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April 1, 2014

McGlinchey: ND's towering inferno

Mike McGlinchey doesn't take any time reflecting on it or obsessing over it.

Yes, his path to what looks like a starting right tackle position has been - for a young offensive lineman - meteoric. Yes, he appears to be nailing down a starting spot that could spill over to the fall.

But McGlinchey - the 6-foot-7 , 300-pound red-shirt freshman from Philadelphia - is playing football this spring with blinders on. He doesn't spend much time looking back on his progress or looking forward to the coaches' decision along the offensive line.

Move forward, keep the eyes on the target, and let the outcome take care of itself.

"That's not for me to say. That's totally up to the coaches," said McGlinchey of the starting right tackle spot, which he's maintained since the opening of drills several weeks ago.

"I'm just out here trying to do what I can to have them put their trust in me. Obviously, that's the goal, but I'm not ready to say I'm the starter because Lord knows anything can happen before August 30."

Anything indeed, like taking control of the position and holding on to it. That appears more likely than McGlinchey relinquishing the spot. That's because the former aspiring power forward on the basketball floor, who then turned his attention to football - mainly as a tight end -- has developed into an intriguing offensive tackle prospect.

"I've always been tall, but in high school, I was a basketball player first," said McGlinchey, the first cousin of former Boston College and current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

"Playing basketball and playing lacrosse, and always doing something different and competing, has helped me in a lot of ways. It keeps me very athletic and able to move in certain ways that a lot of other guys can't because they specialize too early."

Irish head coach Brian Kelly said that McGlinchey got his foot in the door due largely to his understanding of the offensive system during his rookie year in the program when he preserved a year of eligibility.

McGlinchey has tried to cover all the bases mentally and physically.

"I worked extremely hard in the off-season and all of last season to put myself in a position to compete for the starting job," McGlinchey said. "I'd like to think Coach Kelly and Coach (Harry) Hiestand are getting more and more trust in me as the days go on.

"I paid attention and I had a lot of good guys (from which) to learn the system. I learned how to act and learned how to be a Notre Dame offensive lineman."

McGlinchey appreciated the opportunity to work behind and learn from Zack Martin -- Notre Dame's iron man left tackle -- who started an amazing 52 straight games for the Irish from 2010-13.

"It was definitely a blessing coming in and having a guy like Zack in front of me," McGlinchey said. "Coach (Harry) Hiestand talks about it all the time. I don't think there's a greater example in the country than Zack."

McGlinchey recognizes what's gotten him to this stage and what he'll need to do in order to become a consistent force for the Irish. If he were breaking down film, what would be the positives of his game?

"I come off the ball hard and I play hard," McGlinchey said. "That's one thing I've always prided myself on. I've always worked hard to be one of the guys you can count on to get things done and the guy that will step up and play hard. I try to play nasty."

He's also keenly aware that he's far from a finished product.

"Definitely my overall strength," McGlinchey acknowledged. "Not playing offensive line throughout high school, I came in a little behind in the weight room. I've definitely worked my butt off to try and play catch-up. I'm getting there, but I'm not where I need to be."

In addition to the benefits of playing behind Martin, McGlinchey considers it a blessing to be working under Hiestand.

"He's definitely demanding," said McGlinchey of Hiestand. "But I wouldn't want to play for anybody else in the country. He knows what it takes and he does what he needs to do to get us ready to play, and I believe in what he's teaching.

"He can be tough on us, but I'd rather have it that way than the other way around. He cares a lot about us and he throws a lot of himself into his job and into us. Every single offensive lineman, no matter tough he can be on us, really appreciates that kind of passion and love for the game and for us.

"You listen to everything he says. You can't miss anything he's saying because it's all important and it always has a big-time effect on how you're going to be successful."

Everything seems to make sense to McGlinchey. It's all falling into place. The only head-scratcher is his purported nickname, Drago, as in the Russian boxer played by Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV.

"I don't even know that one," McGlinchey laughed. "I've been told I look like that guy, but I haven't really been called him.

"Yeah, I know (the reference). Rocky IV. I'm a Philly guy. I grew up on the Rocky movies. He's a mean guy. That's a pretty good compliment."






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