Notre Dame junior offensive tackle Hunter Bivin looks to cement a role among the squad’s highly competitive two-deep depth chart next fall.
A four-star prospect in head coach Brian Kelly’s 2013 class, Hunter Bivin’s initial season in South Bend offered both garden-variety and notable developments:
- As with most incoming freshmen offensive linemen, Bivin was withheld from action, preserving a season of eligibility.
- Unlike most freshmen, Bivin carved his niche on the team’s two-deep depth chart at the conclusion of August Camp – and thus earned in-season varsity practice time throughout his rookie campaign.
Now entering his third season along offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s front, Bivin remains a two-deep competitor, albeit one that must improve in order to make an impact in the game day rotation.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z review of Notre Dame’s roster continues with the junior left tackle.
Bivin improves enough during the summer months and through August camp to earn a role as backup left tackle behind starter Ronnie Stanley. Bivin’s ensuing goal would then be “first tackle off the bench” status – the top backup on either the left or right side – as the staff continues its search for a definitive eight offensive linemen on which it can rely (backup T, G, C) when the bullets go live in September.
A full season of backup duty would serve Bivin well heading into Spring 2016 when Stanley, a senior with a plausible redshirt available, will likely be lost to the NFL Draft.
Bivin fails to distinguish himself as the team’s top backup tackle and cedes the role to promising redshirt-freshman Alex Bars, a player currently battling for the starting left guard spot vs. classmate Quenton Nelson. At present, it’s believed either Nelson or Bars would become the line’s “sixth man” – the top backup at both left and right tackle and left and right guard – ahead of their elders.
Should Bivin fall behind Bars, his road to future playing time would be limited.
With three seasons of eligibility remaining, Bivin’s impact to date is reminiscent of former teammate Conor Hanratty (2011-2014), a player that likewise forged his way onto the varsity as a two-deep competitor in his rookie redshirt season. Hanratty then found the field as a sophomore/redshirt-freshman guard in 2012, playing six games. (Bivin appeared in five last fall at the career same stage.)
Bivin would do well to continue on Hanratty’s career path as the latter appeared in the final six games of his junior season (2013), starting a combined four at left and right guard.
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
A four-star tackle prospect per Scout.com, Bivin’s career is similar to myriad OL that enroll at a major college program: they redshirt as rookies, get their feet wet as sophomores, and then are faced with finding a crucial backup and/or starting role as juniors.
If Bivin proves to be the top tackle (both left and right) off the bench and thus aids Hiestand’s offensive line this season he’ll be in position to challenge for a starting role as a senior (redshirt-junior) in 2016.
At present, however, Bivin’s development appears a touch behind a projected four-star’s curve as the Irish offensive line appears to have at least three, perhaps four tackle prospects – Stanley, Mike McGlinchey, and the aforementioned Bars and Nelson – ahead in the pecking order.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“The areas that we’ve got continue to work on is the depth at the tackle position. Hunter has got to continue to grow at left tackle.” -- Brian Kelly at the conclusion of spring practice
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