Mar 29, 2010, 2:16 PM EDT
With scholarship offers from schools like Florida State, Michigan, and Nebraska, it wasn’t a stretch to say that Lane Clelland was an elite national recruit coming out of McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland. Clelland had the size and athleticism that profiled perfectly for a left tackle, and his background as a prep wrestler had many thinking he also had the toughness needed to succeed as an offensive lineman playing on an island.
Clelland sat out his freshman year, preserving a year of eligibility. Last season, he earned spot duty on special teams, playing single digit minutes while making his largest impact in a negative way — a holding penalty on a trick play that cost the Irish a fake field goal touchdown against Boston College.
Even with the Irish losing both starting tackles, Brian Kelly saw something in Lane Clelland that made him believe he’d be able to switch to the other side of the ball. While he didn’t see it coming, Clelland has already taken to the change.
“I always wondered what it would be like to play on the other side of the ball at this level,” Clelland said after practice. “It’s a pretty cool change.”
Speaking with a small group of media in attendance, Clelland thought that his background as an offensive lineman, as well as the time he spent as a high school wrestler, would definitely be to his advantage.
“I think I’ve already seen it come into play,” Clelland said about his wrestling background. “My hands and everything else, it’s a little bit more natural. On O-line, you can’t really grab, but on D-line, you can do just about anything you want.”
Clelland won’t have to worry about changing his body, as he’s already at a weight optimal for his position on the edges of the 3-4 defensive line. If there’s anything he’s gearing himself up for, it’s the attacking nature of his new position.
“The biggest challenge is that on the O-line, you’ve got a thousand things going through your head,” Clelland continued. “It’s the same on defense, but it’s all about reaction time. You react twice as fast.”
It’s only been a few weeks since Clelland got the news of the changes. But with Kapron Lewis-Moore the only defensive lineman that’s played exclusively as a defensive end, there’s plenty of incentive for Clelland to jump head first into the competition for a spot in the defensive rotation.