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.
Jul 22, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT
A recruiting cycle before Notre Dame went hunting late for big bodies to play along the defensive line, they signed a player who might be able to fit that mold in 2014. Fresh off a redshirt, Jacob Matuska has the chance to add some much needed size and strength to Brian VanGorder’s defensive line.
Jul 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
The founding member of the 2014 recruiting class, linebacker Greer Martini enters a football program that looks decidedly different than the one he committed to back in July of 2012. Irish A-to-Z continues as we look at the freshman inside linebacker.
Jul 21, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT
No, he’s not his brother. But center Nick Martin should solidify his standing as one of the top centers in the country in 2014. After an injury ended his debut season in the starting lineup early, Martin returns healthy after knee surgery, giving Notre Dame a key anchor in the middle of Harry Hiestand’s offensive line.
Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
After losing Troy Niklas and Alex Welch from the depth chart, Notre Dame needed to restock a position that’s been very kind to the Irish over the past few years. Irish A-to-Z continues with freshman tight end Tyler Luatua.
Jul 20, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
A year after contributing as a freshman, Cole Luke’s assignment will be a bit more ambitious in 2014. One of three cornerbacks who is expected to play major minutes, Irish A-to-Z continues with the sophomore cover man.
Jul 19, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
One of four graduate students on the Irish roster, Christian Lombard feels like he’s been a part of the Notre Dame football program for a long time. As one of Charlie Weis’ earliest commitments in the 2010 class, Lombard has seen coaching changes, position switches and injury challenges in his five years in South Bend.
Jul 19, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT
After two underwhelming seasons in South Bend, Ben Koyack finally emerged as a legitimate threat late last season. And with Troy Niklas’ unexpected departure to the NFL, Koyack has a chance to be the next in a line of impressive tight ends playing on Sundays. The Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at Notre Dame’s starting tight end.
Jul 17, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT
With just two other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, incoming freshman DeShone Kizer begins his college career a bit closer to the playing field than any head coach would like. Our latest in Irish A-to-Z looks at Notre Dame’s quarterback from the 2014 recruiting class.
Jul 17, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT
Injuries to Louis Nix and Kona Schwenke gave Jarron Jones his shot at a new position. The rising junior took advantage of his opportunities. Our next installment in Irish A-to-Z takes a look at Notre Dame’s new starting defensive tackle.
Jul 16, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT
When Notre Dame added Torii Hunter Jr. to the roster on Signing Day 2013, the Irish did more than just add another famous father to the family section at Notre Dame Stadium. Our next installment on Irish A-to-Z looks at a rising sophomore who is healthy after entering Notre Dame with a major injury.
Jul 16, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Few football programs need a press release to discuss the markings on their home football field. But after months of wonderment by certain segments of the Irish football fanbase, the athletic department gave us an early “look” at what the new synthetic playing surface will look like when Notre Dame takes the field this fall.
Jul 15, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
Entering his senior season, Chase Hounshell’s career has been defined by what’s kept him off the field, not his performance on it. Our next installment in Irish A-to-Z looks closer at the Ohio native who has battled back from multiple shoulder injuries.
Jul 15, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Everett Golson spent part of last week as a counselor at the Elite 11 quarterback camp, held at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. And while he earned rave reviews for his work on the playing field as an instructor, he also earned more than his fair share of kudos for his maturity off of it.
Jul 14, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
While TJ Jones is gone, Notre Dame might have signed a receiver that looks and plays an awful lot like him in incoming freshman Corey Holmes. Irish A-to-Z continues with the incoming freshman receiver from Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the elite programs in the country.
Jul 13, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
One of the last players on Notre Dame’s radar during the 2014 recruiting cycle was Kolin Hill. Our next installment in the Irish A-to-Z series takes a look at the incoming freshman from Texas.
Jul 12, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
After spending 2013 on the sidelines, opportunity comes to Mike Heuerman in 2014. With Troy Niklas a surprise entrant in the NFL Draft and the departure of veteran Alex Welch to Miami (Ohio), Heuerman and fellow sophomore Durham Smythe are the next men in for Brian Kelly and the Irish offense.
Jul 11, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Matt Hegarty’s football career almost ended when a stroke suffered during a November practice in 2012 revealed two small holes in his heart. Healthy again and a key contributor late in 2013, our next stop on the Irish A-to-Z train takes a look at the New Mexico native and his road back onto the playing field.
Jul 11, 2014, 8:59 AM EDT
Watch List week continues with more Irish veterans recognized for their potential 2014 season. In addition to Everett Golson, KeiVarae Russell and Jaylon Smith, four more Irish players found their names on awards lists, with Kyle Brindza, Sheldon Day, Ben Koyack and Nick Martin being tabbed.
Jul 10, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
A new time-lapse video released by Fighting Irish Digital Media and UND.com gives us an update on the FieldTurf installation going inside Notre Dame Stadium.