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Notre Dame Football

Redshirts Going from Boys to Men

March 20, 2023

One and done is a huge part of college basketball, but college football is different and it’s not just because the NFL has different rules regarding eligibility for the draft.

18 and 19-year olds aren’t close to being ready to physically compete against men in the NFL. Most of them aren’t close to being ready to compete against 22 and 23-year olds in college football. They call football a man’s game for a reason. There’s a significant difference between boy and man strength and that is especially felt in the trenches with offensive and defensive linemen.

There just aren’t many who are prepared to make an impact in their first or second seasons in college football.

There have certainly been exceptions at Notre Dame. Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Robert Hainsey, Tommy Kraemer, Joe Alt, Blake Fisher, and Jarrett Patterson were all starting by the beginning of their second seasons. That’s a pretty ridiculous list when it comes to talent.

In recent years, it’s been even more rare for the Irish to have defensive linemen prove to be exceptions in year one or two. Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt are pretty much in a category of their own compared to anyone else. Even future NFL players like Jerry Tillery, Sheldon Day, Isaiah Foskey, and the members of that great 2016 defensive end class weren’t close to the players they would eventually develop into later in their time at Notre Dame.

This spring we may get a glimpse of some boys becoming men on the football field. Notre Dame has eight offensive and defensive linemen who redshirted last season. A couple of them will be competing for a starting job on the offensive line and the rest will have a chance to establish themselves as key back ups. If they prove to be ready for it, they might end up being more than that by the time the fall arrives.

There are two starting guard spots that are up for grabs on the O-line and second year players Billy Schrauth and Ashton Craig are going to be in the mix for those jobs. Andrew Kristofic would appear to be a heavy favorite to start at left guard. That’s the spot he previously occupied before Patterson shifted to guard, but that right guard job should be wide open. Schrauth is the player that is generating the most buzz out of the contenders and could be the next name added to that aforementioned list. Craig wasn’t nearly as hyped as a recruit as Schrauth, but we’ve heard plenty of positives about him during his first year and he may also have a shot at winning that job. Even if he doesn’t, he could end up as the number two center this fall.

The two second year offensive tackles for Notre Dame won’t be fighting for starting jobs, but Aamil Wagner and Ty Chan are players to watch this spring for different reasons.

With Wagner, so much is going to be about what weight he is listed at when Notre Dame releases its spring roster. Last summer he was 267, but he’s now been in the strength and conditioning program since last June. There may not be a young O-linemen on the roster with a higher ceiling than Wagner not named Alt or Fisher. How big and strong he is right now could determine whether or not he has a chance to be the third tackle for the Irish or if he needs more time to truly be a contender as a possible sixth man up front.

It’s more about where the fit is for Chan than anything else. Is he a right tackle or is he better suited to kick inside to guard? Some of that could depend on his physical development as well.

On the other side of the ball, no one is expecting Joshua Burnham, Aiden Gobaira, Tyson Ford, or Donovan Hinish to be starters this fall. That shouldn’t be concerning to anyone when you consider that players like Okwara, Kareem, and Foskey weren’t starters either.

However, those three were good enough to earn some snaps in sub-packages as in year two. That isn’t a completely unrealistic goal for Burnham, Gobaira, or Ford this season.

Burnham ended up at Vyper after starting out at linebacker and he was 217 pounds in the spring. It says a lot about his frame and the effort he put in to add weight that he ended up at 233 for the season.

How big is he going to be this spring and is he going to look comfortable at this position yet? The athletic talent is there for him to develop into an impact pass rusher.

It’s also there with Gobaira and it’s why so many people are excited about his future. He has the first step and the motor that anyone would want in an edge defender. He also has the frame to end up close to 270. There isn’t much experienced depth at defensive end right now so both he and Burnham will have a chance to be in the rotation if they can earn it.

Ford was a high school defensive end and he’s making the transition to the interior as a three-technique defensive tackle. It’s even more difficult physically than going from linebacker to defensive end.

If he’s experiencing ups and downs this spring, it’s normal. That goes with territory with that adjustment. At the same time he should have a golden opportunity to become Rylie Mills’ backup. The reps he’s going to get over the next month are going to be invaluable and if he can hold his own against the run the majority of the time, he has disruptive long term potential.

Hinish is the forgotten man of the bunch and he’s probably going to end up smaller than his older brother was. Considering that Kurt wasn’t the biggest guy for a nose tackle, that might prove difficult to overcome for Donovan.

But would fans be surprised if he made a jump in year two that suddenly had him in the conversation to steal some snaps in the interior? Probably not given what we know about him and his brother.

A huge part of redshirting is allowing for that extra year of physical development and all of the offensive and defensive line redshirts from last season needed it. We’ll see soon how much that year has meant to them when they finally get a chance to compete for real playing time.

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