Notebook: Signees Andrew Kristofic, Zeke Correll ready to turn potential into reality

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — Life beyond football for Andrew Kristofic will likely result in him venturing into the business world. He would not initially admit that’s his plan, though.

“If someone grabbed me off the street and said, ‘Hey, do you want to be an astronaut?’ I would be like, ‘Forget business. I’m going up in space,’” Kristofic said.

Jeff Quinn, Notre Dame’s offensive line coach, offered Kristofic another appealing gig. Quinn projects the 2019 ND signee — who now stands at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds — as a future starting left tackle for the Irish.

Kristofic, also a basketball star for Gibsonia (Pa.) Pine-Richland, will showcase his top attribute over the weekend — athleticism. He joins three other Irish signees for the All-American Bowl at 1 p.m. EST Saturday, which NBC will broadcast, and is slated to play right tackle, his position in high school, for the East squad.

Kyle Hamilton (East), Jay Bramblett (East) and NaNa Osafo-Mensah (West) are the other three participating Irish signees. Kristofic looked raw on occasion but showed flashes during the week’s first two practice sessions. He held his own against Osafo-Mensah in Wednesday’s one-on-one drills.

“My athleticism is what helps me a lot, especially down here where these guys, everyone is so big and so strong,” Kristofic said. “Athleticism — a lot of people have the size and strength — but it is the athleticism that puts the good ones over the top.”

Zeke Correll, Quinn Carroll, John Olmstead and Kristofic, the four incoming offensive lineman signees, will each enroll early. Kristofic doesn’t expect to see the field in year one and will focus on gaining weight.

Liam Eichenberg, the incumbent starter with two years of eligibility remaining, weighs 308 pounds.

“Being in the weight room and dining hall with professional strength coaches, dietitians, nutritionists for an extra five months,” said Kristofic on the benefits of enrolling early. “And no offense to my mom, her cooking is really good, but that’s not something you can get at home.

“…The big thing that I’ve been focused on throughout the last couple years, with gaining weight and keeping athleticism, it can be hard. But as long as it is the right weight, muscle, rather than just packing on the pounds just to be heavier. That’s not as big of a challenge when it’s the right weight.”

The upside is obvious. Should he not miss a step athletically, Kristofic could bloom as another ND great on the offensive line. Some coaching staffs envision him as a future NFL first round pick.

“He has great length, he’s very athletic and he has a lot of potential as far as being a great offensive tackle goes,” said Correll, who will share a room with Kristofic. “He has really long arms, he can move really well and I think he has a lot of cap space for how much college could really create a big, nasty offensive lineman (in him).”

Since he committed to the Irish in late April of 2018, Kristofic has shot up the rankings. He ascended from three-star to four-star on 247Sports, elevating from the No. 37 offensive tackle to No. 15 for 2019. Rivals, which tabs him as a four-star, increased his position ranking from No. 55 to No. 27. 247Sports ranks him as the No. 116 overall player.

The recognized potential came first, then the recognition. Now it’s time for Kristofic to develop into a left tackle, with aspirations for space on the back burner.

“Everyone was like, ‘You need to get bigger. You are not going to be any good,’” Kristofic said. “And now, they are saying that stuff. I feel like what I think a lot about is that things are never as good as they seem. And they are never as bad as they seem. So you kind of just have to keep that level head about yourself and what you are doing. That way you don’t get complacent or you don’t get too low on yourself.”

Under Armour All-America Game

Jeff Quinn could have blown it with Correll. In his first week on the job early in 2018, according to Correll, Quinn visited his school, Cincinnati Anderson.

The topic of food and health arose, so Quinn thought it would be a good idea to rant for 10 minutes about his smoothie ingredients.

“He was explaining the science of why he puts everything into the smoothie,” Correll said. “I thought it was interesting. It was the first time I met him. But in his defense, it was his first week on the job. I thought it was a little funny and goofy.”

Fortunately for Quinn, nutrition also interested Correll. On Thursday, it will be Correll’s turn to make a first impression — but this time at the center position. Correll will be the lone Irish 2019 signee at the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla. ESPN2 will televise the 6 p.m. EST game.

Correll, a member of Team Flash, played right guard in high school. With Trevor Ruhland’s eligibility expiring after 2019, Correll could start three years at center for the Irish. Harry Hiestand, ND’s former OL coach, projected Correll as a future center when offering him on Oct. 28, 2017.

Quinn agreed with Hiestand’s assessment.

“I’m definitely not where I want to be yet, but for my first time playing center, I’ve been playing very well,” said Correll of how he’s performed this week. “I would be a pretty good center if I had been playing center the whole time. But for my first time ever playing against competition, especially this good competition, the best in the country, I have been holding my own for sure.”

Since Anderson’s Nov. 16 season finale, Correll has dedicated himself to snapping and polishing technique. After 2019, Correll knows that the starting gig will likely come down to Luke Jones and himself.

“What I need to improve on the most would probably be my first step for run blocks out of the center position, as well as maybe getting back a little faster out of my snap for pass protection,” Correll said. “So mainly just my first step.”

OL coach Jeff Quinn sees #NotreDame signee Andrew Kristofic (@AKristofic21) as a future starter at left tackle. Kristofic and QB Phil Jurkovec were high school teammates.

— Carter Karels (@CarterKarels) January 2, 2019Rude awakening

Correll towered over his high school teammates, but in Orlando, it is as if he’s just another guy.

“I’m probably the smallest (offensive lineman) here, if I am being honest,” Correll said.

The Anderson product has performed well against elite competition, though. The 6-3, 275-pounder compares himself to Jason Kelce, a 6-3, 282-pound center for the Philadelphia Eagles.

“He’s just a big dude,” said Kristofic of Correll. “He’s not super tall, but he’s thick. He’s really built well. Just talking to him, he’s one of the guys that’s just freaky strong. Obviously, he worked super hard at it, but he’s a freak in the weight room. He will be good. That’s a good person to be around whenever someone like me is trying to add that to my game. And hopefully, I can rub some of my athleticism off on him.”

Andrew Kristofic, Notre Dame’s 2019 signee, flashes athleticism and will play left tackle for the Irish.
Pine-Richland’s Andrew Kristofic celebrates during Pennsylvania Class 6A state championship in December of 2017.

WHO: Team Flash vs. Team Ballaholics

WHEN: Thursday, 6 p.m. (EST)

WHAT: Under Armour All-America Game

WHERE: Camping World Stadium (65,000); Orlando, Fla.