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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 72 Robert Hainsey, starting right tackle


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4 5/8, 291 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Sophomore with three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2018.
Depth chart: Hainsey will be the full-time starter at right tackle this season.
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’s early enrollment a year ago gave him a chance to spend all of spring practice working at left tackle with the second unit. Those repetitions impressed the Notre Dame coaching staff enough to elevate him above Liam Eichenberg in the right tackle competition. Hainsey’s continued success led to him splitting time at right tackle with Tommy Kraemer in all 13 games last year. The two alternated series and were both considered starters, practically speaking.

For many of this spring’s 15 sessions, Hainsey got work at left tackle, the quickly-presumed replacement for Mike McGlinchey. By mid-April though, the junior Eichenberg had earned and handled a chance at left tackle, allowing Hainsey to remain where he excelled as a freshman. Nonetheless, the work on the opposite of the line may have helped the unit overall.

“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment for him,” Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long said of Hainsey at left tackle in mid-April. “It was good to get him exposure for an emergency situation, but he’s playing really solid football for us.”

As long as Eichenberg remains healthy and adept, Hainsey will be able to stay at right tackle, where head coach Brian Kelly wants him.

“We like Hainsey at the right tackle position,” Kelly said days after Hainsey’s return to the right side of the line. “He’s just a good back-side setter. He can do the job we’re looking for at the right tackle.”

“Hainsey’s early enrollment and subsequent praise from Kelly made 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 [Hunter] Bivin, Kraemer and Eichenberg.”

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 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.

Hainsey could end up the rare four-year starter along the Irish offensive line. Even McGlinchey and sixth-overall NFL pick Quenton Nelson cannot claim that. Hainsey may not end up a unanimous All-American, but he certainly looks like he will have a stellar career in total.

However, it may not all be at tackle. Hainsey is an excellent technical blocker with good footwork, but his arm reach is not impressively long and he may move inward at some point, no matter how well he plays on the edge. More than finding a better fit for Hainsey, such a move would likely be made with the line’s performance as a unit in mind. Notre Dame has a number of prospective tackles such as sophomores Josh Lugg and Aaron Banks and incoming freshman Jarrett Patterson. Moving Hainsey to the interior could give one of them a chance to find a groove, benefiting the line as a whole.

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. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

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