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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 41 Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle

Kurt Hinish

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Kurt Hinish #41 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs off the field at halftime against the Clemson Tigers during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2, 295 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Hinish has two seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: Hinish will start at nose tackle with uncertain depth behind him as long as sophomore Ja’Mion Franklin is limited by a torn quad. Aside from Franklin, the best (perhaps only) chance at support behind Hinish comes from early-enrolled freshman Jacob Lacey.Recruiting: A consensus three-star prospect, Hinish committed to Notre Dame early in the 2017 cycle, one of those vital and steadfast pledges that held the class together following 2016’s 4-8 debacle.

Hinish’s stats the last two years do not do his contributions justice. When injuries to Daniel Cage and Elijah Taylor robbed the Irish of interior depth heading into the 2017 season, Hinish proved ready as a freshman. He held the point of attack whenever seeing action, thus keeping Jerry Tillery fresh.

Similarly, Notre Dame had no one else to turn to for depth behind Jonathan Bonner last year (after Bonner and Tillery flipped interior roles). Hinish not only filled the need for another season, but he also made a few plays as the year progressed, highlighted by 1.5 sacks against Syracuse. Suffice it to say, depth along the Irish defensive interior would have been a great concern the last two seasons if not for Hinish.

2017: 12 games; 8 tackles including 0.5 for loss.2018: 13 games; 13 tackles including two for loss with 1.5 sacks.

Framing Hinish’s spring, and to some extent his preseason and possibly September, in terms of the injured reserves may not seem fair to him, but it is the reality for Notre Dame at the moment.

“When you break it down, you’re getting Lacey most of that work right now,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in mid-March. “Ja’Mion and (early-enrolled freshman Hunter Spears, with a torn ACL) are on the sideline. They would be in that battle, but Lacey looks good. He’s got some quickness and size. … We moved (junior Darnell Ewell) back over there as a big, strong, physical kid, but he was slowed with an injury earlier in spring ball.

“It’s really Hinish’s position at this time until we get some more competition from those young kids.”

It will remain Hinish’s position throughout the season, but all parties involved would like to have someone else at least provide some relief.

“Hinish will be a vital piece of Notre Dame’s defense this season. At the absolute least, he will remain Bonner’s backup, ahead of classmate Darnell Ewell and incoming freshman Ja’Mion Franklin. In that situation, Hinish should be primed for a solid dozen tackles, if not more.

“... As long as Ewell remains on Notre Dame’s roster, speculation about his high-profile recruiting and his potential becoming reality will persist. It should, but it should not get in the way of an honest discussion praising Hinish. With Bonner out of eligibility after this season, not to mention Tillery as well, Hinish will be in position to start in 2019 and 2020.”

Injuries to others may end up the driving story line to Hinish’s year yet again, but make no mistake about it, he was going to start this season even if every able body was 100 percent heathy. He has already proven too reliable.

Hinish can absorb blockers without yielding ground, allowing either junior three-technique tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa or an interior linebacker to make the play. That is the baseline for what is wanted from a nose tackle, and Hinish leaves no worry in that regard.

He also has the athleticism to make a play of his own when the moment presents itself, be it a sack in Yankee Stadium or wrapping up a running back trying to slip away from Tagovailoa-Amosa.

Bonner finished last season with 23 tackles, though none for loss. Hinish should meet the former number, while easily exceeding the latter. If his tackle numbers spike much more than that, it will be a sign of poor health or poor production behind him.

Presuming his own health, Hinish should start in 2020. In the end he could appear in 51 of 52 career games, starting in as many as 26. Gross tackle figures aside, those numbers will be the testament to Hinish’s career, ones bolstered by his ability to be ready from day one.

He was not expected to be. This space very much predicted a redshirt season.

Thus, do not look at Hinish’s lack of size as a sure sign he could not last for a few years in the NFL. He has already made it clear what he thinks of common expectations.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 50: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end