Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 72 Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4 ½, 292 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Early-enrolled freshman with four years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Hainsey made positive impressions this spring, taking second-string snaps at left tackle behind fifth-year senior and early-round NFL Draft prospect Mike McGlinchey. Nonetheless, those snaps may have been only for practice purposes. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has indicated fifth-year lineman Hunter Bivin would be called upon if spot relief is needed for McGlinchey. Should a longer-term fix be required, one of the sophomore duo of Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg would be a more-likely solution than Hainsey, with the other remaining at right tackle.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, rivals.com rated Hainsey as the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country, the No. 21 prospect in Florida and the overall No. 108 recruit nationally.
Hainsey and fellow early-enrolled offensive tackle Aaron Banks 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.”
Kelly also briefly mentioned Hainsey as a possibility in the competition at right tackle, though as spring practice reached its latter stages, that duel focused entirely on Kraemer and Eichenberg.
“Robert Hainsey’s had a really good spring,” Kelly said. “He’s a guy that may find himself competing a little bit as well. He’s really been the surprise for us among all the guys in his maturity, his ability to really pick up what we’re doing as well as from a fundamental, technique standpoint. He’s been really good.
“I’m not saying that he would unseat those guys but he’s worth mentioning because he’s had such a good spring. … Hainsey could be in the mix [at right tackle], too.”
WHAT KEITH ARNOLD SAID UPON HAINSEY’S EARLY ENROLLMENT
“Banks and Hainsey enter an offensive line room that may welcome back five starters, but needs to infuse depth.”
Hainsey’s early enrollment and subsequent praise from Kelly makes the possibility of him seeing the field in 2017 rise from non-existent to slim. Former Notre Dame offensive lineman Steve Elmer once parlayed an early enrollment into four starts as a freshman when an upper-classman (Christian Lombard) went down to injury.
Unlike the incoming Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons, Hainsey will likely need to stay ready this season in case of such an occurrence. Obviously, no one hopes for an injury to McGlinchey, but should such a misfortune befall the Irish, Hainsey would be an option to consider, along with Bivin, Kraemer and Eichenberg.
DOWN THE ROAD
On the surface, it is obvious how an early enrollment can help Hainsey elevate himself over his classmates. He gained a semester’s worth of classroom acclimation, weight room development and immersion into the Notre Dame playbook. But it goes further than that.
As outlined above, it does not take much conjuring to create a hypothetical situation in which Hainsey plays in 2017. Thus, he will spend the season with the offense, most likely the second unit, rather than with the scout team.
While Lugg is most likely learning to mimic Temple, Georgia and Michigan State, Hainsey will be working with Hiestand and watching McGlinchey. When the latter departs for the NFL following 2017, Hainsey will be immediately in the same grouping as Kraemer and Eichenberg in working to claim the starting left tackle honor.
Predicting that position competition is a task for beyond the summer of 2017. Simply being involved in it, though, will give Hainsey a chance to be a four-year starter at one of the game’s most-important positions.
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