Notre Dame needed to win the intense recruiting battle for top-50 offensive lineman Rocco Spindler in a bad way. On Saturday night, after a hard-fought battle, Spindler selected the Irish over fellow finalists Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, and LSU though this was really a head to head win over the hated Wolverines.
Standing 6’5″ and weighing in at 315 lbs already, Spindler is the third-ranked guard in the entire class of 2021 in the 247Sports Composite and the 48th ranked prospect over. He is the 2nd highest-rated commitment in the class of 2021 for the Irish – seven spots below Tyler Buchner (41) and two spots ahead of offensive linemate Blake Fisher (50) – giving Notre Dame a trio of top-50 overall prospects already.
Beating Michigan Head to Head
Before beating out Michigan head to head for Spindler, Notre Dame also beat out the likes of LSU, Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. All of them offered Spindler a scholarship along the way.
Notre Dame had to win this recruiting battle. They just had to. Michigan went on a tear at the start of the pandemic-induced recruiting shutdown, and at one point, it looked like Spinder was trending towards the in-state Wolverines. After Notre Dame lot Landon Tengwall and Caleb Johnson early into the pandemic without getting visits, Spindler became priority number one along the offensive line because he had seen Notre Dame plenty already. Had Notre Dame lost out on Spindler, the offensive line class for 2021 would have been underwhelming on the whole baring a miracle over the final few months of this recruiting cycle.
Michigan also flipped offensive lineman Greg Crippen from Notre Dame earlier this year though there were murmurs that Notre Dame had long cooled on Crippen and didn’t do much to prevent or recover from it. Still, the optics of losing a commit to Michigan than losing a head to head battle for Spindler won’t have been ideal. The Wolverines also made a huge push to flip Lorenzo Styles early into the dead period, but the Irish have weathered that storm well thus far.
Notre Dame Avoids Another Scramble Drill
Notre Dame is still recruiting another elite offensive lineman – fellow top-50 prospect Nolan Rucci, but Rucci never made it to campus in the spring and without a campus visit, Notre Dame’s chances are minute. After Rucci, Notre Dame’s only other options had they lost out on Spindler would have been to expand its recruiting board.
They’d have been in scramble mode similar to the situation they found themselves in at running back following Will Shipley’s commitment to Clemson. Now, maybe they could have lucked into a promising offensive lineman similarly to how they ended up with a very promising running back in Logan Diggs, but this class already has two prospects along the offensive line. It didn’t need another.
Notre Dame hauled in Pat Coogan (guard) and Joe Alt (tackle) over the last few months to team with Fisher before Spindler’s addition. Coogan has an impressive offer list but is still seen as more project than an instant impact player. Alt has a sky-high ceiling, but he will be making a transition from jumbo tight end to offensive tackle in college. He has the bloodlines to do it – his father made the same move before becoming a Pro Bowl offensive tackle – but again, that isn’t a sure thing.
There are no “sure things” in recruiting, but Spindler is about as sure of a thing as Notre Dame has added in a while. There have been some comparisons made to Quenton Nelson already given he’s a highly touted guard committed to Notre Dame, but those kinds of comparisons are always unfair. Nelson was a generational talent at Notre Dame and is proving that in the NFL. Spindler doesn’t have to be the next Quenton Nelson at Notre Dame to play up to his massive potential. If Spindler is just the first Rocco Spindler for Notre Dame, he will continue to tradition of Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Ronnie Stanley, and Zack Martin.
Michigan tried to play up its success with offensive linemen being drafted this past fall in their recruitment of Spindler, but it didn’t make the difference for them. Notre Dame produced three of the NFL’s five All-Pro linemen in 2019. There’s a reason the Irish are THE Offensive Line U. Spindler will help continue that tradition.
A Massive Win for Jeff Quinn
This recruiting win is a vindication of sorts for offensive line coach Jeff Quinn who has been a lightning rod of criticism for Notre Dame fans online ever since he replaced the popular and productive Harry Hiestand. It’s never easy following a legend and it’s even harder to do so when a large swatch of the Irish fanbase looks at you as a “crony hire” of the head coach – the kind of hire that got Brian Kelly into the mess he found himself in following the 2016 season.
Quinn needed this win after the losses of Tengwall and Johnson and the almost inevitable likelihood of Rucci going elsewhere. With Spindler on board, Quinn produced an offensive line class with two top-50 overall prospects. That is landing elite, top-end talent. That is something Hiestand never did at Notre Dame.
Quinn still needs to develop the likes of Spindler, Fisher, Alt, and Coogan and get more out of the current group of offensive linemen on the Irish roster; but this was a big win for Jeff Quinn.
Major Momentum for Notre Dame Continues
Spindler’s commitment comes less than 24 hours after the Irish landed composite 4-star linebacker Prince Kollie over a similar list of intense competition and on the heels of a scorching hot month of July on the recruiting trail. Notre Dame now has 17 commitments and adding Spindler has them just on the outside of the top-10 rankings in 247Sports.
The Irish still have some work to do at wide receiver and they’d like to add another athlete/defensive back or two, but they’ve since recovered after stumbling out of the gates of the unexpected prolonged dead period quite nicely.