A four-star prospect in head coach Brian Kelly’s 2013 class, Hunter Bivin’s first three seasons in South Bend produced a growth curve behind the program’s expected developmental tract.
That is, his freshman season materialized as expected – a season of seasoning as a redshirted competitor. So too did his sophomore season in which Bivin technically cracked the two-deep at left tackle.
The reality of that official slotting was that Bivin would not be the first tackle off the bench, a fact that carried over into his junior season (2015) when Bivin fell behind sophomore talents such as Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars on the developmental curve.
Now entering his senior year, with two seasons of eligibility remaining, Bivin is in line for a starting role, albeit in a new position.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s roster continues with Bivin, the team’s top starting right guard prospect for 2016.
Bivin cements a starting spot midway through August camp, allowing offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to settle on a new starting five and slot second team players in proper roles, accordingly.
At present, Bivin is a default starter – that is, he would not likely be part of the “Best Five” if not for the retirement of classmate Steve Elmer. The loss of Elmer from the fray moved Bivin inside and out of competition with the aforementioned Bars at right tackle – it’s a job Bars likely would have won, thus relegating Bivin to “sixth-man” status.
Ideally, Bivin would play the best football of his career to date this August, thus removing the “default” starting moniker.
Bivin wins the right guard job largely because his main challengers are a trio of true freshmen, redshirt-freshman center Tristen Hoge, and fellow career backup, senior swingman Colin McGovern. Bivin then struggles against physical defenses that litter the Irish slate and Notre Dame’s rushing attack scuffles a bit at key times as a result.
Should Bivin not distinguish himself in September, head coach Brian Kelly and Hiestand would likely turn to one of the youngsters to develop under an onslaught of live bullets, further stunting the overall development of Notre Dame’s offensive line – a unit that must emerge as a team strength if the Irish are to contend for 10 or more victories next fall.
To date (pending his projected starting assignment as a senior), Bivin’s career resembles that of former Irish offensive lineman Ron Plantz.
Father of 2011-14 walk-on running back, Tyler, and current redshirt-freshman offensive lineman Logan, Plantz began his Notre Dame career as a guard (freshman) before moving to center as a sophomore. He then served as a backup tackle during his junior season before emerging as the starting center for Gerry Faust’s final squad, the 1985 Irish.
Plantz appeared in 28 games during his Notre Dame career, starting the final 13 – a streak Bivin, just 17 games into his playing career, hopes to match or exceed.
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
A four-star tackle prospect per Scout.com, Bivin’s career arc is a season behind the staff’s preferred pace. Bivin failed to challenge for a starting role as a true junior – and it’s not that he was expected to beat out Mike McGlinchey or Quenton Nelson, it’s the reality that the competition was never considered.
Bivin has two seasons to reach his potential as a college football player, but the 2016 campaign will likely determine if he’ll get the chance to start as a graduate student in ’17 as well.
BIVIN AT HIS BEST
To be determined.
For Notre Dame fans and especially the Irish offense, an initial career highlight achieved on a humid Sunday evening in Austin would be the ideal launching point for Bivin’s starting career.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Big, strong guy. I think there are some things he’s a little more comfortable doing in close quarters. We hadn’t done much with him in there and now with Colin (McGovern) back it gives us some flexibility. I like what (Bivin) has done so far. He’s a big, strong kid that seems pretty comfortable there.” – OL Coach Harry Hiestand