Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2021

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

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30 APRIL 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T his is as much turnover and production loss on the offensive line as Notre Dame has seen in head coach Brian Kelly's 12 seasons, but line coach Jeff Quinn ought to have earned some benefit of the doubt. He took over in 2018 with a line that had first-year starters at both tackle spots (Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey) and inserted Aaron Banks midway through as an injury replacement. In addition, Tommy Kraemer was making the move from tackle to guard. Three years later, that line transformed from a solid unit in 2018 to one of the na- tion's best in 2020. And while the replace- ments are inexperienced, nearly all were highly regarded and heavily pursued recruits. It's unrealistic to expect the 2021 group to match the 2020 line's performance, but the floor feels fairly high. Only two of the 11 offensive line signees from 2019-21 were three- star recruits. Quinn is not starting with lesser parts than his depart- ing players, who were all Rivals250 prospects. His current recruiting ef- forts have the Irish in position to land at least four more four-star recruits in 2022. This is an important spring for Quinn, but not because he has to prove he can coax sufficient play from a line that is largely starting fresh. He has done that before. Now he will try to do it mainly with players he recruited. OFFENSIVE LINEMEN 2021 SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY THE NUMBERS 5 Combined sacks al- lowed by the four de- parting starters in 2020. Liam Eichenberg and Aaron Banks did not give up any. 10 Offensive linemen on the 2021 roster who were four- or five-star recruits. The highest ranked is early enrollee freshman Blake Fisher, the No. 25 overall player in the class of 2021 per Rivals. Quinn Carroll (No. 68) and freshman Rocco Spindler (No. 67) were also top-100 players. 142 Combined starts among Eichenberg, Banks, Robert Hainsey and Tommy Kraemer. Each of them had been a starter at their respective position since at least 2018. The quartet combined for 10 All-American selec- tions from the five NCAA-recognized outlets (AP, AFCA, FWAA, Walter Camp and Sporting News). WHO'S GONE LT Liam Eichenberg The three-year starter at left tackle did not allow a sack for the second straight year and was a first-team All-America selection by four major outlets. RG Tommy Kraemer Served as Notre Dame's right guard since 2018 and was a four-year starter along the line. RT Robert Hainsey Held the starting right tackle job since the 2017 Citrus Bowl. LG Aaron Banks The consensus 2020 All-American manned left guard since midway through 2018. C Colin Grunhard The former walk-on and 2020 third-string center moved on to Kansas as a graduate transfer. WHO'S BACK Fifth-year senior OG Dillan Gibbons Played in 11 games and started at left guard against Syracuse in 2020. Fifth-year senior OT/OG Josh Lugg Has eight career starts, with five of them at right tackle in 2019 and three on the interior line in 2020. Senior OG John Dirksen Played 11 games on special teams this past season. Senior C Jarrett Patterson Is Notre Dame's most experienced line- man with 21 starts at center. He missed the final four games of 2020 due to a foot injury and subsequent surgery (Lisfranc). Junior C Zeke Correll Started two games in place of Patter- son, including the College Football Playoff matchup versus Alabama. Junior OG Quinn Carroll The former top-100 recruit played in three games last season. Junior OT Andrew Kristofic Saw action in four contests at tackle in 2020. Junior OG Hunter Spears Did not play this past season. Sophomore OT Tosh Baker Played in two games in 2020. Sophomore OT Michael Carmody Played in one game last year. OFFENSIVE LINE COACH Jeff Quinn — Fourth Year Brian Kelly's former o ffe n s i ve co o rd i n a - tor and offensive line coach at Central Michi- gan and Cincinnati is now in his 37th year in college coaching. POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH Nearly all of them. Notre Dame has four open spots, after all. Perhaps it has a new starter at each position if incumbent center Jarrett Pat- terson moves to tackle. He played the latter in high school and his first few months at Notre Dame before sliding to center during spring practice in 2019. Zeke Correll has worked only at center since arriving in January 2019. If position coach Jeff Quinn determines his five best players include Correll and Patterson, it's hard to imagine the latter not moving. Even with all the turnover, the Irish could trot out a start- ing five that is 80 percent seniors. Patterson, Dillan Gib- bons, Josh Lugg and John Dirksen have all been on campus for at least four years and own 30 of the 32 returning starts. They'll be pushed, though, by a trio of juniors and two sophomores who were all four-star recruits. With impressive springs, tackles Tosh Baker, Quinn Carroll and Andrew Kristofic could force Notre Dame to keep Lugg and/or Patterson on the interior. Gibbons impressed in his one start and one relief appearance in 2020. Dirksen's longevity might give him the early edge to start spring, but he has seen the same amount of high- leverage game reps as the younger players behind him. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS JARRETT PATTERSON

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