No Ceiling for Stanley

Notre Dame senior offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley began his ascent from starter to potential stardom less than a month into the 2014 season. He ended that campaign on the top of his game -- and at the top of the list of potential captains next fall.

"With his feet and his frame, I think Ronnie can play any position, honestly."
-- Former Irish offensive lineman Christian Lombard, spring 2013

Stanley has played two at Notre Dame, and the one he'll occupy this spring and next fall, left tackle, ranks as one of the top two reasons -- along with the return of defensive tackle classmate Sheldon Day -- that the 2015 Irish foster championship dreams.

Day has nearly a year of service as a leader at the program. Stanley? How about one game. One very important game.

"We played with a will up front that started with Ronnie Stanley," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly following a 31-28 win over LSU. "Ronnie today was extremely vocal. It kind of lit a fire under everybody. I think it carried over. He was extremely vocal -- more than he’s ever been, and it just kind of charged up everybody.

"Ronnie is not a big talker. It just seemed to elevate everybody’s play on the offensive line. They were certainly a big part of our success today."

It was Stanley who barked at LSU defenders if they hit one of his Irish teammates at the echo of the whistle. It was Stanley who took over for offensive line coach Harry Hiestand during a timeout, moving the veteran line sage out of the way so he could instead inform first-time starter Mike McGlinchey that he had to step up his game (McGlinchey missed an assignment that resulted in a rib injury for quarterback Everett Golson).

"It was a miscommunication between me and Steve (Elmer)," said McGlinchey. "I should have been there for him. I kind of vacated to get the edge rusher and I shouldn't have done that."

Asked about his elder, Stanley, stepping in between himself and Hiestand, McGlinchey marveled, "Yeah, Coach and Ronnie have a pretty interesting relationship. Ronnie can say that because of the way he is. He's done a great job. Ronnie knows when it's time to step up and when it's time to listen. There's a fine line at that and Ronnie is the best at knowing that."

A mid-season conversation with Stanley included a look of surprise on his face when broached with the notion he could be an early NFL entrant. But by the time the team concluded its regular season two months later, Stanley had become a mainstay on NFL Draft boards -- with just three years and two seasons of experience between the lines into his college career.

"Ronnie has developed into a premier offensive lineman," said Kelly following his starting left tackle's decision to return. "With another year at the position, and gaining more knowledge under the outstanding coaching of Harry Hiestand, Ronnie could be the best tackle in all of college football."

And as he showed in the squad's most recent outing, its newest team captain.

Each week last season, combining weekly film reviews, game notes, and common sense, we identified Notre Dame's Top 10 players (combined Off/Def/ST), both in terms of the previous contest and an overall season ranking.

As illustrated below, Stanley became a consistent member of our weekly Top 10 and honorable mention listings beginning with Notre Dame's third game of the 2014 season (Purdue), placing on one of the lists in nine of the team's final 11 outings.

-- Top 10 Outings: Syracuse, Stanford, UNC, Navy, ASU, LSU
-- Honorable Mentions: Purdue, FSU, Louisville
-- End-Season Ranking: No. 8 (Day, Smith, Fuller, Luke, Schmidt, Folston, Rochell, Stanley, Golson, Riggs)
-- (My) Ranking Entering Spring 2015: No. 2 (Smith, Stanley, Day, Fuller, Rochell...) Top Stories