Sam Mustipher has been the rule along Notre Dame’s offensive line under Brian Kelly.
The athletic interior lineman, who was touted as a potential solution at defensive tackle by his high school coach, took a red-shirt, offered positional flexibility and now appears ready to help Notre Dame on the field this fall. That will likely be on special teams more than at center, where he moved after enrollment. But it’s a change for the better for Mustipher and part of the standard progress for most offensive linemen.
The Irish Illustrated A-to-Z series continues with the sophomore, who’s likely to continue his wait for playing time. But if Mustipher continues to push his game forward, there’s little reason why he can’t grow into a multi-year starter.
Notre Dame wins enough games by blowout scores that Mustipher gets a real taste of college football, preparing him for a three-year starting career after Nick Martin departs. That’s the kind of healthy transition the Irish want at this position and it would probably be good for Mustipher too in terms of gaining strength and technique. While he’s ready to contribute somewhere on the field this fall, asking the sophomore to play meaningful minutes on a College Football Playoff contender is a but much. Learning from Martin, likely a two-time captain, is perfect.
Mustipher suffers a nagging injury – a foot sprain dogged him for part of last season – that opens the door for Tristen Hoge to grab the second-team center job. Other than that, it’s hard to find much of a floor for Mustipher this fall after a relatively strong spring practice. While he never challenged Nick Martin for playing time, Mustipher did enough to earn the staff’s trust that he’s a game-ready college football player. That’s not an insignificant jump coming off a red-shirt
There’s no perfect comparison in the past decade. Jeff Faine, Bob Morton and John Sullivan all red-shirted before starting as sophomores. Eric Olsen played as a freshman at guard before moving to center. Nick Martin red-shirted but was a tackle. Braxton Cave is probably the best parallel. A medical red-shirt freshman year was followed by special teams and spot duty as a sophomore. That’s most likely how Mustipher’s sophomore season plays out, getting action but not a ton of it.
Mustipher was a four-star prospect according to three services, with Scout slotting him the highest as the No. 9 guard and No. 134 prospect overall. Rivals had Mustipher at No. 203 overall and No. 12 among guards. ESPN also had Mustipher in the four-star group and No. 18 at the position. The outlier was 247, although not by much. It had Mustipher as a three-star prospect and the No. 22 guard. While it’s impossible to know if Mustipher has lived up to his ranking after a red-shirt season, his career is tracking toward a three-year starting opportunity.
TBD. Mustipher is coming off a red-shirt season, meaning this fall will be his first college action.
“Our depth is significantly different from what it was when I got here so these young guys, all of them, are making progress. Sam Mustipher is making progress … these are four or five guys that we didn’t have before that are in the two-deep that are potential players as they go down the road.” – Harry Hiestand during spring practice