Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ⅝, 300 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Spindler has all four seasons of eligibility remaining after appearing in only two games as a freshman. The ability to easily comprehend their possible time remaining is a perk to discussing freshmen and sophomores, all of whom came to college after the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.Depth Chart: On paper, Spindler may be the backup left guard behind senior Andrew Kristofic, but some springtime uncertainty about Kristofic’s play never led to earnest conversations about Spindler as a possibility. So in reality, Spindler is likely behind senior Zeke Correll and perhaps also fifth-year Jarrett Patterson. One of those two could end up at center with the other at left guard, if Kristofic does not regain control of his starting role, continuing to leave Spindler as the odd man out.Recruiting: The Under Armour All-American and consensus four-star prospect sure seemed to be focused on his homestate powerhouse, visiting Michigan six times during his recruitment, or perhaps Ohio State (three times), before he chose Notre Dame. Rivals.com ranked Spindler the No. 4 guard in the class and No. 67 overall recruit in the 2021 cycle.
CAREER TO DATE
Spindler took two snaps on point-after attempts in the Irish loss to Cincinnati, his only appearance before the home finale blowout of Georgia Tech.
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Those questions will change in a year, when (Cain) Madden is out of eligibility and (Josh) Lugg presumably turns down his pandemic-possible added season. At that point, Spindler will start.
“Notre Dame’s coaching staff is clearly high on the Michigan native. (Brian) Kelly once again throwing the center position into doubt in June may have been as much about getting Spindler onto the field as it was about challenging Correll.
“Spindler will start for at least two seasons in South Bend. If fewer than that, it is only because he plays so well, but if that is the case, then playing time in 2021 and thus three years already feels like the minimum.”
Cain Madden’s transfer from Marshall curtailed the rampant praise of Spindler from 2021’s spring. With Madden joining the Irish, the open starting guard positions fell by half, and Notre Dame had enough veterans with untapped possibilities to no longer rely on the early-enrolled freshman.
From afar, that came across as Spindler losing ground in his development, but that was unfair; a preseason bout of COVID set Spindler back a few steps. Furthermore, only two freshmen have ever started the season opener on the Irish offensive line. Spindler so often being mentioned in the same breath as classmate Blake Fisher, one of those two, set undue expectations.
Carry those no further, not even into 2022.
Both Kristofic and Correll started at left guard ahead of Spindler last season. There is every reason to believe they both would this year, as well. The top-five linemen may yet be in flux, but Spindler is not even No. 6 or 7.
This will be a fall spent working with returned offensive line coach Harry Hiestand on fundamentals while knowing all along a rash of injuries would change the weekly stress for Spindler. He is not entirely removed from the playing conversation, but he is not a piece of the immediate equation, either.
DOWN THE ROAD
Spindler will end up in the starting lineup. Those rave reviews last spring were early evidence his high recruiting rankings were valid. After 2022, Notre Dame will need to replace at least two starters in Patterson and sixth-year right guard Josh Lugg.
For the sake of this conversation, presume Kristofic returns for a fifth season. At that point, Correll will be the likely starter at center, and only Kristofic will otherwise be on the roster with notable experience at guard.
Kristofic, Spindler and early-enrolled freshman Billy Schrauth would be the front-runners to emerge as the two starting guards. And, again, that is assuming Kristofic comes back in 2023. That is no certainty.
Spindler should start in 2023. If there had been a touch less hype around him in 2021’s spring, being in pole position to start as a junior would be considered a wild success for any offensive lineman. It will set up Spindler to be a likely two-year starter, though the Irish would probably welcome a third season in 2025, even if that does seem a bit far off currently.
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end
No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77* Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65* Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59* Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 57* Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 51* Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother