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Best ND O-Line Hauls Last 50 Years

Recruiting a full, five-man offensive line in one class is not an easy proposition. But the Irish did it with this year’s incoming class that features Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey at tackle, Hunter Bivin and Colin McGovern at guard (although Bivin also could line up at tackle), and John Montelus at center.

Freshman Steve Elmer is one of five 247Sports four-star recruits in this year's Notre Dame offensive line haul.

While there isn’t a “five-star” among the quintet — the Irish haven’t signed a five-star offensive lineman since Sam Young in 2006 — all five were 247Sports four-star prospects.

It was the first time since 2006 the Irish landed a full offensive line in one class. The ’06 haul featured right tackle Young along with USA Today second-team All-American guards Matt Carufel and Chris Stewart, New York Gatorade Player of the Year and guard Eric Olsen, plus tackle Bartley Webb and center Dan Wenger, who joined Young, Stewart and Carufel in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl.

At the time, it was projected by recruiting analysts as potentially the greatest assembly of offensive line talent in one class at Notre Dame. They weren’t bad … but not even close among the best collective group, either. Carufel transferred to Minnesota and Webb's football career was snuffed because of an injury.

Here are the standards we use over the past 50 years to see if the 2012 group or the 2013 offensive line haul that has three players so far — guards Jimmy Byrne and Sam Mustipher, and tackle Quenton Nelson — can perform well enough to crack the top five since 1963:

1. 1963: Paul Seiler, Tom Regner, George Goeddeke and Dick Swatland — Interim coach Hugh Devore recruited them and Ara Parseghian and Co., developed them into national champs as 1966 seniors.

Seiler was the 12th pick of the 1967 NFL Draft and Regner — who started on defense as a sophomore in 1964-65 and played both ways in 1965 — was selected 23rd. Tackle Seiler and guard Regner formed the most powerful left side at Notre Dame the past 50 years — and that is considered one of the team’s strengths this year, too, with left tackle Zack Martin and left guard Chris Watt.

Center Goeddeke was a second-team UPI and third-team Associated Press All-American who played six years in the NFL. Swatland was a two-year starting guard who also played in the NFL.

2. 1971: Gerry DiNardo, Steve Sylvester, Steve Neece, Steve Quehl and Ed Bauer — DiNardo was a three-year starter and consensus All-American right guard, while right tackle Sylvester won three Super Bowl rings plus a 1973 national title ring. Left tackle Neece also started every game in 1973-74 when Notre Dame was 21-2.

Quehl began his career at tight end, played tackle and started at center for Dan Devine’s 1975 team — a unit that left tackle Bauer, who also enrolled as a tight end, co-captained.

3. 1988: Mirko Jurkovic, Justin Hall, Gene McGuire and Lindsay Knapp — Four offensive linemen were recruited in 1988, and each became two-year starters for a top-10 program.

The late Jurkovic, an All-American right guard as a senior, played on defense for the 1988 national champs, and Hall was on the verge of starting that season at right tackle before getting injured.

McGuire played guard, center and tackle during his career, and Knapp was a two-year starter at left tackle.

4. 1974: Ernie Hughes, Steve McDaniels, Dave Vinson, Harry Woebkenberg and Mike Carney — A three-year starter at right guard, Hughes was a second-team AP and UPI All-American for the 1977 national champs, while 6-7, 276-pound McDaniels — a Goliath in his time — joined him on the right side.

Vinson earned Academic All-American notice as a part-time starter at left guard. Tackle Woebkenberg and guard Carney started on the left side as juniors in 1976 before departing from Notre Dame prior to their senior years.

5. 1965: Bob Kuechenberg, George Kunz, Tim Monty, Tom McKinley and Ed Tuck — Future NFL All-Pros and Hall of Fame candidates Kuechenberg and Kunz headlined this quintet.

Kunz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft, started as a sophomore for the 1966 national champs before he was injured in the second game and replaced by Kuechenberg, who moved to defense in 1967.

McKinley was a two-year starter at guard, while Monty started at center as a senior and finished out the 1966 national title run as a 198-pound snapper against Michigan State and USC in place of the injured Goeddeke. Tuck was a sixth-round NFL pick at guard despite not starting for the Irish.

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