Position Breakdown: Offensive Line
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, April 16, 2021
Notre Dame’s 2021 offensive line remains a big question mark of the team. The Irish presented a strong front during the 2020 season, with players like Aaron Banks, Tommy Kraemer, Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey holding the line to protect quarterback Ian Book. All of these starters will not be returning for the 2021 season, despite the extra year of eligibility from the pandemic year. The other starting lineman, Jarrett Patterson, also remains sidelined as he continues to recover from a foot injury that cut his 2020 season short. With this loss of experience and talent, Notre Dame will seek to fill at least four new starting positions, and that is before any possible reshuffling of positions.
Therefore, the offensive line is rather open ended heading into this upcoming season, with a possible complete overhaul of the unit. Expect to see some uncertainty in the first couple showings as new players get their feet wet in their positions, especially given the interconnectedness of the linemen’s gameplay.
2021 Depth Chart
Senior Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year Josh Lugg, junior Zeke Correll, fifth-year Dillan Gibbons, senior John Dirksen, senior Max Siegel II, junior Quinn Murphy, junior Hunter Spears, junior Andrew Kristofic, junior Quinn Carroll, sophomore Tosh Baker, sophomore Michael Carmody, sophomore Brennan Wicks, freshman Blake Fisher, freshman Caleb Johnson, freshman Rocco Spindler
A possible first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Eichenberg has been a force to be reckoned with at left tackle for the past three years. His consistency helped him to be regarded as a steady force that his teammates and fans alike could rely on for solid, efficient gameplay. For example, Eichenberg went both the 2019 and 2020 season without allowing a single sack. He walks away from Notre Dame with 38 starts under his belt, and his absence will surely be felt on the line in 2021.
Kraemer was a four-year starter for the Irish. His physical strength provided powerful blows against the rushing defense as he executed block after block to contribute to the overall strength of the line. There will be some adjusting needed to replace him, given that his four seasons provided security for the Irish with his experience.
Team captain Hainsey brought a level of grit to the line, making up for his somewhat lacking speed in his strength and control on the field. He provided explosive moments during his time of play, planting himself as a wall between the defenders and the rest of the offense. His leadership and solid hits will be something that needs to be replaced in whoever takes over his position.
Bank’s size alone was enough to be a valuable asset on the offensive line, standing at 6’6 and providing a powerful frame that defenders struggled to push past. His intimidating physicality paired with his ability to give formidable blocks will be aspects that Notre Dame will come to miss.
A steady force at center, Patterson demonstrated his ability to execute as a starter on the line. However, his foot injury has kept him out of play for months, and if he is able to take the field come September, he may start off a little shaky as he gets back in the swing of things.
Correll stepped into the center position given Patterson’s injury, going on to start in the CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl. This experience can be an asset to a relatively young line this upcoming season. Though he is battling for the center position, his spot is still relatively uncertain, especially if Patterson returns to the fray.
Lugg has practiced in every position on the line in the past, and this versatility will be a much needed aspect for the Irish. Though he took over at center after both Patterson and Correll were out, it is not likely that he will remain there. Even then, his experience and dexterous play will make him someone to look out for.
Emily DeFazio — Associate Sports Editor
It is hard to give a position grade for one with such uncertainty heading into the season. However, new talent does not necessarily mean no talent. 2018, another season with a CFP showing, started off with a relatively young team as well. I think that as long as the positions are relatively set with enough time for players to get comfortable in them, the offensive line can begin to regain and build upon the strength lost with talented players, both new and returning. However, too much switching around could cause the beginning of the season to be all the more shaky than what it already has a likelihood to be with a practically brand new line.