There will be no more great gains for Notre Dame’s biggest player.
With three years of eligibility remaining, the career arc of Mike McGlinchey should be a journey in the incremental until he departs South Bend. And if all goes according to plan, the 6-foot-7½, 310-pound tackle will log another 39 starts that resemble his first when he helped anchor Notre Dame’s rejuvenated line during the Music City Bowl.
A year ago McGlinchey swam through spring practice with a 25-pound weight on his back, acclimating to the unnatural bulk added during a red-shirt season. Now he’s comfortable making defensive ends uncomfortable, up barely 10 pounds from last season with training targets now more about adding strength than weight.
“That’s been nice to have because you’re more comfortable with yourself and the way you’re moving,” McGlinchey said. “I feel good, I feel strong and I feel ready to go.”
McGlinchey falls into the presumptive starter category as Notre Dame reworks its line from the inside out. Nick Martin returns to center and Steve Elmer continues at right guard. Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson are competing at left guard. Ronnie Stanley is a veteran left tackle with McGlinchey feeling like one on the right side.
McGlinchey took over for an ailing Christian Lombard in the second quarter at USC and promptly got battered by soon-to-be Top 5 pick Leonard Williams, who “made me look stupid.” Yet for a player with just six-plus quarters of action, McGlinchey reps during spring ball like a full-fledged returning starter.
There is no discussion around the program about a right tackle alternative, with reserves Hunter Bivin and Mark Harrell well off the pace. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the next tackle in this season was actually the loser of the left guard competition.
McGlinchey won’t declare himself a starter but has no hesitation in calling this line one of the nation’s best.
“I absolutely believe that,” he said. “We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of ability and we have a lot of guys willing to work. We want it and we’re gonna go after it. That’s why we’re in the film room extra hours, in the weight room extra hours and doing extra drills. It’s what we do and it’s what we’re gonna be this year.”
If Notre Dame makes the Music City Bowl game plan a regularity, the Irish line can show off that bravado. The Irish rushed a season-high 51 times against LSU, matching the high mark of the Brian Kelly era. McGlinchey wants to push that bar further. McGlinchey would love to go over that total.
“The game plan was a lot different from what we had done in games past,” McGlinchey said. “We lined up and were going to run the ball down their throat and that’s what we did. It was a great game plan, well executed by our guys.
“I think it keeps the defense on their toes a little bit more if you’re taking it to them rather than them taking it to you. It definitely asserts yourself as in control of the game when you’re playing ball like that and running the ball as effectively as we did.”
McGlinchey will be part of whatever run-based solutions Notre Dame throws at this season’s schedule. As he showed in the bowl game, he’s capable of being part of any Irish answer on the ground.
“It’s been steady progression for him,” said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. “He’s a tireless worker and just super prideful about getting it right. He just keeps gaining ground.”