but Chip Long acquired a measured amount of sway over the use of the linemen in practices and games last year–from Harry Heistand no less–and there’s reason to believe this influence could increase under new offensive line coach Jeff Quinn.
Anticipation Level: 8/10
This is a different type of excitement compared to a scenario where the line is simply replacing a bunch of starters and things need to be sorted out with few surprises–a scenario we’ve seen numerous times at Notre Dame. This fall we’re going to see young players on the scene and seriously challening, we’re going to see how the mildly experienced players hold off others, and we’re going to see how good the two captains (Mustipher & Bars) lead the line and build something cohesive for the fall.
My focus in on the following players during the upcoming camp:
1 Liam Eichenberg – The pressure is on for someone replacing a long line of recent shining left tackles now in the NFL. And this is for someone who has very little game experience and didn’t get that long during the spring as the 1st-team left tackle. Among the players expected to open fall camp as a starter he’s the only one who didn’t play a lot last year which means the first two weeks are going to be super important.
2 Robert Hainsey – A true freshman who is under-sized starting half the season is such a rare thing at Notre Dame. An additional 3 years of starting would seem like a no-brainer but perhaps Hainsey is going to lead a far more non-traditional career than we think. He’ll always be smaller and not as long on the edge which means any inconsistent play will always lead to the temptation to move him to the interior. If he struggles in camp does he have a chance to play inside in 2018, though?
3 Josh Lugg – At just a tick under 6’7″ this is a mountain of a man in the mold of McGlinchey is waiting in the weeds. If either of the first-team tackles falter he could be the recipient to step in and take over, maybe for good. That’s why I view him more like a 5B option on the line. He gained experience at 3 positions during the spring and has the profile of a future star in college.