Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 ½, 310 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Early-enrolled freshman with four years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Banks may have looked the part this spring, but with four 12-game starters returning on the offensive line, he stands little chance at cracking the starting rotation. Given Notre Dame’s propensity to start off offensive linemen — no matter how highly-rated — with a season on the sidelines, only a rash of injuries would bring Banks playing time. That scenario would likely include a crisis at the guard positions, at which point Banks, fellow early-enrolled freshman Robert Hainsey, junior Trevor Ruhland and fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin would be among the group filling in. Even then, it is more likely Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand relies on Ruhland and Bivin rather than burn a year of Banks’ eligibility.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Banks chose Notre Dame over Michigan, Oregon and UCLA, among a litany of other offers. His December commitment came only a month after an official visit to Michigan. Rivals.com rated Banks as the No. 13 tackle in the class, the No. 16 prospect in California and the No. 121 recruit in the country.
Banks and Hainsey impressed Irish coach Brian Kelly with their ability to match their elders’ competitiveness and physicality this spring.
“We’ve seen some really impressive compete levels in some of our young players,” Kelly said in March. “Aaron Banks … and Hainsey, those two guys, [but] does that mean they’ll start? No, but competitiveness. We threw those two kids in today on 11-on-11 and they battled their butts off. I’m not sure they knew exactly what they were doing, but their compete level is so high.”
WHAT KEITH ARNOLD SAID UPON BANK’S EARLY ENROLLMENT
“Banks and Hainsey enter an offensive line room that may welcome back five starters, but needs to infuse depth.”
As recently as a week ago, a year of preserving eligibility seemed like a sure thing for Banks. Now, that remains most likely but the departures of junior Tristen Hoge and sophomore Parker Boudreaux open the door to playing time by a crack. Nonetheless, injuries and injuries alone would get Banks on the field.
DOWN THE ROAD
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 senior Hunter Bivin. One of the 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. For that matter, if he were to excel for a season at guard and, as an example, Kraemer struggled at tackle, a swap could occur be it midseason or in the subsequent offseason.
One way or another, opportunity will be there for Banks entering the 2018 season. Even if Hainsey beats him out for that chance, two more starting positions should open entering 2019 at center (currently manned by senior Sam Mustipher with two seasons of eligibility remaining) and right guard (senior Alex Bars, also with two seasons remaining). Banks may not be agile enough for the center slot, but whoever fills in there will not be competition at the remaining opening.
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