Notre Dame, Michigan both in heavy pursuit of 2021 OL Rocco Spindler and Garrett Dellinger

Carter Karels | South Bend Tribune
ND Insider

Just before his phone interview concluded, Rocco Spindler felt the need to volunteer one more detail about himself and fellow high school teammate Garrett Dellinger.

“If you want to add this in, too,” started Spindler.

What Spindler wanted to articulate had nothing to do with how the Clarkston (Mich.) High products have emerged as top recruits in the 2021 class. Spindler instead wanted to offer a glimpse into their personal lives.

So he confessed that neither of them vape.

The inhaling and exhaling of other vapors and the consumption of alcohol are not hobbies of theirs either, he said.

“Garrett and I are two of the cleanest guys in the school,” Spindler said. “We have never done any of those type of things. That’s why I think our friendship is so strong.”

The same schools seem to be recruiting Spindler and Dellinger, including Notre Dame and Michigan. Spindler will be an attendance for Saturday’s game (7:30 p.m. EDT on ABC) between No. 19 Michigan (5-2) and No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1).

Dellinger will not join Spindler, his close friend since an early age, because he plans to attend No. 3 Ohio State’s home game against No. 13 Wisconsin. But both came to South Bend for Notre Dame’s Oct. 12 win over USC.

That’s where Irish offensive line coach Jeff Quinn repeated a message that appealed to the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Spindler and the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Dellinger.

“Weed, women and whiskey are the three distractions,” Spindler said of Quinn’s warning. “I think that’s why he likes us too; we aren’t like that. We don’t go to parties after football games. We go home, ice up our battle scars and watch some film.”

Quinn also likes their potential. He has compared Spindler to former Irish All-American left guard Quenton Nelson. Spindler also plays on the defensive line at a high level, just as Nelson did in high school. The four-star recruit also boasts a similar pedigree.

247Sports ranks Spindler as its No. 7 offensive tackle and No. 31 overall player, while Rivals slates him as its No. 3 offensive guard and No. 82 overall. Marc Spindler, Rocco’s father, was a defensive lineman for the University of Pittsburgh before the Detroit Lions drafted him in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft. His NFL career lasted through the 1998 season.

A season-ending shoulder injury last season played a role in Dellinger dropping to a three-star recruit on Rivals, ranking as its No. 31 offensive tackle. 247Sports still considers Dellinger as high-end four-star talent, pegging him No. 1 at the position and No. 36 overall.

The latter recruiting site’s evaluation seems to align more with that of Quinn. He’s made Dellinger feel like he could become Notre Dame’s next standout left tackle.

“I really like the way he coaches,” said Dellinger, who returned to 100 percent in the offseason but stopped playing defense this year. “He always shows me the film of his players, how he teaches and what he teaches the guys. That’s just how I can see myself playing in the future. That’s what I love about it.

“The next thing I want to see is an actual practice at Notre Dame to see how he coaches. But I can already tell that he’s a great coach.”

Landing one or both players could cement Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class among the best. The seven-player Irish class already includes four-star offensive linemen Blake Fisher and Greg Crippen and ranks No. 1 and No. 3 nationally on Rivals and 247Sports, respectively.

The Wolverines may stand as the biggest threat to beat the Irish on both recruits. Spindler couldn’t remember how many times he’s visited Michigan, which is located about 35 miles southwest of his high school. Too many to count, he said.

Michigan and Notre Dame began recruiting Spindler and Dellinger as high school freshmen and extended scholarship offers to them last year. Both juniors found difficulty identifying the differences between the two schools at this point.

But not with the head coaches — Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.

“Harbaugh is more relaxed,” said Spindler, who met with Kelly one-on-one 30 minutes before the USC game. “He cares a lot about family. He’s family-oriented and like the dad of the team. I think he’s funny, goofy, energetic. He really understands his players, and I think that’s why players like him.

“He can get along with them easily. And then he can be the coach that can get under your skin and put a little fire in you.

“With Kelly, he’s relaxed but you also see that fight in him that makes players want to be hungry. He might not be so much laid back, but he’s more intense. He cares about who your family is. Very family-oriented just like coach Harbaugh.”

Spindler and Dellinger meanwhile can hardly pinpoint any differences between themselves. They are so similar that people often mistake them for twins. They share the same interests, too, like holding eating competitions multiple times per week and frequenting the local wave pool.

Notre Dame and Michigan expect to receive official visits from them before they announce their commitments in May. But they aren’t exactly a package deal.

“We would love to play with each other, but we are going to go where we fit best as individuals,” Dellinger said. “If that ends up being the same school, that would be the best scenario.”

Rocco SpindlerClarkston (Mich.) High’s Rocco Spindler, a 2021 offensive lineman, visited South Bend for Notre Dame’s Oct. 12 game against USC.