Mike McGlinchey has come a long way in the last year.
On the first day of training camp in 2015, McGlinchey was on the receiving end of some loud criticism from offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. The 6-foot-8, 310-pound lineman had started only one game in his career (the 2014 Music City Bowl) and needed to prove he could become a consistent starter at right tackle.
A new season brings a new opportunity as McGlinchey, now with 14 career starts, has flipped over to left tackle. Not only is he considered one of Notre Dame’s best offensive linemen, but he’s also arguably one of Notre Dame’s top players on the roster headed into the 2016 season.
The hardly subtle motivation from Hiestand has helped mold McGlinchey into a potential first-round draft pick.
“I’m worlds ahead of where I was as a player personally,” McGlinchey said. “Mentally, it’s just one of those things that you have to keep doing. You have to keep your head down and keep working and listening to the message and not the tone. Everybody takes their lumps every now and again. It’s about how you learn from those lumps that really make you a great person and a great player.”
McGlinchey’s growth is noticeable in his lack of concern about the challenge of moving from the right side to the left. Having established himself as a reliable right tackle, McGlinchey said it only took him a few days of winter training to adapt to the left-side approach.
The biggest difference will come on Saturdays when he’s often asked to shield Notre Dame’s quarterbacks from the best pass rushers the opposing teams have to offer.
“It’s a lot easier to learn something after you’ve already done it on the opposite side,” McGlinchey said. “Last year I was coming in still trying to figure out how to actually play football and be a good offensive lineman and all that kind of stuff. I’m not saying I’ve fully figured that out, but I’m a long way away from where I was last year. Moving to the left side, it’s all the same stuff just my body mechanics.”
McGlinchey has put himself in position to successfully meet the standard set by Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley at left tackle in the last six seasons at Notre Dame.
“He's a really good football player,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “He's got the size. He's got the length. He's got the demeanor. He's got the toughness. He's got all of the intangibles you want.”
Lining up to McGlinchey’s right will be junior guard Quenton Nelson, who started 11 games last season. Together the two could create an impenetrable left side of the line. They are the two most experienced Irish linemen and also the most imposing.
McGlinchey said the two have already developed a chemistry together that should help them dominate opposing defenses.
“I’m excited to play with him,” McGlinchey said. “I don’t know if you’ve seen what he looks like or how he’s played, but he’s a pretty dang good football player. He’s the best guard in the country in my opinion and I’m excited to just be next to him. He pushes me every day just like I push him. We’re going to have a special year.”
On the outside, McGlinchey is the long-limbed Adonis built to keep defenders at bay. On the inside, Nelson clears defenders out of the way with snow plow proficiency. Together they present a balanced attack.
“He’s such a strong player. I’m not a weak guy by any means, but he’s definitely so big and so strong it just makes it fun blocking for him,” McGlinchey said. “It’s like getting in the way of a freight train.”
The rest of Notre Dame’s offensive line presents many more questions. Junior Alex Bars, pegged to start at right tackle, owns the most experience of the group with only two starts. The combination of center and right guard will work itself out in the coming weeks.
Yet McGlinchey isn’t worried about the lack of live action for his teammates. In the end, it all boils down to the ability to move defenders out of the way.
“It’s different every time no matter if you have the experience or not. You have to play football,” McGlinchey said. “We have the guys in our room that are capable of stepping up and filling the roles of the guys that have left and moved on.”
“We certainly have the talent to do it. We have the right guy at the helm. We don’t expect any kind of drop-off from last year.”