Rumblings over the summer have only confirmed what many suspected from the moment he committed to Notre Dame: Quenton Nelson expects to play in 2014.
The five-star recruit has only been on campus since June, but Nelson has already done enough to start a whisper campaign that Nelson might be the next big thing to crack the lineup early.
That’s quite an achievement, especially considering the depth chart returning. But Nelson’s no ordinary freshman, as we saw with his weight room exploits and ready-to-contribute physicality.
We’ll see where Nelson’s at come next week, and if the summer love was one last burst of internet hype or the sign of big things to come. Either way, it looks like the Irish have another big, strong and tough offensive lineman that expects to see the field sooner than later.
Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at Nelson.
6'5" 302 lbs.
Freshman, No. 56
Nelson earned a coveted fifth star as a recruit, was a Top 30 player and one of the top offensive tackles in the recruiting class. The New Jersey native was a U.S. Army All-American (and a bunch of other accolades, too), committing to Notre Dame in May and never wavering throughout his recruitment.
Offers from Alabama, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Stanford among others didn’t seem to interest Nelson, who also showed some of his personality in his UND.com recruiting video. On tape, that humor doesn’t come across, with Nelson interested in burying the opponent across from him, something Brian Kelly noticed immediately.
“I think the one thing that stands out about Q is that here’s a guy that just is relentless. He’s going to come after you play after play after play,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “One of the best players in the country at his position, but... he’s a guy that is so focused on what he needs to work on, that’s what we loved about him. He wasn’t looking at his star rating, he was looking at the things that he needed to work on, and that’s all we needed to see from Quenton.”
Nelson might not have the length that you see from an incoming recruit like Alex Bars, but there’s zero chance you can look at his tape and not see a really good football player. Nelson absolutely dominates his competition, and did so during the postseason All-Star circuit as well.
Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated dropped a few hints in a premium post behind a paywall that said Nelson has been so impressive this summer that he’s immediately thrown himself into the conversation at guard. That either means he’s playing over Christian Lombard (which is doubtful), or it’ll allow Elmer to play right tackle and Nelson to take Elmer’s spot at left guard, with the odd man out being Mike McGlinchey.
Those conversations can’t happen if Nelson isn’t the real deal, and if he’s capable of fighting his way onto the field, that’s only going to make things better up front for the Irish. Even if he doesn’t crack the lineup early, getting onto the field now -- especially considering the talent Hiestand and Kelly have brought in the past few years -- should have Irish fans excited about the potential Nelson brings with him to South Bend, playing up to the five-star rating and a future star in the making.
This might not be a popular opinion, but consider me among the few people that don’t want to see Nelson on the field in 2014. Using a year of eligibility, especially when the depth chart looks solid with the current projected starting five, would cheat Notre Dame’s staff out of four full seasons of Nelson, likely played at a very elite level.
Save the year and Nelson enters the spring with the inside track in a crowded group fighting for Lombard’s job, and ready to shift outside to tackle when a job opens up.
Of course, a lot of that depends on how well McGlinchey plays. Or Elmer for that matter. Right now, Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin feel like the only true “locks” on the line, with Lombard and Elmer likely right behind. Kelly isn’t going to save a year of playing time if he feels like Nelson can help the Irish win now, even if it’ll mean a few bumps along the road as a freshman learning on the job.
Again, the biggest question is how Hiestand keeps all these linemen competitive, happy and productive. And after just six weeks of summer workouts, it looks like the Irish have another star in the making in Quenton Nelson.
The Irish A-to-Z
Torii Hunter Jr.