A couple of weeks ago, some Michigan fans tried to tell Notre Dame Blake Fisher that Notre Dame wasn’t tight end U. First off, that was a mistake because Fisher owned them in a Twitter exchange. Secondly, it seems like Sports Illustrated agrees with Fisher. They named Notre Dame the new “Offensive Line U” on Thursday in a series of articles they are producing about each position.
This should come as no surprise to anyone. Three of the five offensive linemen in the NFL’s 2019 All-Pro team are Notre Dame alumni. Ronnie Stanley, Zack Martin, and Quenton Nelson. What makes that even more impressive is that Stanley was only in his fourth year in the league and Nelson just his second. The three Irish greats have quickly become dominant linemen in the NFL after playing under former offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. Nelson also played under current OL coach Jeff Quinn for his final season as well.
The three NFL stars are just a few of a group of recent Notre Dame offensive linemen who played in the NFL over the last decade that Sports Illustrated for their study. Here’s the full list they compiled.
Notre Dame’s recent OL alumni in the NFL
- Zack Martin (2014 first round, 94 starts, 4x All-Pro)
- Quenton Nelson (2018 6th overall, 32 starts, 2x All-Pro)
- Ronnie Stanley (2016 6th overall, 56 starts, All-Pro)
- Mike McGlinchey (2018 9th overall, 28 starts)
- Nick Martin (2016 second round, 46 starts)
- Chris Watt (2014 third round, 8 starts)
- Sam Young (2010 sixth round, 21 starts)
- Trevor Robinson (2012 undrafted, 21 starts)
- Eric Olsen (2010 sixth round, 4 starts)
- Alex Bars (2019 undrafted)
Wisconsin came in second in SI’s assessment. Michigan wasn’t even in the top 10, and neither was Penn State.
Notre Dame needs to pounce on this in recruiting
Notre Dame took a hit in recruiting last week when Landon Tengwall committed to Penn State without ever visiting Notre Dame – two scheduled visits for campus in March were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m sure the Irish coaching staff will still try to get Tengwall on campus when on-campus visits are eventually allowed again, but outside of Tengwall, Notre Dame has work to do on the offensive line in the class of 2020.
I’d be shocked if the staff hasn’t sent this out to every offensive line recruit on their board. Tommy Rees was already
Blake Fisher is an absolute beast on the field and one of the best unofficial recruiting coordinators Notre Dame has had in years, but he’s the only OL commit right now. Jeff Quinn has done a terrific job recruiting since taking over for Harry Hiestand, but how much the shutdown of recruiting visits impacts Notre Dame is still unclear.
Nolan Rucci and Rocco Spindler are two elite prospects that Notre Dame has to lock up to have the kind of OL class that we’ve become accustomed to. Notre Dame also recently offered Chicagoland prospect Pat Coogan who also picked up an offer from Ohio State shortly after.
Can Notre Dame continue the tradition?
Notre Dame’s 2020 offensive line has the potential to be a dominant unit when the Irish return to action and when the group returns to full health. All five starters from 2019 return, but that unit did not quite live up to expectations a year ago – just don’t tell that Brian Kelly. All five of Notre Dame’s starting linemen for 2020 have the potential to play in the NFL that is clear. What isn’t clear is whether or not Notre Dame has a lineman of the caliber of Mike McGlinchey, let alone Martin, Stanley, or Nelson.
Between Robert Hainsey, Tommy Krammer, Liam Eichenberg, Jarrett Patterson, and Aaron Banks, all could have NFL futures. Unless one, or more, of them takes a big step forward in 2020, though, they likely won’t follow in Nelson or McGlinchey’s footsteps of being a high draft pick. All have shown promise, but none could be said to be a dominant lineman at this point in their careers. That doesn’t mean that won’t happen in 2020, though.
There is optimism that the promotion of Tommy Rees to offensive coordinator will create a better relationship between all of the offensive coaches and that Rees will be more flexible working with new Running Game Coordinator Lance Taylor than Chip Long was in working with the assistant coaches in 2019. If that optimism is more than just blind hope, the talent is there on the current offensive line to continue the tradition.