Notre Dame will wait to settle on starting offensive line

Notre Dame will wait to settle on starting offensive line
April 21, 2014, 6:30 pm
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With spring practice in the books, there appear four certainties on Notre Dame's offensive line: Ronnie Stanley will play left tackle, Nick Martin will play center, Christian Lombard will play right guard and Steve Elmer will play somewhere.

That last certainty opens up the possibility for some uncertainty, though, depending on how confidence Harry Hiestand and Brian Kelly are in right tackle Mike McGlinchey come Aug. 30. 

For now, McGlinchey will head into the summer and fall camp with the inside track to start over Matt Hegarty and Conor Hanratty on Notre Dame's offensive line. The rising sophomore, who's drawn praise from Kelly dating back to his redshirt year of 2013, ran with the No. 1 offensive line at right tackle all spring.

But coaches liked what they saw from Hegarty, who took most of his spring reps at center with Martin sidelined due to a knee injury. He could slide inside to left guard and bump Elmer, who took most of his spring reps there, to right tackle, his natural position.

[MORE: Facing a brutal schedule, Notre Dame wants more from its offense]

McGlinchey, though, is the linchpin here. If he's deemed ready, he'll play and Hegarty and Hanratty will be backups. But for McGlinchey, who hails from the relatively small William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, the question is if he'll be able to handle the kind of physicality he'll face at the college level.

"He grew up understanding the physical nature of the game but wasn't necessarily challenged like that every day as opposed to somebody who comes from Mount Carmel or one of those places," Hiestand said. "So it's been a major adjustment for him there that the competition on every snap is at a high level, where (in high school) he just made contact with the guys he was blocking and they'd go down -- it didn't really matter how he did it. And he's finding out it matters how you do it every snap and then suddenly you're the cause of a bad play because you're not on your game every snap."

Still, Hiestand said McGlinchey has an "awesome" upside and is progressing well. But Notre Dame's offensive line is far from set in stone -- we'll probably have to wait about four months for that to be the case.