Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 APRIL 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F ormer Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz (1986‑96) had a theory about why the Fighting Irish can consistently land top offensive linemen in recruiting. Because they are often scholarly, willing to commit early and align with the university's values, it should be an easy sell. Said Holtz: "They're the kind of people who know exactly what classes they will take two semesters from now, they tend to marry at a younger age than the average player, and very rarely will you read in a newspaper about an offensive lineman stealing a motorcycle or car like you would about a defensive lineman or player, who tends to be more wild." Along with tight ends, if a coach at Notre Dame can't lure offensive line‑ men, he is in the wrong profession. Once again in 2019, the Fighting Irish four‑man offensive line harvest was among the most renowned, ranked No. 3 in the country by Rivals, be‑ hind only Alabama and Tennessee. This year's quartet assembled by line coach Jeff Quinn is comprised of center Zeke Correll, guard John Olmstead and tackles Quinn Carroll and Andrew Kristofic, all four‑star prospects. In the overall 22‑man Notre Dame class, Carroll received the highest na‑ tional ranking from Rivals at No. 68, Correll was No. 114 and Olmstead No. 118 — and Kristofic was named to the 2019 All‑American Bowl in San Antonio. Kristofic was also ranked No. 4 overall (top‑100 caliber) by Blue‑ football analyst Bryan Driskell in his evaluations of the 22 players signed by the Fighting Irish. Can this become one of the best of‑ fensive line hauls ever at Notre Dame? That can be answered in four or five years, but first a standard must be given on what constitutes the "best" in terms of impact, balance at the position and how many become major figures. For example, in 2006 Notre Dame signed a six‑man offensive line class — Sam Young, Eric Olsen, Chris Stewart, Dan Wenger, Matt Carufel and Bartley Webb — that at the time was projected by recruiting analysts as potentially the greatest assembly of offensive line talent in one class at Notre Dame or anywhere else. It wasn't bad, with Young and Ol‑ sen becoming sixth‑round draft picks (and Young is still in the NFL), but it endured a lot of growing pains, while the team went 16‑21 their final three seasons. One caveat: this list began with 1964 — the year college football went to two platoons (offense and defense) permanently. Otherwise, units from the 1940s and 1950s would be at the top. Here is our top 10 ranking of the best recruited offensive line classes at Notre Dame since 1964: 10. 2013: Mike McGlinchey, Steve Elmer, Colin McGovern, Hunter Bivin and John Montelus First‑round pick McGlinchey earned consensus All‑America honors and was the No. 9 overall NFL pick in 2018 (and the first tackle). Elmer started two‑and‑a‑half years and graduated in three. He might have had a pro career but had no interest in continuing foot‑ ball. McGovern, Bivin and Montelus were slowed by injuries. 9. 1986: Tim Grunhard, Dean Brown, Jeff Pearson and Jim Kinsherf Holtz's first recruiting class included long‑time Kansas City Chiefs center Grunhard, whose son Colin is a cur‑ rent walk‑on center for the Irish. Brown started next to him in 1988‑89 when Notre Dame won a school‑record 23 straight games. Pearson, from the same high school as Grunhard, started as a sophomore before getting dismissed and transferring to Michigan State. Sev‑ eral other Chicagoland line prospects were also dismissed from this class. Notre Dame's Best offeNsive LiNe recruitiNg cLasses This year's four-man haul will attempt to become the top group since the start of two-platoon football in 1964 Tackle Aaron Taylor (75) and center Tim Ruddy (61) helped Notre Dame win 17 straight games in 1992‑93. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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