The move from tight end early in his prep career to offensive tackle quickly led to the acclaim Mike McGlinchey is garnering as he heads into the 2015 season with an extremely bright future and three years of eligibility ahead of him.
Scout was all over McGlinchey’s potential when it rated him the No. 1 offensive tackle in Pennsylvania, the No. 2 offensive tackle in the East, the No. 8 overall player at his position, and the 90th overall prospect in the country.
The first cousin of former Boston College quarterback and current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, McGlinchey was on the cusp throughout the 2014 season of working his way into significant playing time if not the starting lineup.
But as Christian Lombard continued to fight through back problems, McGlinchey remained in a backup role until Lombard could no longer play through his physical ailments in the final regular-season game versus USC. Notre Dame’s offense showed some life in the second half against the Trojans with another red-shirt freshman – Malik Zaire – providing a spark at quarterback.
McGlinchey admitted that he had lunging issues in his first career start against LSU in the Music City Bowl, as well as a stomach ailment. But he and the rest of the line sparked a surprisingly impactful rushing attack against the Tigers in the 31-28 upset victory.
This spring, McGlinchey made significant strides in his game, gaining better control of his 6-foot-7 ½, 310-pound frame and staying on his feet in the open field. By getting his weight underneath him, coupled with virtually unprecedented length at offensive tackle for the Irish, McGlinchey has put himself in position to make a run at stardom.
McGlinchey becomes one of the focal points of an offensive line heaped with praise in the spring and pre-season as the Irish place a greater emphasis on the rushing attack. Notre Dame benefits from the long, rangy right tackle who not only helps set a tone in the rushing department, but uses his length to keep outside pass rushers in check.
McGlinchey falls back into an old habit of lunging in the ground game and struggles with pass rushers off the edge – a skill he’s still learning after playing tight end early in his prep career -- prompting offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to give red-shirt freshman Alex Bars a look at right tackle.
Here are some physical comparisons, although none were quite like McGlinchey’s body type nor athletic prowess – Lindsay Knapp (6-foot-6, 271; 1989-92), Mike Doughty (6-foot-7, 310; 1994-97), Mike Rosenthal (6-7, 300; 1995-98), Kurt Vollers (6-foot-7, 312; 1998-2001); Brennan Curtin (6-foot-8, 310; 2000-02), Mark LeVoir (6-foot-7, 310; 2002-05) and Sam Young (6-foot-8, 320; 2006-09).
Career comparison-wise, Mark LeVoir did not play a significant role as a freshman in 2002, but he emerged as the starting right tackle the following year where he answered the opening bell 37 straight games for the Irish from 2003-05. McGlinchey could be in for a similar run.
Right on schedule. McGlinchey has rewarded Scout for its confidence in him as he was coming out of William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia by not only setting himself up to be a three-year starter who made a significant late-season contribution in his red-shirt freshman season, but perhaps national acclaim considering a) the improvements he made during the spring and b) his high ceiling.
McGlinchey appeared to make such significant strides between his first career start in late-December through spring drills, one is tempted to say the 6-foot-7 ½, 310-pound has been as his best in a Notre Dame uniform during the 15 practices in March/April.
But we’re restricting it to game competition, and McGlinchey answered the bell in the Music City Bowl in place of the injured Christian Lombard. Despite it being his first start and despite the fact he was vomiting during the game with an apparent touch of the flu, the Irish rushed for 263 yards (5.2 per carry) and three rushing touchdowns with McGlinchey’s length and aggressiveness bothering LSU’s defensive front.
“The fun thing about offensive line play is there’s always something to work on. One day you’ll go into a practice thinking, ‘I’ve got to work my punch and pass pro,’ and then the next day, your head’s going forward again. You’ve just got to keep tinkering with it and smoothing it out. That’s the cool part of the game. It’s definitely an ongoing process all the time.”
-- Mike McGlinchey in April, 2015