The Notre Dame Fighting Irish managed just 32 yards on the ground against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, but with the recruiting class that Brian Kelly is bringing in for next season, don’t expect Notre Dame to struggle running the football in the future.
According to rankings provided by 247Sports.com, of Notre Dame’s top eight recruits for next season, two are 4-star offensive tackles, and two are 4-star running backs.
The Irish have received commitments from 14 4-star recruits this year, and while many of those players are highly rated defensive players, four are 4-star linemen rated 90 or better overall. With so many talented linemen set to join the team, the future of Notre Dame’s offense is looking pretty good.
We’ll take a look at some of Kelly’s top offensive recruits and how they may impact the Fighting Irish offense in the near future.
Hunter Bivin: 4-star OT
247Sports rates Bivin as the No. 4 offensive tackle prospect in the country. At 6’7” and 290 pounds, it’s no surprise that he has garnered so much attention.
Bivin is lengthy and versatile and possesses excellent physicality as both a run and pass blocker. He has a lengthy frame that should allow him to pack on some bulk and, according to ESPN, already “shows some nastiness as a blocker.”
Establishing a sound running game starts in the trenches, and Bivin can be a cornerstone for Notre Dame’s running attack in the coming years.
Tarean Folston: 4-star RB
At 5’9” and 190 pounds, Folston isn’t a bruiser, but he does have a solid frame and some room to pad on a little more bulk. 247Sports ranks Folston as the No. 9 running back in the nation with a 94 overall rating.
The Irish have some young depth at running back, but they will be losing Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood this offseason, and Kelly has done well in his efforts to find future replacements.
Folston plays bigger than his listed size, and his vision and change-of-direction ability are terrific. Given Notre Dame’s run-first offensive approach, Folston may well work his way into a backfield rotation early in his career.
Greg Bryant: 4-star RB
Bryant is rated directly behind Folston by 247Sports (No. 10 at the position) and offers a little more bulk than Folston. At 5’11” and 197 pounds, he has a little room to bulk up, but he is already a powerful back with plenty of shiftiness as well.
According to analysis from ESPN, “When sculpting the body composition of the ideal running back prospect, Bryant might be the mold.” He has the frame and skill set to produce early in his career and could very well be the face of Notre Dame’s ground attack for the next couple of years.
With Folston and Bryant both in the fold, the Irish gain even more depth at the position and are presented with a lot of options to replace Riddick and Wood.
Mike McGlinchey: 4-star OT
While Bivin has the frame to be a mauler at the tackle position, McGlinchey’s strongest suits are finesse, agility and balance. He’s a little lighter than Bivin (285 pounds), but at 6’8”, McGlinchey has the frame to support adding on some playing weight.
He has exceptionally quick feet and good mobility, but McGlinchey isn’t afraid to attack defenders. He’s tough, nasty and has a mean streak, especially when he gets to the second level, according to ESPN.
Notre Dame only had four senior offensive linemen on the roster in 2012, so both Bivin and McGlinchey have some time to develop. If they pan out as expected, the duo could end up being the future bookends for the Irish.
John Montelus: 4-star OG
Montelus is the kind of road grader that Notre Dame needs on its interior offensive line. At 6’5” and 314 pounds, he has the bulk to push defensive linemen around, and he’ll be leading the charge for the Irish in the near future.
Montelus’ upper-body strength is impressive, and he possesses strong hands and good pop at the point of attack. He also has surprisingly nimble feet for his size, according to ESPN.
Given the effort Kelly that has made to bring in highly rated offensive linemen and running backs this offseason, Notre Dame appears to be building for a run-heavy offensive attack for the future. Montelus will be one of the keys to that building process.