Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6 1/8, 318 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Fifth-year with only one season of eligibility remaining to be used in 2018.
Depth chart: Bars will start at left guard this season, providing veteran support next to first-time starter junior left tackle Liam Eichenberg.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Bars committed to Notre Dame early, turning down offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford and many other perennial college football powers. An Under Armour All-American, rivals.com named Bars the No. 4 player in Tennessee, the No. 10 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 98 overall prospect.
CAREER TO DATE
Bars will finish his Irish career with starts in four different seasons at three different positions, at the least.
After preserving a year of eligibility in 2014, Bars began his sophomore year the primary backup across most of the offensive line. He filled in as such before starting for an injured Quenton Nelson at left guard. That gig lasted only two games before a broken ankle ended Bars’ season in mid-October.
Bars spent his junior season starting 12 games at right tackle before moving to right guard last year, starting all 13 games there.
Bars was quite open and honest about wanting to be named the fourth captain this spring. Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn understood what made Bars captain material.
“He’s always prepared,” Quinn said. “I never concern myself if Alex is going to show up, whether it’s in the locker room, meeting room, our walk-through, a practice, a live-rep situation, one-on-one or 11-on-11 or tempo, that he’s not going to be locked in and perform at the highest level. It’s very inspiring to see someone like him who cares that much about the program. He is truly in my opinion one of those guys that will continue to be leaned on.”
Irish head coach Brian Kelly made it clear: Bars was named a captain by his peers. The decision was not pushed through by the coaching staff.
“Alex has been a three-year starter, a guy that has been in it and understands the standards that we have here, and so he models those standards,” Kelly said after the Blue-Gold Game on April 21. “Players see that. They react to it positively. You can’t kid those guys. You can’t convince them to vote.
“This was strictly voting on the players. … The players wanted him as their next captain.”
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“The last sentence of [former Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry] Hiestand’s quote sums up the dichotomy of Bars’ coming season. Tackle might be his better position personally, but Bars playing at right guard is ‘what’s best for us.’ One way or another, Bars and either [then-sophomores Tommy] Kraemer or [Liam] Eichenberg will make up the right side of the line. Bars is more established at both right guard and right tackle than either sophomore, but the gap between him and the better of the two tackles is less than it is at guard, so the greater sum includes Bars at guard.
“At least, that is the theory. Whether it is utilized in practice will depend on how Kraemer and/or Eichenberg performs in fall camp. The best-case scenario sees that theory realized, in no small part because it would allow Bars to excel a bit more in run blocking, the area of the game where he is at his best.
“If he has to move outside to tackle, that figures to be a slight step backward for the Irish line as a whole. Hiestand has always shown a distinct preference for finding the best five-man unit, not for placing linemen where they perform best individually.”
Bars’ personal success this season will be best gauged in two areas defying much measurement. While it is within reason he could end up a second-team All-American, he will not replicate the left guard dominance of 2017 from unanimous All-American Quenton Nelson. No matter how well Bars plays at the position, his biggest contributions will come in how he assists Eichenberg and how he leads in the locker room.
There is no way to analyze how Bars aids Eichenberg’s first starts. Bars should be able to cover for small mistakes while also confirming protections and adjustments for the left tackle. In time, that will build Eichenberg’s confidence and further the line’s overall chemistry. At least, that is once again the theory, now behind moving Bars to left guard from right guard.
The broader locker room will look to fifth-year center Sam Mustipher more than Bars — one was voted a captain in the initial vote; the other waited until the morning of the spring finale to be granted the honor — but Bars is the more vocal of the two. His leadership will be front-facing and needed.
Speaking of Mustipher, it should be mentioned Bars would be the likely center if Mustipher suffered a long-term injury this season.
DOWN THE ROAD
Bars has already been mentioned in some preseason All-American discussions. Setting aside the lunacy of having those conversations in late May and early June, the simple act of considering Bars establishes his NFL draft potential. He will almost certainly get picked, at which point it simply becomes a question of in which round.
Bars’ proven versatility will only help his NFL hopes. He has proven he can play solidly across the offensive line and even has some center experience in practice. No matter the hole along an organization’s front line, a coaching staff will be able to ponder Bars as the solution.
NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 93 (theoretically) Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 90 (theoretically) Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 79 (theoretically) Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 77 (theoretically) Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 73 (theoretically) Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer
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