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Notre Dame gets the letters: Five offensive lineman signees continue Irish trend up front

Sam Pendleton

How many offensive linemen is too many offensive linemen? Notre Dame would be glad to someday find out.

Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand signed five offensive lineman commits on Wednesday as the December signing period commenced, bringing his current room to 18 players, though some offseason attrition should be expected.

It is the second consecutive cycle in which Notre Dame has signed five offensive linemen, somewhat a reflection of modern-day roster management. With the one-time transfer allowance, sophomores or juniors frustrated with their depth-chart positioning are that much more likely to head elsewhere.

If the Irish want to enter each season with, let’s paint broadly here, 10 offensive linemen, then signing five per class may seem like doubling up. But at least half of them will presumably head elsewhere before they are upperclassmen, lowering the excess to only five. Those five are, more often than not, the freshmen, developing rather than contributing.

This overload may taper in years to come, but for now it looks to be a Notre Dame standard.

The five offensive lineman signees, in order of their initial commitments …

Ronald Reagan High School; Pfafftown, N.C.Measurements: 6-foot-5, 293 pounds
Accolades: An early enrollee and the No. 17 offensive guard in the class, per, the four-star fell in some recruiting rankings leading up to Signing Day.

Other notable offers: Pendleton chose the Irish over offers from Michigan, Florida and North Carolina State, along with Clemson.

Projected position: Hiestand likes to claim he recruits all tackles and then figures out later which ones can play on the interior. Pendleton has a body type that may fit any offensive line position.

Quick take: Pendleton has power in his arms, helping compensate for adequate footwork that Hiestand will need to improve upon no matter where Pendleton aligns. He does keep his feet moving through an entire play, though, a key for many young linemen.

He has built his reputation against inferior competition, no fault of his own, so there may be an adjustment period at the next level.

RELATED READING: Four-star tackle gives Notre Dame its first offensive lineman commit in 2023

Short-term roster outlook: Pendleton may need to add 15-20 pounds, particularly if he lines up at tackle in the long run. For now, that focus will matter more than where he slots on an elongated depth chart.

Long-term depth chart impact: Looking at the two classes ahead of Pendleton, there should most be a need at tackle … once current sophomores Joe Alt and Blake Fisher move onto the NFL, which could come as soon as after next season. Go ahead and assume this thought applies to the next four signees, as well.

South Point High School; Belmont, N.C.Measurements: 6-foot-7, 285 pounds
Accolades: A consensus four-star, ranks Absher as the No. 22 offensive tackle in the class of 2023.

Other notable offers: Both Clemson and North Carolina State, considerably closer to home, chased Absher. While the Irish and Tigers have become annual Playoff contenders, the Wolfpack can boast first-round offensive linemen in two of the last four drafts.

Projected position: Absher should be a tackle in the future if for no other reason than it is hard to fathom a 6-foot-7 frame folding itself up along the interior presnap.

Quick take: Absher’s quickness belies his weight. Even if that 285-pound listing is inflated, he moves better than should be expected from such a big man. That quickness combined with his flexibility and length may make Absher an ideal offensive tackle.

RELATED READING: Four-star offensive tackle Sullivan Absher picks Notre Dame over nearby Clemson

Short-term roster outlook: Notre Dame has its offensive tackles established for 2023 in current sophomores Joe Alt and Blake Fisher, but it would not be a shock to see one or both of them head to the NFL after next season. Their success should diminish any worries about playing an underclassman on the outside of the line, possibly opening up a pathway for Absher to early playing time.

Hayden High School; Topeka, KansasMeasurements: 6-foot-4, 270 pounds
Accolades: A three-star, Otting is the No. 20 offensive guard in the country.

Other notable offers: Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and Iowa all chased Otting, but his showing at a camp on Notre Dame’s campus both earned him his Irish scholarship offer and seemed to secure his commitment.

Projected position: Hiestand may say he recruits only tackles, but Otting is a clear guard. The obvious point here is to describe him as a “mauler,” but to Hiestand’s and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ preferences, Otting may be more a “pulling guard” than anything else.

Quick take: Otting’s quick feet allow him to pull around the edge to lead the way for a running back, and he is then fast enough to get to the second level of the defense.

RELATED READING: Credibility of Notre Dame lends heft to commitment from three-star Kansas offensive lineman

Short-term roster outlook: Based on recruiting rankings and years of hype, Notre Dame should have its next two guards in current sophomore Rocco Spindler and current freshman Billy Schrauth, though current senior Andrew Kristofic may work his way into that conversation in 2023. Behind them, the Irish have no proven commodities.

Alleman High School; Rock Island, Ill.Measurements: 6-foot-7, 312 pounds
Accolades: An All-American, Jagusah would have been listed first in this grouping if going by rankings. The No. 9 offensive tackle in the class, per, he is the No. 119 overall player.

Other notable offers: The Midwestern product chose Notre Dame over Michigan, Arkansas and Missouri.

“I’ve been thinking about if for a couple weeks, and I was really split between Michigan and Notre Dame,” Jagusah said to Inside ND Sports. “I thought about it and woke up one day and was like, ‘All right, I think I have it figured out.’”

Projected position: Jagusah’s wide stance, courtesy of that 6-foot-7 standing, puts defensive ends at a disadvantage even before the snap. His size should make him a tackle down the line.

Quick take: To pull directly from thoughts when Jagusah first committed to the Irish, “Jagusah is raw; this is where many young offensive linemen are compared to mounds of clay. It may be more precise to suggest Jagusah is like a block of marble, simply based on size. Either way, he will provide a future offensive line coach plenty to work with moving forward.”

RELATED READING: Consensus four-star tackle Charles Jagusah, joins Notre Dame’s class of 2023

Short-term roster outlook: Look beyond Alt and Fisher, and Notre Dame may have a two-deep problem coming up. One would struggle to blame Tosh Baker or Michael Carmody if they sought playing time elsewhere heading into their senior seasons, which would leave the Irish with no proven depth behind its All-Americans.

Glenbard West High School; Glen Ellyn, Ill.Measurements: 6-foot-6, 295 pounds
Accolades: A longtime Wisconsin commit, the four-star is ranked as the No. 12 offensive guard in the class and the No. 227 overall prospect.

Other notable offers: Terek was committed to the Badgers for five months before flipping to the Irish in the wake of Paul Chryst’s firing. In fact, he committed to Notre Dame at about the exact same time that Wisconsin announced Luke Fickell’s hiring.

“Notre Dame, they’ve got a pretty crazy track record,” Terek told Inside ND Sports. They do very well with their O-linemen. (Offensive line) coach (Harry) Hiestand is awesome. And they seem like they’re really building something there.”

Projected position: A right tackle in high school, perhaps Terek should be penciled in there for now.

Quick take:His massive lower body — which Notre Dame strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis should enjoy molding — gives Terek ample power, something that Hiestand could turn loose on many Irish running plays.

RELATED READING: Chris Terek’s flip from Wisconsin gives Notre Dame five OL commits in third straight class

Short-term roster outlook: Give Terek some time to develop physically before locking him into the two-deep anywhere.

Consensus four-star QB Kenny Minchey, former Pittsburgh commit
Consensus four-star running back Jeremiyah Love, No. 4 RB in the country
Five offensive lineman signees continue Irish trend up front
Four receivers fill greatest Irish need
Irish secondary boosted by four signees, speed included, despite Signing Day disappointment
Three linebackers continue Marcus Freeman’s defensive emphasis, led by Drayk Bowen
Four defensive linemen, led by consensus four-star Brenan Vernon
Consensus four-star tight end Cooper Flanagan
Brandyn Hillman, athlete who may end up on defense