Grading on a Curve: OL

Brian Kelly's third full recruiting class is complete, with 24 members joining for the 2013 cycle. Irisheyes.com presents its grades for the class, position by position, with a focused eye toward both last year's 17-player haul, and the team's needs for the upcoming 2014 cycle. The first position unit graded: Offensive Line...

Offensive Line, 2012-13, and Beyond...

Two prospective tackles: Mike McGlinchey and Steve Elmer and three prospective interior linemen: John Montelus, Hunter Bivin, and Colin McGovern. The potential future of the Notre Dame offensive line signed on the dotted line today.

The reality of a five-player offensive line haul -- even one that includes a quintet of four-star prospects as does Notre Dame's in 2013 -- is that more than one of the group won't pan out as expected. And one will likely lose a bulk of his career to injury.

It was true of a 2009 haul that included three players; a 2010 with four; a 2011 group with five, and it could be the case with last year's two linemen tandem and this year's promising quintet.

But there's strength in numbers.

2013 Grade -- A+

Quantity, quality, versatility…McGlinchey and Elmer appear slated to begin as tackles; Montelus, McGovern, and Bivin as interior linemen (guards and/or center). Bivin showed his chops at center in a post-season All-Star game, a fact noted by his head coach Brian Kelly today.

"What we have here is a young man with great versatility on the offensive line.  He played tackle, he moved to center in the all-star game, played flawlessly at that position.  Here's a young man that comes in with the size and strength and the versatility on the offensive line, an area that as you know with five offensive line commits was very central to this recruiting class.

"Generally speaking, McGlinchey and Elmer would be outside, and then you've got the three guys inside, McGovern, Montelus and Bivin.  That's how it looks right now.  Hunter could play outside, as well.  He's got great flexibility in terms of being able to do both.  We think we're in a pretty good position where I think we've matched up those needs pretty well."

Best Chance to Play Early: For any of the five, only due to a rash of injuries among the upperclassmen. For the sake of the prediction, I'll go with Montelus, who could potentially fight for a two-deep role at three spots (LG, C, RG) rather than just the tackle positions.

Quote to Note: "We had a picture of the five offensive linemen together, and I remember just kind of kiddingly looking at John (Montelus), and John is probably not 6'5", but he's well over 6'3", and he looks short compared to everybody else in that offensive line class. But he's not short on physical play. He Will knock. You. Out. He gets off the ball, he's physical at the point of attack."
-- Kelly on four-star guard prospect, John Montelus.

2013 Grade Coupled with 2012 -- B+

Tackle prospect Ronnie Stanley cracked the two-deep last August, playing two games before being lost for the season to an elbow injury (he's eligible to apply for a medical redshirt as a result). Center prospect Mark Harrell was moved from tackle/tight end in high school and impressed Kelly late in bowl preparations as a scout team player.

And that's the end of the good news, as Kelly & Co. brought in just a pair last cycle, necessitating the full five for 2013.

Necessary additions for 2014 as a result: Another five-spot, four at minimum, with 6'4" 285-pound Cleveland-product Jimmy Byrne already pledged.

"We were in the red line in terms of critical need," said Kelly of the 2012 season's offensive line depth. "Next year it won't be quite in the red line of critical need, but it'll move into 'Still a need' for us in our program -- to continue to build on the O-line."

Were needs filled at O-Line over the last two seasons?

Sure. Seven players, six of whom could play tackle and at least three that appear well-suited for guard, with one center project that has yielded promise on the practice fields.

Add to that a trio of remaining prospect from what was a five-man O-Line haul in 2013 (Jordan Prestwood transferred; Brad Carrico suffered a career-ending foot injury), and Kelly's squad will return 10 offensive linemen for 2014 not including the likely addition of potential fifth-year senior Christian Lombard.

But with those 11, its apparent at least four most make the call for Notre Dame in 2014 -- considering attrition has proven impossible to avoid, better make that five.

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