Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2021 Issue

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

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Page 43 of 47

44 MAY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI N otre Dame signed five offensive linemen this cycle, a quintet tied with Oregon for No. 5 in the country by Rivals, behind Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Texas A&M. The group is led by five-star Blake Fisher, the No. 25 overall player in the nation per Rivals, and Rocco Spindler, who is No. 67. Four-star Caleb Johnson and three-star figures Pat Coogan and Joe Alt round out the group. Interestingly, two years earlier, the current Irish junior offensive linemen were ranked collectively a little higher at No. 3 (behind Alabama and Tennes- see): center Zeke Correll, guard John Olmstead (who transferred to Lafay- ette), and tackles Quinn Carroll and Andrew Kristofic were all given four- star rankings. Carroll received the highest national rank from Rivals at No. 68 overall, while Correll was No. 114 and Olmstead No. 118. In addition, Kristofic received an invite to the 2019 All-American Bowl. Can this 2021 harvest become one of the best offensive line hauls ever at Notre Dame? That will be answered in about four or five years, but first a standard must be reviewed in terms of impact, balance at the position and how many do 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 tal- ent in one class at Notre Dame. It wasn't bad, with Young and Olsen becoming sixth-round draft picks (and Young still in the NFL), but it endured a lot of growing pains while the team went 16-21 their final three seasons. It was also tough to leave out the 2009 recruited duo of Zack Martin and Chris Watt based on numbers alone. We begin this top-10 countdown with the 1964 season — the year college football went to two platoons (offense and defense) permanently. Otherwise, units from the 1940s and 1950s would be at the top. 10t. 2013: Mike McGlinchey, Steve Elmer, Colin McGovern, Hunter Bivin and John Montelus 10t. 2017: Robert Hainsey, Aaron Banks, Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons McGlinchey earned consensus All- America honors and was the No. 9 overall pick (and the first tackle taken) in the 2018 NFL Draft. 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. From 2017, Hainsey started as a freshman and became a two-time cap- tain, while three-year starter Banks could be an early round selection. Depending on how much projected starter Lugg and Gibbons contribute this season, this group could climb several spots. 9. 1986: Tim Grunhard, Dean Brown, Jeff Pearson and Jim Kinsherf Lou Holtz's first class included longtime Kansas City Chiefs center Grunhard. Brown started next to him two years on teams that won a school- record 23 straight games. Pearson, from the same high school as Grun- hard, started as a sophomore before getting dismissed and transferring to Michigan State. Joining this group later was walk- on and future NFL player Mike Bren- nan — but he actually enrolled in 1985. 8. 1990: Aaron Taylor, Tim Ruddy and Mike McGlinn Taylor was a two-time consensus All-American, won the Lombardi Award and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame earlier this year. He and Ruddy — a center who was a second-round selection and starred 10 years in the NFL — spearheaded a line that helped Notre Dame win 17 straight games. McGlinn was never a full-time starter, but also was inserted at times as a blocking tight end. 7. 1965: Bob Kuechenberg, George Kunz, Tim Monty, Tom McKinley and Ed Tuck Kunz, the No. 2 overall pick in 1969, was an eight-time Pro Bowl pick and Kuechenberg was a six-time honoree. Kunz started as a sophomore for the 1966 national champs before he was injured in the second game and re- placed by Kuechenberg, who moved to defense in 1967. Had Kuechenberg stayed on offense, this group would be in the top five. McKinley was a two-year starter at guard, while Monty started at cen- ter as a senior and finished out the 1966 national title run as a 198-pound snapper against Michigan State and USC in place of the injured George Goeddeke. Tuck was a sixth-round draft pick at guard despite not start- ing for the Irish. 6. 1987: Mike Heldt, Tim Ryan, Winston Sandri and Joe Allen Heldt, a center, and Ryan, a guard, were three-year starters, highlighted Quenton Nelson (No. 56), Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars — members of Notre Dame's 2014 recruiting class — each were three-year starters and served as team captains. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA PRODUCTION LINES Will the five-man 2021 haul rank among the best at Notre Dame?

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