Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6 ⅞, 310 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Lugg has three years of eligibility remaining, including the 2019 season.
Depth chart: If looking at a two-deep, Lugg figures to appear behind junior Aaron Banks at left guard, but in reality, Lugg may be the first offensive lineman called if an injury occurs among any of the five starters.
Recruiting: As briefly discussed heading into December’s early signing period — and thus, a bit before Notre Dame’s Playoff appearance — a large portion of the recent Irish success can be traced to the low-maintenance nature of the recruiting class of 2017, despite watching Notre Dame stumble to a 4-8 season before signing their National Letters of Intent. Among those 21 signees, Banks, right tackle Robert Hainsey, defensive tackle Kurt Hinish and running back Jafar Armstrong have made the biggest impact thus far. It was the Pittsburgh-area contingent of Hainsey, Hinish and Lugg who led a group of 15 who formed the core of that class, never wavering despite the Irish struggles.
A consensus four-star recruit and the No. 22 tackle prospect in the country, per rivals.com, Lugg could have looked elsewhere. The U.S. Army All-American held offers from Alabama, Michigan State and Ohio State, among others.
CAREER TO DATE
Lugg preserved a year of eligibility in 2017 before appearing in all 13 games as a reserve last season.
It may be hard to think of one lineman working at all five positions — and that is not exactly the case with Lugg — given the differences between them, particularly at center, but that is how Notre Dame sees Lugg.
“We played six guys all last year,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said following last month’s Blue-Gold Game. “Josh Lugg is going to be our Swiss Army knife, if you will. Probably a bad analogy, but he can play center, he can play guard, he can play tackle for us.”
(Note: When Kelly says “six,” he is essentially discounting left guard Alex Bars, given an injury forced him out for the year in the fifth week. It then became five starters with three guards rotating between the two positions.)
Depth at center is now precariously shallow with the springtime transfer of sophomore Luke Jones, but offensive coordinator Chip Long said Lugg was already training to chip in if needed in the middle.
“We really like what we saw there,” Long said in early April. “It was something that we wanted to continue to accelerate.”
Lugg entered the spring with more experience at tackle than anywhere else. Thus, he spent much of it working at guard, as Long preferred.
“I know what he can do at tackle. I’m trying to give him an opportunity to get good at something right now,” Long said in early March. “Give him the best opportunity to show what he can do, be confident with him.”
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Again, this spring’s press conference remarks greatly influence this thought process. Before the beginning of spring practice, it would have been a leap to project Lugg to guard. His length alone makes him an ideal tackle prospect in the long-term.
“The day before practice began, though, Kelly identified Lugg as someone who would cross-train at tackle and guard, as (offensive line coach Jeff) Quinn later discussed, implying the cross-training was not brief.
“In the Harry Hiestand era, the Irish offensive line almost always consisted of the five best players — positions could be figured out later on. If Quinn continues with that strategy, Lugg could end up the left guard in 2019 when Alex Bars has run out of eligibility. Starting for a couple years there before moving to one of the tackle positions would be a career more than worthy of any expectations of Lugg.”
If a Notre Dame tackle is injured this fall, Lugg will likely enter the starting lineup, but at guard, not tackle. Either Banks or senior right guard Tommy Kraemer would move to the outside, and in would step Lugg. If a guard goes down, such distinctions are not necessary, nor are they expected to be if sophomore center Jarrett Patterson is injured.
All of which is to say, the Irish hope not to use Lugg much but, given the nature of football, likely expect to at some point.
Offensive lines need six able bodies, if not seven. Lugg’s wide-ranging utility eases some of that search, but it also underscores his potential importance.
DOWN THE ROAD
The benefit to Lugg of that multi-use tool nature is he will have a chance to impress at some point. Do well enough and a position competition could be on the horizon. No one wants to earn a starting gig via injury, but it can be argued that is personally better than never earning a starting gig at all.
If, however, Notre Dame enjoys unprecedented health along the offensive line the next two seasons, Lugg would still have one more year of eligibility in 2021 after senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg, Kraemer and Hainsey have all used up theirs.
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