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Notre Dame Offensive Line Still Coming Together

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Left guard Quenton Nelson (left) and left tackle Mike McGlinchey (Bill Panzica)

Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson look the part. But through two games this season, both said they haven’t met their expectations.

“For both me and Mike, it’s not where we want to be right now,” said the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Nelson. “We want to be playing better. That’s what we’re trying to do this week.”

NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. currently ranks both McGlinchey and Nelson among his top-25 draft-eligible players for 2017, listing McGlinchey at No. 16 and Nelson at No. 19.

Kiper calls McGlinchey a “tight end with pads on” and Nelson “entertaining to watch.” For a Notre Dame team that still has playoff aspirations despite a loss to Texas in the season-opener,

“I thought I've been OK. Not great, but OK,” said the 6-7, 310-pound McGlinchey. “I'm not where I want to be. Obviously, that's the kind of thing that football is. It's always a learning curve and it's always a game that will throw you a curveball no matter who you're playing or where you're at, or no matter how much experience you have.”

The Irish rank 38th in the country in rushing offense through two weeks, averaging 222.5 yards per game. But on 18 rushing attempts inside the red zone, the Irish have just 31 yards, an average of 1.72 yards per carry, which ranks 109th in the country.

The fact that McGlinchey and Nelson haven't met expecations speaks to their potential. Nelson came in wanting to make every block this season.

“I haven’t done that this season, so I haven’t really met my own expectations," Nelson said. "I’m trying to every day, working on my fundamentals outside of practice and in practice. Hopefully that’ll show this week.”

The Irish will be put to the test Saturday against No. 12-ranked Michigan State.

Despite full-time, first-year starters in center Sam Mustipher, right guard Colin McGovern and right tackle Alex Bars, expectations were high for the Irish offensive line entering the season.

McGlinchey said it all comes down to how players react to adversity in the game.

“Well there are things that happen during game day and you get beat," McGlinchey said. "It's not like practice where somebody's yelling at you and coaching you up on how to do it. You have to figure it out yourself. You can't focus on getting beat. Because if you focus on you got beat the last play, the next play's not going to go the way you want it to either. So that's one thing you're never going to feel out during practice. I mean, obviously we do a pretty good job here of putting ourselves in that kind of situation, and the guy that coaches us definitely does that as well. But it's going to be one of those things that until you actually feel getting beat in front of 81,000 people in front of your home crowd, you don't have that feeling until you actually step on to the field.

"In terms of the offensive line, we're going to continue to work. We've done some good things and we've done some things that we didn't like as well. It's just going to keep growing each and every day at practice and getting that experience each and every week."

Nelson, who was a first-year starter in 2015 alongside now-NFL linemen Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin, said there’s no timeline for when a line jells together.

“It’s when the offensive line really decides to make it happen and everyone’s all in on every single snap,” Nelson said. “Whether it’s walkthrough or whether it’s the practice or whether it’s the game, that’s when it happens.”

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