This week, we here at HerLoyalSons are previewing your 2016 Fighting Irish in the run-up to Saturday’s Blue Gold game. To make the task manageable and add some degree of coherence (I know, you don’t come here for coherence), we’re evaluating the team by position-group. Today, we start with the offensive line.
If the Irish are to surpass the performance of the squad from 2015, they will need to replace massive losses along the offensive line. Gone is Ronnie Stanley at left-tackle, a likely first round pick in the NFL draft, now just weeks away. Gone is Nick Martin, a probable second-rounder, at center. This will be Coach Harry Hiestand’s first season, and Coach Kelly’s, if you can believe it, without a Martin on the line. Gone, too, is Steve Elmer, perhaps too soon, to chase his dreams in politics and business.
Thankfully, mass, and talent, are in abundance at Notre Dame. While there will be shuffling to account for the losses, and a drop in game snap-based experience, no one can really quibble or complain about a likely starting five of Mike McGlinchey at left tackle, Quenton Nelson at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, Colin McGovern at right guard, and Alex Bars at right tackle.
McGlinchey, a niggling penchant for false starts aside, is about as solid a replacement for the quality lost in Ronnie Stanley as one will find. At 6’7 and 310 pounds, McGlinchey has the athletic ability to play tight end and should have little difficulty adjusting to his new position. This move, theoretically, gives the Irish the best left side of the O-line in the country, as junior Quenton Nelson, a returning starter at left guard, could be the first Irish guard to be selected in the NFL draft’s first round since Aaron Taylor. Nelson is also not small. He’s 6’5″ and 330 pounds.
Sam Mustipher, a 6’2, 305 pound junior, is the likely starter at center. He’s the end of the likelihood, however, as the staff seem still uncertain about the line’s right. Alex Bars, if any, is most likely to appear, and at right tackle. A junior, Bars, 6’6″ and 320 pounds, was more than capable when called upon last season to fill in when Nelson went down with an ankle injury at Clemson. Thus, the guard position is most uncertain, with McGovern and Hunter Bivin fighting it out. McGovern, a 6’4″ 315 pound senior, is fighting concussions, but he seems more likely, to me, than his fellow senior, who stands 6’5″ and weighs 308 pounds.
There is, of course, the potential for one of the three freshmen, arriving in June, to upset the entire thing. Tommy Kraemer, Parker
Boudreaux and Liam Eichenberg are all monsters and have the tangibles and talent to break into the mix, especially at right guard. Kraemer is 6’5″ and 310 pounds. Eichenberg is 6’6″ and 300 pounds, and coming off meniscus surgery on his right knee. Parker Boudreaux, a natural guard, is 6’5″ and 291 pounds. Of the three, he is my tip as most-likely to break in, but only if he makes huge strides in improving his footwork.
One of the things of which I am fond includes comparing the Irish to Alabama. Face it, they’re the gold-standard. ON the field, mind you, only on the field. But, if you look at our likely front five versus their likely front five, it seems that we’re making a weighty case for supremacy:
Left Tackle: Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), 6’7″ 310 lbs. v. Cam Robinson (Alabama), 6’6″ 327 lbs.
Left Guard: Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame), 6’5″ 325 lbs. v. Ross Piershbacher (Alabama), 6’4″ 304 lbs.
Center: Sam Mustipher (Notre Dame), 6’2″ 305 lbs. v. J.C. Hassenauer (Alabama), 6’2″ 297 lbs.
Right Guard: Colin McGovern (Notre Dame) 6’4″ 315 lbs. v. Alphonse Taylor (Alabama), 6’5″ 345 lbs.
Right Tackle: Alex Bars (Notre Dame), 6’6″ 320 lbs. v. Charles Baldwin (Alabama), 6’5″ 297 lbs.
So, that’s 1,575 pounds for the Irish, and 1,570 pounds for the Elephant. Admittedly, that’s about one decent breakfast of difference, but hey. Now I’m hungry.