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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, three-year starter

Vanderbilt v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 15: Dayo Odeyingbo #10 of the Vanderbilt Commodores rushes against Robert Hainsey #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 15, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Vanderbilt 22-17 (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4 ⅝, 298 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Hainsey has two years of eligibility remaining, including the 2019 season.Depth chart: Hainsey will start at right tackle for the second year, though he essentially already has two seasons of experience at the position.Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, 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 turned early enrollment into a rare playing opportunity for a freshman offensive lineman. He was originally expected to serve as a backup at left tackle in 2017, but instead split time with Tommy Kraemer throughout the season. Kraemer was given credit for 12 starts, compared to Hainsey’s one, but the two both gained starter-caliber experience.

Kraemer then moved inside to right guard in 2018, leaving Hainsey to handle the right tackle gig on his own. Though some muscular issues set Hainsey back a step in the preseason and into September, he played through it and improved as the year progressed. Even with that early struggle, one can easily argue Hainsey was Notre Dame’s most consistent offensive lineman last season.

Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long, in fact, made that exact argument at the start of spring practices.

“Going through all out cut-ups that we do after the season, a player from our first game to our last game, [Hainsey] might have been our best player on offense,” Long said. “Just the way he executed game-in and game-out. The level of consistency he played with was outstanding. He’s a confident young man, too. You can see that in the way he’s leading.”

Presuming health, this should be simple: Hainsey will start 13 games at right tackle, excel as a pass blocker and grow as a run blocker. Moving Kraemer to right guard will only benefit Hainsey’s progress in the run game. Kraemer is the better run blocker of the two and should ease some of the right-side burden in those situations.

“Otherwise, another steady season from Hainsey is all that is expected. That is not to knock steady. Last year such a campaign included limiting 2018 NFL draft picks Harold Landry (Boston College), Bradley Chubb (North Carolina State) and Duke Ejiofor (Wake Forest) to minimal impacts. To keep those pass-rush threats away from (Mike) McGlinchey, opposing defensive coordinators frequently lined them up against Kraemer or Hainsey. The young rotating duo stymied them, nonetheless. Landry managed all of one tackle, though he was later taken in the draft’s second round. Chubb did get to the quarterback once, only one yard behind the line of scrimmage, part of a very slow day for the eventual No. 5 overall pick. Ejiofor, a sixth-round selection, made two total tackles.”

There are reasons to expect Hainsey to improve upon his 2018: Health, for one, and experience, for another. But even if he delivered the same performance he did a year ago, Hainsey will have delivered what Notre Dame wants. Relying on him at right tackle certainly reduces Long’s stress levels.

On top of that, Long would prefer to utilize a run-blocking duo of senior right guard Tommy Kraemer and Hainsey at right tackle. They are the most experienced pair along the line, and Kraemer, in particular, excels in run blocking. If Hainsey develops in that regard, he may end up in a few highlights springing a running back loose, rather than going through another entire season catching nearly no attention whatsoever.

If discussing any other three-year starter along the Irish line, thoughts of leaving early for the NFL would need to be weighed heavily. That is less likely with Hainsey, a bit undersized. Sure, in 2021 he may hear his name called in the NFL draft, but the push will probably not be there for Hainsey to leave eligibility unused.

Thus, he should end up a four-year starter, manning the right tackle position through the 2020 season.

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