Skip to content

Restocking: The offensive line

Feb 16, 2013, 2:05 PM EST

Chris Watt,  Zack Martin

In landing five offensive linemen during this recruiting cycle, Notre Dame filled a critical need at a position group that had gotten way too thin. With Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey, the Irish have two intriguing candidates that have NFL potential at tackle. In John Montelus and Colin McGovern, Harry Hiestand has two true guard prospects that immediately infuse some size and physicality to the depth chart. And in Hunter Bivin, the offensive line has an intriguing athlete, and a guy that could play center — or just about anywhere else — depending on his development.

Filling holes up front was one of the most critical needs of the recruiting cycle, as the depth on the offensive line had gotten scarily thin. It’s worth taking a look back at the past few recruiting classes and see just how the situation was created.

2008
Braxston Cave — Started three seasons at center.
Lane Clelland — Reserve offensive lineman, didn’t return for a fifth season.
Mike Golic — Fifth year player who started final season at right guard.

2009
Alex Bullard — Transferred to Tennessee after death of his father. Part time starter for Vols.
Zack Martin — Four-year starter at left tackle of Irish.
Chris Watt — Three-year starter for Irish at guard.

2010
Matt James — Blue-chip tackle died in spring break accident before enrolling at ND.
Tate Nichols — Plagued by injuries since arriving in South Bend. Career might be over.
Christian Lombard — First-year starter at right tackle in 2012.
Bruce Heggie — Recruited as a defensive end, Heggie is now a reserve center/guard.

2011
Brad Carrico — One time DE, switched to OL before foot injury ended his career.
Conor Hanratty — Reserve guard will battle for open job in 2013.
Matt Hegarty — Medical issues appear to be cleared up, starting center candidate.
Nick Martin — Candidate for job at either center or right guard.
Jordan Prestwood — Florida State transfer left Notre Dame. Now at UCF.

2012
Mark Harrell — Redshirted his freshman season.
Ronnie Stanley — Saw time at tackle before injuring his elbow.

2013
Hunter Bivin
Steve Elmer
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
John Montelus

The turnover on the offensive line has been pretty staggering, to the point where Brian Kelly and company have to feel like they’ve been a little snake bit. The staff barely had a chance to see what Alex Bullard could do before he returned home to Tennessee. Matt James was the elite tackle prospect Notre Dame desperately before his spring break tragedy. The Irish thought they had another tackle until Taylor Decker flipped to Ohio State in the final days of the 2012 recruiting cycle.

Add to that the bad medical luck they’ve had with Carrico, Nichols and Hegarty, and the departure of Prestwood, and you begin to see just how badly the Irish needed to recruit the offensive line, regardless of projected position. People may have scoffed at low-rated recruits like Mike Golic and Bruce Heggie, but they were vital pieces of the depth chart this season, and Golic’s return was a necessity.

Way too early spring projection

What the Irish decide to do with the interior of their offensive line should be interesting. There’s no question Zack Martin is locked in at left tackle. Christian Lombard had a nice first season at right tackle as well, though he is a bit undersized.

But with Chris Watt by far the best interior lineman on the roster, do Kelly and Hiestand toy with moving Watt to the right side, helping to prop up a new center and Lombard, while Martin helps bring along a rookie guard? Can Ronnie Stanley win a tackle job, forcing Lombard inside? The Irish were incredibly left-handed last season running the football and they’ll continue to be that if some unestablished players don’t step up and seize and opportunity. But with three returning starters, the foundation is set for continued improvement along the line.

 

 

Latest Posts
  1. Mailbag: The case of the missing questions

    Dec 21, 2014, 4:35 PM EST

    Nyles Morgan

    After a mailbag goes missing, the Inside the Irish crew go looking for answers. That and other solutions in this week’s mailbag.

  2. Day, Riggs on track to start, Lombard’s career may be over

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:50 PM EST

    North Carolina v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Brian Kelly met with the local media on Saturday afternoon, delivering good news on the status of two key veteran defenders. Both defensive tackle Sheldon Day and cornerback Cody Riggs are on track to start against LSU, adding a few key pieces back into the puzzle.

  3. Notre Dame lands Indianapolis safety Mykelti Williams

    Dec 19, 2014, 11:59 AM EST

    Property of Indianapolis Star Property of Indianapolis Star

    Notre Dame solidified its safety depth chart by going for a homegrown solution. The Irish offered Indianapolis Warren Central safety Mykelti Williams yesterday, and today the four-star prospect made the decision official by committing to Notre Dame.

  4. And in that corner… The LSU Tigers

    Dec 19, 2014, 11:27 AM EST

    Les Miles Les Miles

    Notre Dame’s inclusion in the ACC’s bowl selections came in handy this year. As the Irish back-slid throughout November, they still held onto some preferred real estate, finding themselves in a pretty nice consolation game, with the opportunity to play in Nashville in the Music City Bowl.

    Carter Bryant gets us ready for LSU.

  5. Smith, Fuller nab All-American mentions

    Dec 18, 2014, 2:38 PM EST

    Jaylon Smith Jaylon Smith

    Sophomores Jaylon Smith and Will Fuller have earned more kudos than just their defensive and offensive player of the year Echoes. Both have received mention for year-end All-American awards.

  6. Bowl prep helps both present and future along offensive line

    Dec 18, 2014, 1:17 PM EST

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    While most eyes are focused on the battle at quarterback between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, the preparations for LSU will also be critical along the offensive line. The extra practices will give Brian Kelly and Harry Hiestand time to evaluate their starting five, with changes that could have both short and long-term impacts.

  7. Mailbag: Now Open

    Dec 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    Any new questions? Ones that I’ve avoided? Last minute Christmas ideas? Drop them in the comments below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  8. ‘Blind Faith’ gives first time fan the Notre Dame experience

    Dec 17, 2014, 12:29 PM EST

    Stanford v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Monday UND.com premiered the short film “Blind Faith.” Directed by Notre Dame graduate Greg Kohs, the documentary follows a blind eighth grade boy making his first visit to Notre Dame Stadium.

  9. Golson and Zaire will share time against LSU

    Dec 16, 2014, 11:40 AM EST

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Brian Kelly will play two quarterbacks against LSU, with both senior Everett Golson and sophomore Malik Zaire getting an opportunity to take on the LSU in the Music City Bowl. After a regular season where Golson served as the starter all 12 games with Zaire only seeing significant action against USC in the finale, both will be utilized in the Irish’s offensive game plan.

  10. Stanley still undecided on NFL future

    Dec 15, 2014, 4:52 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    Notre Dame junior offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley walked off the stage Friday night with the team’s Lineman of the Year Award. He’s still uncertain if it’s the last time he’ll take part in the season-ending festivities.

  11. Counting down the Irish: Looking back

    Dec 15, 2014, 3:37 PM EST

    Will Fuller, Nick VanHoose Will Fuller, Nick VanHoose

    This August, a group of people who spend way too much time watching and writing about Notre Dame football got together to put together some preseason rankings on the roster. In doing so, we (I’m definitely included) put in writing what so many of you (especially in the comments) already thought was true: We don’t know what we’re talking about sometimes.

  12. Schmidt wins MVP as Notre Dame hands out year-end awards

    Dec 13, 2014, 12:11 PM EST

    Joe Schmidt Joe Schmidt

    Middle linebacker Joe Schmidt was named the 2014 team’s MVP on Saturday night, honored by his teammates with the top award at Notre Dame’s year-end awards show. Hosted by NBC’s Mike Mayock and WNBA star Skylar Diggins, “The Echoes” withstood a building-clearing plumbing issue to hand out 16 awards.

  13. With banquet ahead, recruiting efforts in full swing

    Dec 12, 2014, 10:40 AM EST

    MyLVSports.com MyLVSports.com

    Notre Dame’s regular season may be over. The Irish’s recruiting class — one many thought would cap itself around 20 — is already at 21 commits. Get ready for a busy weekend on campus.

  14. Swarbrick in favor of compensating student-athletes through group licensing

    Dec 10, 2014, 9:49 PM EST

    Jack Swarbrick

    Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick finds himself in the news on another roller coaster day in college athletics. And while it isn’t about a coaching change (another job opening under Barry Alvarez!) or another critique of the College Football Playoff, Swarbrick found himself speaking openly — and rather candidly — about compensating student-athletes, and the perilous position college athletic departments now find themselves in.

  15. Mailbag: Now Open

    Dec 10, 2014, 12:59 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    Drop your questions below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  16. Ronnie Stanley has an NFL decision to make

    Dec 9, 2014, 12:24 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    Notre Dame’s season may have gone down the tube in November, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley’s stock has been sky-rocketing. The third-year junior (Stanley is a sophomore eligibility wise) is finishing up his first season as a left tackle and beginning to garner plenty of looks as a potential first-round draft pick.

  17. Quarterback battle will take center stage

    Dec 8, 2014, 3:51 PM EST

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Throughout spring practice, summer workouts and fall camp, Brian Kelly did everything he could to make us believe a quarterback battle was taking place between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire.

    Twelve games and 22 turnovers later, the Irish finally have one.

  18. Irish wanted challenge? They’ll get one from LSU

    Dec 8, 2014, 12:27 AM EST

    Les Miles Les Miles

    Notre Dame got what it wanted. And if you thought Brian Kelly was looking for an easy matchup to become the first Irish head coach to win eight games or more in each of his first five seasons, think again.

  19. Notre Dame to face LSU in Music City Bowl

    Dec 7, 2014, 7:01 PM EST

    Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma

    Notre Dame will be spending the holidays in Nashville. Sunday afternoon the Irish accepted their first ever bid to the Music City Bowl, where they’ll take on LSU. Les Miles’ football team finished the season 8-4.

  20. Postseason Mailbag: The ‘Moving Forward’ edition

    Dec 5, 2014, 5:16 PM EST

    Malik Zaire, J.R. Tavai Malik Zaire, J.R. Tavai

    Recruiting rankings, quarterback controversy, coaching changes and more.

    We’ll find out over the weekend where Notre Dame will go bowling. Until then, let’s dig into the mailbag.