Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Scouting the Roster: Offensive Line

June 2, 2017

Player name:  Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Sam Mustipher, Alex Bars and Tommy Kraemer

Player position:  Offensive line

Years left of eligibility:  McGlinchey (1), Nelson (2), Musitipher (2), Bars (2), Kraemer (4)

Projected rank on depth chart:  Starters

Player productivity so far:  2016:  Ranked No. 80 in rushing, 1960 yards, 4.47 ypc, 18 TDs, 163.3 yards per game.  Ranked No. 85 sacks allowed with 28.  

NOTE:  I felt it best to group this unit together.  Notre Dame doesn’t log individual stats with each player, so I thought it best to look at this unit as one and compare them to past ND teams, as well as some of the better, more productive offensive lines from other teams last season.  

What the unit does best:   Well, this is up for debate.  What does ND’s O-line do best?  They seemed pretty average at most things last season when looking at the stats.  No. 80 in rushing, No. 85 in sacks allowed.  However, they did have new players playing three positions.  With turnover, you will have some uncertainty.  The Irish struggled at times in both pass protection and in the run game.  But, I think some inexperience at wide receiver made it difficult for them at times in the pass game, and because they struggled throwing the ball at times, the run game was also suspect.  

What the unit needs to work on:
    I think consistency, more than anything.  You have four starters returning.  At least two are considered potential first round picks in next year’s NFL draft.  The other three will very likely be NFL players as well when their time is up.  There is a wealth of talent and returning experience with this group, so we should see a lot better execution.  One area they’ve struggled with is stunts inside and recognizing them late, allowing pressure up the middle late and hurrying the ND QB.  They’ve also struggled in short yardage situation at times, especially near the goal line.  But, I think it’s the old adage:  you get what you emphasize.  Notre Dame doesn’t run often in the red zone, therefore they’re not that good at it.  Better play-calling in the red zone would certainly help this group become more productive.  
Rick Kimball/ISD Sam Mustipher

Productivity of former Irish players and the top players in the country at player’s position: 
2015 Notre Dame  2699 yards rushing, 5.6 ypc, 29 TDs, 207.6 yards per game.  26 sacks

2012 Notre Dame 2462 yards rushing, 4.9 ypc, 23 TDs, 189.4 yards per game.  18 sacks

2016 Ohio State.  3188 yards rushing, 5.47 ypc, 33 TDs, 245.2 yards per game.  28 sacks allowed.  

2016  Oklahoma:  3078 yards rushing, 5.37 ypc, 30 TDs, 236 .8 yards per game.  21 sacks allowed

2016  Clemson:  2546 yards rushing, 4.31 ypc, 30 TDs, 169.7 yards per game.  20 sacks allowed

2016 Michigan:  2768 yards rushing, 4.82 ypc, 41 TDs, 212.9 yards per game.  22 sacks allowed

What can we hope for?  Talent-wise, across the board, this is the most talented offensive line Brian Kelly has had while at Notre Dame.  Experience-wise, it’s also one of his most experienced, if not the most experienced.  There really is no excuse for not having a great year up front.  

The best teams run the ball well, and protect their QB.  Ideally, you’d love to see ND rush for 2800 yards, 5.5 ypc, 30 TDs, and average about 210 yards per game.  You’d like to see around 22 sacks as well.  That is certainly possible with this kind of talent and experience if given the right game plans and play calling.    The “book on Kelly” suggests he likes to throw the ball, but he does tend to be more conservative and focus more on the run with a new starter at QB.  That would be a very wise thing to do this season considering the talent and experience up front this season.  

What is a realistic expectation?  I’m sticking with my “what we can hope for” numbers.  I think realistic expectations are the numbers I listed.  2900 yards, 5.5 ypc and 30 TDs.   When Kelly and offensive line coach, Harry Hiestand, have had this much talent and experience, they’ve logged these types of numbers as listed above.  I think a realistic expectation is to assume we’ll see the same from this group.  There is no question teams will challenge Tommy Kraemer as the “weak link” this season as he has the least amount of experience, but Kraemer is in the exact same position Mike McGlinchey found himself in when starting for the first time in 2015.  I expect him to be able to handle the challenge, just as McGlinchey did, albeit with the growing pains McGlinchey and every other first-time starter faces.  The Irish also have good depth this season in case someone happens to get hurt, so they should be in good shape for the season.  There is no question this unit should be the strength of the offense this season, and probably the biggest strength of the entire team.  

What about the future?  McGlinchey will certainly be gone after this season, and with another good season, Nelson could be following him to the NFL.  Mustipher will have two years starting experience, and I expect him to make a big jump this season in overall production, but centers aren’t usually drafted high in the NFL, so my guess is he’ll be back for 2018, as will right guard, Alex Bars.  That, combined with Kraemer having 3 years left, would be a nice nucleus for 2018, especially if some depth players, like  tackle Liam Eicheberg and guard Tristen Hoge can get some meaningful reps this season.  Notre Dame appears to be set to reload at offensive line for quite a few years, which is a testament to the good job of recruiting Harry Hiestand has done recently for the Irish.  Hopefully that will continue this season as beyond.  


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