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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ⅝, 293 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A fifth-year, Ruhland enters his final season of eligibility in 2019.Depth chart: If 100 percent healthy, Ruhland may be the No. 2 right guard behind senior Tommy Kraemer and the seventh overall offensive lineman, with junior left guard Josh Lugg the sixth.Recruiting: A three-star prospect, Ruhland ignored Big Ten offers from Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota to shut down his recruitment early.

Mop-up/reserve duties in 2016 (nine games) and 2017 (five games) yielded to a vital role in 2018. When left guard Alex Bars tore his ACL five weeks into the season, Ruhland stepped into a starting role for two games. Then, following the October idle week, he took some time away from Kraemer, earning the start at right guard for two games, just as he had in week four at Wake Forest while Kraemer recovered from a minor injury.

Ruhland first served as a bandage at left guard before granting Kraemer a chance to reset at right guard, both contributions playing a role in the Irish offensive line becoming a Joe Moore Award semifinalist. All told, Ruhland appeared in nine games with five starts last year.

The conversation around Ruhland this spring — and projections of his future — hinged entirely around his health. Offseason arthroscopic surgery kept him sidelined for the entire spring, just the latest in a long line of injuries for the undersized Ruhland.

When he is available, Ruhland can provide a steadying role at both guard and center. Considering Kraemer’s greatest consistency may be inconsistency and Notre Dame is starting a sophomore converted tackle at center, Ruhland’s greatest asset could quickly become a needed one.

“Ruhland is going to be a guy that is a utility player for us that can play the guard and center positions,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in early March. “But, quite frankly, he’s got some things physically that make it difficult for him to play 72 plays. He’s going to be an important part moving forward for us.”

To some degree, the story remains the same regarding Ruhland. If he is playing this fall, it is because someone else got hurt. Once junior Liam Eichenberg stepped forward this spring as a viable left tackle, that allowed junior Tommy Kraemer to slide to guard, and suddenly the open starting spot had been filled by a returning starter, leaving Ruhland as a reserve yet again.

“At center, though, that reserve is needed. If Mustipher suffered a minor injury, perhaps a sprained ankle, Ruhland would likely handle that day’s remaining snapping duties, allowing the offensive line to otherwise remain intact. If Mustipher was sidelined for multiple weeks, fifth-year left guard Alex Bars would likely take over snapping duties, and Ruhland would be one of a few options considered to fill in at left guard.

“Trusted backups are needed, and Kelly has a bit of a track record of welcoming back fifth-year offensive linemen who are little more than utility knives in the second-unit (see: Bivin, Hunter). Kelly will likely extend that offer to Ruhland next offseason, whether or not he sees Ruhland as a possible starter in 2019.”

Ruhland is no longer Notre Dame’s top backup offensive lineman; Lugg has claimed that honor. That reduces the likelihood of Ruhland seeing significant playing time, even if healthy. Two things would now need to go wrong to force him into a consistent role.

Presuming he finds health, the Irish are lucky to have veteran depth it can lean on at its No. 7 lineman. But that is a conditional sentence pointing to a luxury perhaps unneeded.

His injury history and lack of size suggest Ruhland may not even make the typical tour through pro days and spring testing training to chase the NFL dream.

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