When Notre Dame hit the field for spring practice earlier this month, its offensive line was comprised of four tackles and a center.
Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey actually lined up at left and right tackle, respectively, while natural tackles Steve Elmer (left guard) and Christian Lombard (right guard) were inside. Lombard and Elmer started at guard in 2013, though both players came to South Bend as tackles -- and Lombard started all 13 games in 2012 at right tackle.
So what Notre Dame did was put its five best offensive linemen into its first unit, despite the absence of Nick Martin (though his replacement at center, Matt Hegarty, is a good player in his own right). And the emergence of McGlinchey -- who redshirted in 2013 -- is the catalyst for it.
"He's a tough, physical kid, long, athletic," lauded coach Brian Kelly. "He's got all the tools, he just needs experience and time. He's fighting to get on the field."
The 6-foot-7, 300-pound McGlinchey came to Notre Dame rated by Rivals as the third-best tackle in 2013's recruiting class, behind Elmer and Hunter Bivin. But Kelly has raved about his athleticism, and sees him as a building block at tackle.
While McGlinchey ran with the first team offensive line earlier this month, that hardly means he's guaranteed to start against Rice Aug. 30. Given Elmer's flexibility, he could shift outside to right tackle and open the door for Conor Hanratty or John Montelus at guard. If Hegarty impresses, perhaps he shifts over to guard when Martin returns in August, again Elmer to right tackle and McGlinchey out of the starting lineup.
But this isn't a bad problem to have, seeing how Notre Dame's offensive line depth has been thin in recent years. And that means McGlinchey may have to wait his turn.
"It's a very competitive situation," Kelly said. "He's got all the tools necessary for him to be a starter for us. It's going to be time and place."