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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman

John Dirksen

Listed measurements: 6-foot-5 ⅛, 306 pounds.2021-22 year, eligibility: A senior, Dirksen has three seasons of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: Once again, Dirksen should end up as a backup at guard, though it is not yet clear if that will be at right guard or left or perhaps both. As the backup at left guard, Dirksen was not called upon much behind Aaron Banks, who did not miss a start in the last 31 games for Notre Dame. While Dirksen has been surpassed by early-enrolled freshman Rocco Spindler in replacing Banks, the supporting role may have more demand in 2021. Furthermore, there is no clear backup at left guard behind senior Jarrett Patterson just yet.Recruiting: A consensus three-star prospect, Dirksen pondered offers from Iowa State, Michigan State and Boston College before choosing the Irish. For those wondering, rated Dirksen the No. 37 offensive tackle in the class of 2018.

Dirksen has appeared in 19 games across the last two seasons, solely on special teams in 2019 and in various duties in 2020.

He preserved a year of eligibility in 2018.

As someone who uses his day job as an excuse to keep a closer eye on Twitter than is probably best for my mental health, I truly appreciate someone able to thoroughly divorce himself from social media.

Nearly three years ago, Notre Dame released a video of Dirksen answering a minute of rapid-fire questions, and in it, Dirksen offers loyalty to Snapchat over Twitter or Instagram. More power to him.

True to his word, Dirksen’s account tagged in that post has no followers and has never posted. I envy the time he must be able to use productively. But his last answer, his last answer is just factually inaccurate.

Dirksen has put in literal years of work backing up established starters, now NFL rookies. To that degree, former Irish starting right guard Tommy Kraemer anticipates solid contributions from Dirksen, though in the same quote, Kraemer praised Dillan Gibbons, since transferred to Florida State.

“Those two guys are awesome football players,” Kraemer said in March. “They’re tough, gritty, physical. They can definitely do it. The Notre Dame offensive line will be getting two mature players in John and Dillan, guys who care a lot about the program and care about improving in their craft.

“I’m excited to see those two guys battle out this spring. I’ll be around through the draft to help with spring ball and watch practice. I’m excited to see them. They’re gonna be two great players.”

WHAT WAS SAID TWO YEARS AGO“It is a tough road at Notre Dame for a three-star offensive lineman. Consider: In the Brian Kelly era only two three-star offensive linemen have reached frontline starter status, one of whom has yet to actually make that start. Nick Martin, class of 2011, started 37 games across three seasons, primarily at center. And current sophomore Jarrett Patterson, one of Dirksen’s classmates, is set to start at center on Labor Day.

“That’s it among nine recruiting classes. (No need to count the class of 2019 yet, right?)

“If there is reason to think Dirksen someday might crack the starting lineup, it traces to the class he came in with, one consisting of only a quartet of three-stars, with Cole Mabry and (since-departed) Luke Jones joining Patterson and Dirksen. More highly-touted prospects both preceded and followed the grouping, but Dirksen has already had a solid chance to get a leg up on the newcomers.”

The first Irish spring practices of 2021 featured Dirksen starting at guard, per head coach Brian Kelly, but by the end of the spring, Spindler had established himself as the presumptive starter at left guard and either Patterson or fifth-year Josh Lugg will start at right guard (with the other likely at right tackle). Thus, Dirksen has found himself back on the second-team for Notre Dame’s offensive line.

But that offensive line is not as proven as in years past, not just among its starters, but also in its primary backups. Lugg provided a utility man luxury the last couple years, able to step in and handle the work for at least a week at literally any position. Before him, Trevor Ruhland provided flexibility if and when an injury befell the line.

Nowadays, the Irish have some capable options as backup tackles, but the support at guard is rather unclear. That should be the role Dirksen carves out.

That role may seem like little, but the odds of both guards making it through 13 games without even a rolled ankle are slim. This is football, after all.

DOWN THE ROADIf Dirksen gets that opportunity to prove himself because a starter is injured, that is obviously unfortunate and not ideal, but it could be the bounce Dirksen needs to garner some attention from elsewhere.

He has never been a fifth-year candidate in South Bend, and the universal pandemic eligibility waiver did not change that reality. Notre Dame has enough offensive line depth it does not need to spend a scholarship on a fifth-year player with a diploma in hand.

And Dirksen does not need to toil away for another year largely spent on the sidelines. Plenty of Group of Five teams would jump at the chance to add a veteran from a Power Five program, let alone a Playoff program, and that demand will only increase if Dirksen gets a few series of quality snaps on film this season.

Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle

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