Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Irish A-to-Z: Alex Bars

Bars’ best position may very well be guard, but that may not be what’s in the best interest of the Irish offensive line with young tackles Kraemer and Eichenberg.

Class: Senior (Eligibility: 2)
On The Depth Chart: In reality, Bars is Notre Dame’s No. 1 right tackle and No. 1 right guard after starting all 12 games in 2016 at right tackle and moving to right guard this spring.
Post-Spring Status: Ascending

Ranked by Scout as the No. 202 prospect in the country coming out of Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Bars cracked the top 100 of ESPN, Rivals and Tom Lemming/CBS Sports, and participated in the Under Armour High School All-America Game.

The son of former Irish linebacker Joe (1981-84), and the brother of Penn State defensive end Brad (2010-14) and Michigan offensive lineman Blake (2012-15), Bars preserved a year of eligibility as a freshman in 2014 despite Irish head coach Brian Kelly equating him to a once-in-a-generation offensive line talent.

Bars appeared in six games as a red-shirt freshman in ’15 and made two starts at left guard in place of injured starter Quenton Nelson. Bars started against Navy and USC in October and suffered a season-ending ankle injury against the Trojans.

He entered the starting lineup on a full-time basis at right tackle in 2016 where he answered the bell for all 12 regular-season games.

BARS AT HIS BEST

While no one game or play in particular stands out above the rest, Bars excels in the run game where he can use his mammoth 6-foot-6, 320-pound frame to engulf defensive linemen. Perhaps Notre Dame’s best performance on the ground in ’16 came against Virginia Tech in the final home game of the season when the Irish rushed for 200 yards on 36 carries (5.5 yards per carry) against a unit that finished 32nd nationally (140 yards rushing per game) versus the run.

QUOTABLE

“Alex can play both (guard and tackle) to be honest. I don’t know if I’d be able to say (guard) is his best position, but he’s very comfortable at guard right now, and that’s what’s best for us.”  -- Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand

BEST CASE SCENARIO

Bars is an every-game starter for the Irish with 14 career opening bells under his belt, regardless whether it’s tackle or guard. While Hiestand won’t say guard is Bars’ best position, Irish Illustrated believes so. However, he may be a better tackle than either Tommy Kraemer or Liam Eichenberg, which could prompt Bars playing tackle and Kraemer bumping inside to guard, which would be the opposite of how they practiced all spring.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

Bars remains at guard while Kraemer and Eichenberg stay at tackle. One or both of the youngsters struggles on the edge, prompting a mid-season change of Bars to the outside, which would be disruptive to his individual game. If Bars moves back to tackle, he’ll need to continue his work as an edge pass protector, which was an issue at times in ’16.

CAREER COMPARISON

Two players in particular come to mind, both in terms of position flexibility and sheer size – Christian Lombard (2011-14) and Mike Rosenthal (1995-98). Lombard was a 6-foot-5, 310-pounder with mobility whose career was cut short due to a back issue. He was at his best as a power run blocker, as is Bars. Rosenthal, a 6-foot-7, 300-pounder, played some left tackle early in his Notre Dame career, and then moved to guard as a first-time starter, as did Bars. Rosenthal eventually settled in at right tackle, which is the same path Bars followed through the 2016 season.


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