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Notre Dame reserve offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons announces transfer

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Notre Dame at Georgia

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 21: Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons (76) at the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 21, 2019 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Once considered a possible 2021 starter, fifth-year offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons announced an intention to transfer from Notre Dame on Thursday. The career reserve started spring practices working with the first-team but was a backup guard and center by the end of the 15 practices.

“Committing to Notre Dame on April 4th, 2015 was the easiest decision that I’ve made in my life,” Gibbons wrote on Twitter. “Choosing to leave has proven to be the most difficult decision I’ve made to date.”

Gibbons started at right guard in the 2020 home finale, against Syracuse, with Tommy Kraemer’s reps limited by an emergency appendectomy. The two rotated throughout that Senior Day. A three-star recruit and the first commitment in Notre Dame’s class of 2017, that was Gibbons’ only start in 29 career appearances.

That seemed to give Gibbons the lead in replacing Kraemer at right guard in 2021, and in the early spring practices, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Gibbons was indeed starting. In time, though, the emergence of early-enrolled freshman Rocco Spindler filled one open guard position, and early-enrolled freshman Blake Fisher’s impressions made it so a tackle position was also settled (though do not rule out sophomore Tosh Baker at left tackle just yet). That meant proven veterans Josh Lugg and Jarrett Patterson could fill out the rest of the line and Gibbons had fallen to the second unit.

“There’s a number of guys who all want their opportunity, so the competitiveness has been great,” Kelly said in mid-April when discussing the reserves now getting their chances. “What we’re really in a position right now and focused on is that’s going to kind of take care of itself.”

In the Blue-Gold Game on Saturday, Gibbons worked at center, which Kelly said was the first time Gibbons had snapped the ball.

Gibbons will be immediately eligible wherever he lands and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic waiver.

Without him, Notre Dame should have 14 scholarship offensive linemen in 2021. The Irish roster count is down to 86, underneath the one-year cap of 87, bumped up from the usual maximum of 85 by two pandemic exceptions.