Mar 2, 2011, 2:28 AM EDT
Still a few weeks away from Spring Practice kicking off, we’re starting a new series that’ll look at a dozen players that hold the key to Notre Dame making a BCS run next season. We’ll dedicate 100 words exactly to what each player needs to do to help the Irish take the leap. Send any thoughts or comments my way.
There’s no player on the Irish roster that’s done more for Notre Dame off the field than Braxston Cave. The lone contributor on the Irish roster that grew up under the shadow of the Golden Dome, Cave’s house has long been a sanctuary for out-of-town teammates and potential recruits looking for a home-cooked meal or a place to stay.
Yet Cave’s path to contributing on the field wasn’t quite as clear cut. The four-star recruit that wowed people with his brute strength struggled to get onto the field and it was only after concussions kept senior Dan Wenger off of it that Cave seized the starting center job after apprenticing for nearly two seasons.
Cave opened the 2010 season at center and for the most part played admirably. That said, Cave — as you’d expect from a first-year starter struggling to learn a new system — certainly didn’t grade out flawlessly.
“He’s gotten the message that he has to be more consistent,” head coach Brian Kelly said of Cave early in the year. “Braxston is an unbelievable kid and he’s going to give you everything he has. The problem is we don’t like some of his choices relative to who he blocks. He chooses to block the wrong people sometimes. Not a good thing, especially when there’s somebody on the nose.”
Cave’s work improved as the season wore on, and the Irish relying on their running game certainly played to Braxston’s strengths as a physical player in the trenches. With Wenger still hoping to return for a NCAA-approved sixth season, the center position is hardly Cave’s by default, and the Irish will need improved play out of Cave (or whoever wins the job for next season) if the offense is going to improve its consistency both running and throwing.
100 word preview for Braxston Cave in 2011:
If the Irish are going to play elite football, they’ll need a top-flight center anchoring their offensive line. Cave wasn’t that player last year, but there is reason to hope he can become a leader on this line. Heading into 2010, the Irish worried about two rookie tackles, and the struggles on the interior surprised people. With Stewart gone, it’s up to Trevor Robinson and Cave to fulfill the promise they showed when they decided to don the Blue and Gold. If they don’t, expect to hear from guys like Chris Watt, Andrew Nuss, Mike Golic and freshman Christian Lombard.
Importance in 2011:
If the Irish want to run the type of offense Brian Kelly knows he needs, a center that’s capable of making good decisions in split seconds needs to emerge. If Ed Warinner can turn Cave into that guy, it means only good things for the Irish. Cave’s got all the intangibles needed to succeed. Now he’s just got to put the pieces together.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:57 PM EDT
Let’s get to part one of the mailbag. Some very good questions here, so check back over the weekend as there’ll be more to come.
Mar 26, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT
Matt Hegarty’s unexpected departure opened up a job along the offensive line. With fifth-year center Nick Martin back in the middle, Hegarty choosing to go somewhere else to play center opened up the competition at left guard.
Mar 25, 2015, 1:17 PM EDT
Jerry Tillery’s recruitment was anything but ordinary. Long committed to the Irish, Notre Dame held off LSU, with Les Miles and the Tigers’ coaching staff doing everything they could to talk the local product into staying home.
Mar 25, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT
Drop your questions below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.
Mar 24, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
While our inside looks at Notre Dame’s spring practice have been few and far between (blink and you could miss the footage from the YouTube practice reports), the little news that’s been coming out of the Gug has been good.
Mar 23, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT
Notre Dame landed three recruiting commitments coming out of the weekend’s Junior Day. And if it’s up to Mike Elston, there’ll be plenty more where that came from.
Mar 22, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
This weekend’s Junior Day netted another recruit, with Notre Dame’s coaching staff accepting the commitment of Florida running back Tony Jones Jr. The IMG Academy runner was in South Bend this weekend, and is the first running back in the fold for the Irish in the 2016 class.
Mar 21, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT
Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class took a big step forward on Saturday, gaining commitments from cornerback Julian Love and long snapper John Shannon. Both Love and Shannon pledged their commitment after receiving offers this afternoon from the Irish staff.
Mar 20, 2015, 1:41 PM EDT
Notre Dame’s coaching staff begins their 2016 recruiting efforts this weekend with its first on-campus Junior Day. While the reshuffled staff had an opportunity to hit the road in February, the Irish coaches will host their first major recruiting event of the spring this weekend.
Mar 19, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
When Notre Dame announced Brian Kelly’s reshuffled coaching staff, one name many expected to be part of the release wasn’t. Former Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn—an offensive coordinator and line coach for Kelly for decades—had been long rumored for a staff position, but wasn’t part of Kelly’s reshuffled team of assistants.
Mar 19, 2015, 11:22 AM EDT
As Brian Kelly kicked off spring practice with his press conference Tuesday, he gave a long-awaited update on exiled players KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams.
Mar 18, 2015, 1:55 PM EDT
Notre Dame kicked off spring practice bright and early Wednesday morning. With our first look at the Irish as they prepare for the 2015 season, Brian Kelly’s troops were ready for action, even if they were relegated to helmets and shorts.
Mar 17, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
With Irish eyes already smiling thanks to St. Patrick’s Day, Notre Dame fans got a free double-down with Brian Kelly’s opening press conference before spring practice starts tomorrow.
Mar 16, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT
It looks as if another piece of Notre Dame’s non-ACC football scheduling has come into place. Ball State has announced an agreement to play at Notre Dame Stadium in early September of 2018, likely locking in the Irish’s second opponent of the season.
Mar 16, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT
After Notre Dame’s men won an improbable ACC basketball title, the team and their head coach did little to shy away from their difficulties in the NCAA tournament.
#NotDoneYet adorns every tweet coming from the team’s official account, and likely serves as a mantra for a team that’s shown flashes of brilliance during regular seasons past, but too often became pumpkins in mid-March.
Mar 13, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT
One question, asked a half-dozen different ways. And it’s all about the quarterbacks.
Mar 12, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
With spring practice beginning next week, let’s open up the mailbag.
Mar 11, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
With Notre Dame on break, the campus is quiet one week before spring practice gets started. But the work inside the Gug is still likely underway, with recruiting efforts for the 2016 cycle pushing forward and discussions about the 2015 roster taking center stage.
Mar 10, 2015, 2:53 PM EDT
The only reviews of the College Football Playoff that matter are in. And after one year and a whole lot of excitement and unpredictability, don’t expect to see any changes coming soon.
Mar 9, 2015, 4:54 PM EDT
In a showdown with the defending national champions, most neutral party observers were shocked when Notre Dame’s defensive front dominated Florida State’s veteran offensive line.
- Running back Tony Jones Jr. commits to Irish 36
- Irish open spring: Five quick updates from BK 44
- Tracking fifth-year spots and the bumpy road to 85 scholarships 38
- Great on paper, rebuilt staff needs to hit the ground running 15
- Matt Hegarty will transfer for fifth year 31
- Spring solutions: Offensive Line 64