Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 69 Aaron Banks, left guard
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 ¾, 325 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Banks has three years of eligibility remaining, including the 2019 season.Depth chart: Banks will start at left guard, just as he did throughout 2018’s second half after Alex Bars tore his ACL. Banks will also be the first man moved if senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg is injured, perhaps also true if junior right tackle Robert Hainsey goes down.Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, the California native turned down West Coast offers from Oregon and UCLA, and was not persuaded by a late recruiting visit to Michigan. The No. 13 tackle in the class, per rivals.com, and the No. 121 recruit in the country chose Notre Dame less than a month after that official visit northward.
CAREER TO DATE
Banks preserved a season of eligibility in 2017, and then looked like the seventh man along the line entering 2018. When left guard Alex Bars lost his season in week five, Trevor Ruhland (the sixth man) started the next two games. Once the Irish reached the October idle week, though, Ruhland moved into a temporary timeshare with right guard Tommy Kraemer and Banks moved into the starting lineup at left guard, where he spent the next six games.
The delayed start of Banks came as both a result of his initial move in practice following Bars’ injury and a result of Kraemer’s inconsistencies requiring Ruhland’s stability. Banks had been working as Notre Dame’s backup left tackle, only moving to guard when Bars went down.
“[Banks has] always been ascending,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the week after Bars’ injury. “Opportunity, as you know, is probably the chief reason why he is much more in the mix. He’s a big and athletic kid that has gained confidence in his ability, to put it bluntly. I think what we like about him the most is that he’s adapted well to go from tackle to guard this week.”
A sprained foot limited Banks at the beginning of spring practice, which sparked some speculation he may be falling to the second-unit. Instead, Kelly doubled down on his left guard.
“The continued strength, growth as a player, knowledge of the position,” Kelly said. “There were times where just being on the same page as the guy next to him, whether it be the tackle or the center, building continuity among the group, but he’s an extremely gifted player.”
Not only is he gifted, but to hear offensive coordinator Chip Long tell it, Banks is also assured of his gifts.
“Banks doesn’t have a problem with confidence,” Long said in early March. “He gets going, he makes a mistake, it’s sorry coach, but he’s going to get after somebody, too. … He’s a big, powerful man that loves to play.”
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“The obvious, and true, summary of these possibilities is Banks will be at least considered to fill the hole left by fifth-year left guard Alex Bars following this season. Banks will have some competition in that pursuit from Gibbons, classmate Josh Lugg and a few of the incoming freshmen.
“Banks could make things interesting by excelling in all regards in 2018 while Eichenberg perhaps struggles as a first-time starter. That would create a chance for a position competition next spring at tackle, where Banks is one of the clearer likelihoods on the Irish roster.”
WHAT WAS PROJECTED TWO YEARS AGO
“In 2018, Notre Dame will need to fill at least two starting positions — left tackle and left guard — and will be without its current offensive line utility knife in fifth-year Hunter Bivin. One of the [then-] sophomore duo of Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg is likely to fill that tackle position, though Banks and Hainsey will undoubtedly be given fair shots at it. The left guard slot, though, is a better possibility for Banks.
“If he shows the necessary aggressiveness, he could slot in there until a day comes when the Irish need a tackle. At that point, as a veteran, Banks very well may be the ideal choice.”
Two years of this series’ projections are included above to illustrate what the expectation has always been for Banks: That he would play, somewhere, soon. It came down to where the first opportunity would be, and it happened to be at guard, albeit in an unfortunate manner.
Banks’ raw power has been apparent from day one. Now that he has spent enough time at guard to become more comfortable there, that power should equate to run-paving. Look for junior running back Jafar Armstrong to frequently attach himself to Banks’ hip in hopes of gaining a needed yard or two.
DOWN THE ROAD
Banks is a year behind both Eichenberg and Hainsey eligibility-wise, meaning a move to tackle could come in 2021, or even 2020 if one of those two jumps to the NFL. But it is more likely he remains at guard as a three- or four-year starter.
There was once a time when a player may have pushed the coaching staff to move him to tackle in that situation, but the success of Zach Martin and Quenton Nelson as guards at the next level has made it clear how much an impact that position can have, meaning another season of excelling on the interior could help Banks’ draft stock just as much as moving out to tackle might.
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