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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 68 Mike McGlinchey, left tackle

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Notre Dame

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01: Wide receiver Chris Brown #2 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (top) celebrates his third quarter touchdown with offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey #68 (right) during the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-8, 312 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Fifth-year senior with eligibility remaining in only 2017
Depth chart: Let’s keep it simple: As long as he is healthy, McGlinchey will start at left tackle.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, McGlinchey committed to Notre Dame over the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin and State. rated McGlinchey as the No. 22 tackle in the class of 2013.

McGlinchey preserved a year of eligibility in 2013, and has seen time in every game since. He started the 2014 Music City Bowl against LSU at right guard in place of the injured Christian Lombard, beginning a streak of 26 consecutive starts across three positions.

In 2015, he held steady at right tackle before moving to left tackle last season.

If McGlinchey was not discussed much this spring, it was because there are few questions regarding him. He is not only a known commodity, he is a known commodity of value.

The only question was just how high that value was, as in, why didn’t he enter the NFL Draft after his senior season? McGlinchey received an undoubtedly tempting draft evaluation, but felt there was room to improve. For Notre Dame’s part, Irish coach Brian Kelly said the program could offer the chance for that improvement in exchange for one more year of dominant edge blocking. That improvement would start, as it has with most of the team in the past six months, in the weight room under the direction of new director of football performance Matt Balis. (Editor’s Note: The following quote is lengthy, but all ties back to McGlinchey’s return to Notre Dame and mutual expectations for the coming year, so it will be included in full.)

“[McGlinchey] came back with a want and a desire to improve in the weight room,” Kelly said in March. “There was a commitment that we needed to make to him that we were going to get it to the end with him. In other words, bigger, faster, stronger.

“He’s gone up almost 8-10 pounds with good weight. He has gone from 16 to 24 in terms of 225 bench reps. He’s made significant gains in the weight room.

“We owed him something on our end, as well, and that is to physically develop him, to mentally develop him as a captain and as a leader, and then to develop his skill. We moved him over to left tackle, and there was an adjustment period for him there. [Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s] work with him is crucial.

“This was kind of a deal: You come back, you finish off at Notre Dame, you help us win a championship, and we’re going to develop you physically, we’re going to help you in your leadership skills, and we’re going to help you obviously on the field with your skills to that translates next year as you help Notre Dame football, it’s also going to help you individually [in the future].”

I expect All-American honors for McGlinchey, who took about two practices to convince Brian Kelly and Hiestand that he’s talented enough athletically to make the transition to left tackle seamlessly. As one of the nation’s premier run blockers already, all that’s needed is a smooth transition against speed rushers, something McGlinchey should handle just fine with his length and athleticism.

“McGlinchey will earn his degree this spring, meaning a fifth year likely isn’t in the cards if he’s weight a first-round grade. And while we can look back on a season spent on the bench in 2014 behind Steve Elmer and Christian Lombard, two frontline seasons in South Bend could be enough to cement McGlinchey’s legacy as the next great tackle coming out of Notre Dame — and if he stays around for 2017 it’d be gravy.”

Welcome to gravy. McGlinchey received that first-round draft grade, but returned for a third season as a starter, anyway. His reasoning doesn’t much matter, but one would presume Kelly’s comments above stemmed from conversations he had with McGlinchey. The left tackle’s return will immensely help Notre Dame, but he wanted more than to be a good teammate. He wants a return on the investment, as well.

Presuming health, McGlinchey will start at least 38 — and 38 consecutive, at that — games in his Irish career. That is far from a small accomplishment. It is certainly production no one can scoff at.

Some will remember McGlinchey’s penalty woes from last season. One might guess rectifying those mental errors played a part in thinking a return could help his draft stock. Whether that motivation is pure enough or not is superfluous as long as it is motivation enough to keep McGlinchey on side this season. Between him and senior left guard Quenton Nelson, the Irish should enjoy having a solid left side of the line while it lasts. Both will be off into the NFL next season following early first-round picks.

The quick NFL success of former Notre Dame left tackles Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley will help McGlinchey’s draft projections. Much like some offensive systems supposedly fail to produce NFL-quality quarterbacks and thus those quarterbacks slide down draft boards, Hiestand’s outstanding track record with linemen is noticed.

It should also be noted Kelly knew McGlinchey’s exact 225-pound bench press rep count. That is a fine metric of evaluation, but it is really used only once as that metric: at the NFL Draft combine. Tracking it this past February is as sure a sign as any Notre Dame knows McGlinchey expects an enjoyable April of 2018.

Looking past that April, he projects as an NFL-level tackle, be it on the left or the right side. In many respects, his 6-foot-8 frame precludes a move inside in most minds.

This will not often be a section in these parts. Most preseason hype revolves around watch lists and yawn.

But when someone makes the cover of Phil Steele’s annual preview magazine, that warrants notice.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92 (theoretically): Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90 (theoretically): Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 (theoretically): Jafar Armstrong, receiver
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84 (theoretically): Michael Young, receiver
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 73: (theoretically): Josh Lugg, offensive tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman

No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career end by medical hardship