Notre Dame: Quenton Nelson tougher to replace than Mike McGlinchey

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Mike McGlinchey will go high in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Quenton Nelson may well be a much better player. As such, Notre Dame could miss Nelson even more than their star left tackle.

At the University of Notre Dame, you know that the football team will always be loaded with solid talent, regardless of how the team is doing.

And especially after a year where they briefly landed in the top four of this year’s College Football Playoff rankings, the interest in them will only grow among top recruits.

Even so, you still can’t forget the talent that will be leaving the campus at the end of the year. This year especially, some young kids may have to fill some really big shoes.

A few players, like Josh Adams (more on him coming soon…) and Equanimeous St. Brown, will await draft grades to decide whether they stay at Notre Dame or pursue the NFL. Both players would certainly be drafted. It just depends on where they’d go and whether or not they could better their position in next year’s draft.

More from Da Windy City

But for Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, the path leads straight to the NFL. And both will almost go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

McGlinchey and Nelson have manned the left side of the offensive line—McGlinchey at tackle, Nelson at guard—for the last two seasons, forming an All-American tandem that road-grated opposing defenses. This year, they helped open up a brief Heisman campaign for Adams, who rushed for 1,386 yards on just 191 carries and nine touchdowns.

Losing both to the NFL Draft will be a blow no matter who replaces them.

McGlinchey could go higher in the draft because he plays left tackle, the premier position on the offensive line. As such, he got more buzz during his time at Notre Dame.

But might the Irish actually miss Nelson, 2016’s Notre Dame Lineman of the Year, more next year?

Nelson: A truly special player

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t to say that McGlinchey hasn’t been very important to the Irish. A three-year starter, his dependability has him ranked atop offensive tackle draft boards for a reason.

However, if you’re looking for the better football player (and a guy Notre Dame will have a harder time replacing), Nelson may very well be your guy.

Nelson is considered so good in some circles that he could very well be a top-five pick in the draft. That simply doesn’t happen for interior offensive linemen. Then again, Nelson isn’t typical in any sense, not when people are saying he could be better than half the guards in the NFL right now.

We’re talking possibly perennial All-Pro as soon as he gets in the league levels of good here.

For one thing, I don’t think the word “nasty” quite encompasses Nelson’s style of play. Personally, I prefer, “He snatches peoples’ souls right out of their body.” He finishes blocks with malice and beats really big, really good defensive linemen into the dust regularly.

Also, he does things an offensive guard just should not be able to do.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a college left guard pick up a blitzer on the right side of the line that way as often as he does. It shows outstanding awareness and just incredible ability.

There’s some intrigue about Liam Eichenberg and what he could potentially do in McGlinchey’s place. The former high school All-American and top-10 tackle got plenty of run with the scout team last year and was listed as a backup at left tackle this year.

But is Josh Lugg or anyone else who will play next season at left guard come close to Nelson? I doubt it.

Next: Can Irish land star defensive recruit Houston Griffith?

All in all, Notre Dame will likely be just fine. They’ll replenish their talent stores and be a solid, if not spectacular, team next season. And their running game, behind Dexter Williams, Toney Jones and Co., will probably stay strong.

But their left side of the line won’t come close to the one they fielded this season. And it might take some time before they have an offensive lineman as good as Nelson. And that’s saying something.