Matt Cashore /

Irish A-to-Z: Robert Hainsey

There are no sure things in recruiting. But after watching Robert Hainsey during spring ball, the freshman looks like a highly likely thing for the Irish.

National Ranking: Hainsey was a four-star recruit on all the major services, with a consensus reached by Scout, 247 and Rivals that he was just outside the Top 100 nationally. Scout (129), 247 (135) and Rivals (108) all liked Hainsey as basically a Top 10 player at tackle or guard, but at the bottom of that Top 10. ESPN was a major outlier within that group, ranking Hainsey as the nation’s No. 1 guard and the country’s No. 31 overall prospect. In the ESPN realm, that would make Hainsey the highest-rated offensive line commitment of the Brian Kelly era in grading. Considering the talent on hand here, that’s borderline insane. ESPN didn’t even have Ronnie Stanley as a Top 300 prospect, for the record.

Irish Illustrated Rank: We ranked Hainsey at No. 5 within Notre Dame’s recruiting class, where three of our staffers slotted him. That included me. We liked Hainsey’s nasty streak, versatility and athleticism to help at multiple positions. Based on spring practice returns, it appears Hainsey is ahead of the game compared to some past early enrollees at the position.

Position: Tackle, Guard or Center

Likelihood of Freshman Red Shirt: High

2017 Path To Playing Time

When Tristen Hoge transferred to BYU it cracked the door for Hainsey to get on the field this season, which wouldn’t be a good thing short term or long term considering the nature of offensive linemen to be five-year players. Remember that just Steve Elmer and Ronnie Stanley played as true freshmen under Brian Kelly along the offensive line, with Stanley ultimately taking a medical red-shirt. That’s a high probability marker that Notre Dame will red shirt this entire class assuming the position doesn’t get hit with injuries. If there’s just one injury and it’s minor, look for Hunter Bivin to offer cover at the guard spots. Sophomore Liam Eichenberg would likely get a look at tackle if he doesn’t win that job. Point being, even with Hoge gone it’s going to take some work to get Hainsey into the lineup this fall. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

Long Term Projection

Hainsey took reps at left tackle during spring practice but it won’t be a surprise to see him shift inside to guard or even center during the next five years. And while the player comparison doesn’t work based on recruiting profile, a career like Nick Martin wouldn’t be a huge shock considering how the Houston Texan developed here. Martin played tackle as a freshman and sophomore, then shifted inside to guard and ultimately settled at center before growing into a second round pick. Even if tackle is the glamour position of the offensive line, it’s a good bet Hainsey would sign up for that kind of college career.

Player Comparison

If you’re averaging recruiting rankings and looking at Hainsey’s potential freshman season at offensive tackle and future at offensive guard, this career feels like it’s off to a Quenton Nelson-type start. Both had a nasty streak to their games that Notre Dame loved in recruiting. Both thought they might be nimble enough to play tackle. Both learned/will learn they’re better suited inside. Both got/will get varsity work in training camp. Like the Nick Martin link above, here’s guessing Hainsey would gladly take a red-shirt, start three years, then turn pro.


“Robert Hainsey’s had a really good spring. He’s a guy who may find himself competing as well. He’s really been the surprise of all the guys, his maturity, his ability to really pick up what we’re doing as well as from a fundamental, technique standpoint. Not saying he would unseat (veterans), but he’s worth mentioning, because he’s had such a good spring.” – Brian Kelly during spring practice Top Stories