Notre Dame was holding out some hope that Aaron Banks might return for a 5th year in 2021. Those hopes were dashed on Sunday when the two-year starter announced he was declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft. With Banks’s departure, Notre Dame is looking at a near-complete rebuilding of its offensive line.
Notre Dame was already going to have to replace Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hainsey, and Tommy Kraemer before Banks decided to head to the NFL. Now they will have four new opening day starters along the offensive line when the Irish kick-off the season Labor Day weekend.
Banks started every game the last two seasons and six additional games in 2018 as a sophomore. Notre Dame’s hopes for him to return started to evaporate as Banks began racking up post-season accolades over the last month. Banks strong senior campaign earned him the following:
- Associated Press All-America First Team
- Sporting News All-America Second Team
- ESPN All-America Team
- All-ACC First Team
There was some hope that the allure of earning the starting left tackle gig for 2021 could entice Banks to return, given the premium the NFL places on tackles versus guards. As is, Banks’s current draft projections have him anywhere from the 2nd to 5th round.
How the offensive line shakes out is going to be fascinating to watch. Jarrett Patterson, who missed the last four games of the season, will start somewhere once he is healthy. That will likely be determined based on who else separates themselves since Patterson is capable of play guard or tackle in addition to center, where he started the last two seasons.
Both Josh Lugg and Zeke Correll have starting experience and figure to be in the mix as well. Lugg is more of a natural tackle, while Correll could start at center or guard as well. Correll held his own at center, filling in for Patterson in Rose Bowl.
Tosh Baker, who didn’t play much this year, was recruited to be the heir apparent at tackle. Dillan Gibbons has earned some spot duty at guard at times over the last two years. Andrew Kristofic and Quinn Carroll will be in the mix at tackle as well.
John Dirksen has quietly developed at guard the last couple of years. Even some thought that incoming freshman Rocco Spindler could step right into a starting role as a true freshman. Hunter Spears moved from the defensive line to guard last off-season as well.
There is a lot of talent for Jeff Quinn to work with, but however you slice it, he will have to get at least two linemen who have never started a game ready to be full-time starters in 2021.