Offseason Cheatsheet: Offensive line

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The series continues with your Du Lac approved crib-sheet for the upcoming season. For more, check out the quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers.


After two nightmarish seasons, Notre Dame’s veteran offensive line played respectable football last season, forming a cohesive veteran group that protected Jimmy Clausen and helped establish a respectable running game, averaging for 4.9 yards per carry. Now Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Ed Warinner will have to retool and reload an offensive line short three starters from 2009, tackles Paul Duncan, Sam Young and center Eric Olsen. While Charlie Weis inherited a depth chart incredibly thin on developmental prospects, he’s left behind a nice collection of talent up front, and early returns are promising as they transition to a more lineman-friendly spread attack. While competition is fierce, sophomore Zack Martin has locked up the left tackle job while Taylor Dever is the front runner on the right side. Braxston Cave and Dan Wenger battle for the center position, while Chris Watt is knocking on the door both inside and out as he tries to crack the starting lineup.


Short a program? Here’s every offensive lineman listed on the roster:

     No.    Name                     Yr.       Ht./Wt.       Hometown/High School
      72     Alex Bullard           So.      6-3/295      Franklin, TN (Brentwood Academy)
      52     Braxston Cave       Jr.       6-3/301      Granger, IN (Penn)
      73     Lane Clelland         Jr.       6-5/290      Owings Mills, MD (McDonogh School)
      75     Taylor Dever          Sr.       6-5/297      Nevada City, CA (Nevada Union)
      62     Bill Flavin               Sr.       6-3/260      Darien, IL (Benet Academy)
      57     Mike Golic, Jr.        Jr.       6-3/283      West Hartford, CT (Northwest Catholic)
      65     Mike Hernandez     Jr.      6-2/275      Pasadena, CA (Loyola)
      74     Christian Lombard  Fr.      6-5/290      Inverness, IL (Fremd)
      71     Dennis Mahoney    Jr.       6-7/289      Baltimore, MD (Boys Latin High School)
      70     Zack Martin            So.      6-4/290      Indianapolis, IN (Bishop Chatard)
      64     Tate Nichols           Fr.       6-8/303      Walton, KY (Ryle)
      76     Andrew Nuss         Sr.       6-5/297      Ashburn, VA (Stone Bridge)
      78     Trevor Robinson    Jr.        6-5/295      Elkhorn, NE (Elkhorn)
      77     Matt Romine          Sr.        6-5/292      Tulsa, OK (Union)
      59     Chris Stewart         Sr.        6-5/351      Spring, TX (Klein)
      66     Chris Watt              So.       6-3/310      Glen Ellyn, IL (Glenbard West)
      51     Dan Wenger           Sr.       6-4/298       Coral Springs, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas)


On Stewart: “Chris is the consummate student-athlete. He has excelled on the field and in the classroom and while I don’t envy his workload this fall, I have complete confidence that Chris will balance law school and line blocking this year.”

On Cave and Wenger: “Braxston Cave is a very physical player, I have great confidence that he
can move any nose. He can do the things physically in the run game. He
needs to continue to polish in the pass game…  Wenger is a pretty good pass protection guy. He needs to get the same kind of push Braxston Cave can get.”

On Martin: “Zack has been our most consistent. Your left side right now is Stewart and Zack, obviously, they’re doing a great job.”

On Watt: He lacked a
little bit of experience in understanding the offense, and again, it was
just because he hasn’t played very much. He’s just a really good football player that has gotten better each and
every day. We’ve been cross-training him at that center position, too,
but it’s pretty clear he’s put himself in position to compete at that
left guard. So we don’t want to hold him back there. He’s made great
progress. He’s strong and physical and he moves his feet very, very

Tim Hinton on Robinson: “His ability to finish and play with a lot of tenacity. Up front, you can have all the fundamentals and all that stuff you want, but if you don’t have a strong will and toughness, you’re not very good, because that’s just not a game for soft guys.”

Kelly on the offensive line depth: “I believe we have on the offensive line 10 guys that can play championship football.”


Replacing three starters along the offensive line isn’t a good thing, especially if you look back at the last time Notre Dame had wholesale changes along the offensive front. But the system that Brian Kelly brought in — and bringing in offensive line coach Ed Warinner to teach it — has me feeling rather bullish about the line. If I had to guess, the starting five of Martin, Stewart, Cave, Robinson and Dever will help the Irish run the ball more effectively, and with quick drops and precision passing, the transition process for both tackles and the starting center will be much smoother this time around.


B- As much as I feel good about what’s going on up front, it’s hard to give this group any higher grade, especially when Martin will be playing in his first college football game against Purdue and right tackle (and potentially center) will be breaking in a new starter as well. Add to that the curve of learning an entirely new system, and this is as good as you could expect on a report card.

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.


WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

Notre Dame v Florida State

On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.


Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)



Restocking the roster: Offensive Line

Notre Dame offensive line

When Notre Dame takes the field this spring, there’ll be two very large holes in the offensive line that need filling. All-American left tackle Ronnie Stanley is gone. As is captain Nick Martin at center. Both three-year starters leave Harry Hiestand with some big decisions to make in the coming months as the Irish look to fill those key positions and still field a unit with the ability to dominate in the trenches.

The Irish have had incredible stability at left tackle, with Stanley sliding in seamlessly after four seasons of Zack Martin. Perhaps the best six-year run in the program’s storied history at the position, Stanley will likely join Martin as a first-rounder, back-to-back starters at a key spot that often dictates the play of one of the most important units on the field.

Replacing Nick Martin could prove equally tricky. Rising junior Sam Mustipher served as Martin’s backup in 2015, filing in capably for Martin after an ankle sprain took him off the field briefly against UMass. But Mustipher will face a challenge this spring from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge, the first true center recruited by Hiestand and Brian Kelly since they arrived in South Bend.

Kelly talked about 2017 being a big cycle on the recruiting trail for restocking the offensive line. You can see why when you look at the depth, particularly at tackle. Let’s look at the work that’s been done the previous two classes as Notre Dame continues to be one of the premier programs recruiting in the trenches.


Ronnie Stanley
, Sr. (39 starts)
Nick Martin, Grad Student (37 starts)

Tristen Hoge
, C
Trevor Ruhland
, G
Jerry Tillery
, T
Parker Boudreaux
, G
Tommy Kraemer
, T
Liam Eichenberg
, T

Hunter Bivin, T
Quenton Nelson, LG
Sam Mustipher, C
Steve Elmer, RG
Mike McGlinchey, RT

Alex Bars*, T
Colin McGovern*, G/T
Mark Harrell*, C/G
Tristen Hoge*, C
John Montelus*, G
Jimmy Byrne*, G
Trevor Ruhland*, G

*Has an additional year of eligibility remaining. 

It’ll be a fascinating spring up front for the offensive line. We’ll get our first look at potential replacements and see if the Irish staff values a veteran presence (as it has done in the past) or puts former blue-chip recruits in position to become multi-year starters.

For now, I’m putting last season’s backups in line to ascend to starting spots. That’s not to say I think that’s what’ll happen. Hunter Bivin may have been Stanley’s backup last season, but as long as Alex Bars is fully recovered from his broken ankle, I think he’s the best bet to step into that job. Sharing reps at guard—not a natural spot for Bars to begin with—was more about getting him some experience, with the aim to move him into the lineup in 2016. That allows Bivin to be a key swing reserve, capable of playing on either the right or left side.

At center, the decision is less clear cut—especially since we’ve yet to see Tristen Hoge play a snap of football. Size and strength is a genuine concern at the point of attack for Hoge, not necessarily the biggest guy hitting campus. But it sounds like he’s had a nice first season from a developmental standpoint, and if he’s a true technician at the position, he could be a rare four-year starter at center if he’s able to pull ahead of Mustipher this spring.

On paper, the other three starting jobs don’t seem to be in question. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are ready to step to the forefront. Concerns about Steve Elmer’s buy-in will certainly be answered by spring, there’s little chance he’ll be on the field in March if he’s not going to be around in August. I’m of the mind that Elmer’s too good of a character guy to leave the program, even if his life doesn’t revolve around football 24/7. Now it’s time for him to clean up some of the flaws in his game, the only starter from last season who held back the Irish from being a truly elite group.

Depth isn’t necessarily a concern, but there isn’t a ton of it at tackle. That happens when you move a guy like Jerry Tillery to defensive line and lose a player like Stanley with a year of eligibility remaining. That could force the Irish to cross-train someone like Colin McGovern, a veteran who can swing inside or out if needed. McGovern seems to be a guy who would start in a lot of other programs, but has struggled to crack a two-deep that’s now filled with former blue-chip recruits, all of them essentially handpicked by Hiestand and Kelly.