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. Five things we learned: Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28

    Nov 22, 2014, 8:40 PM EST

    Austin Collinsworth, Joe Schmidt Austin Collinsworth, Joe Schmidt

    Kyle Brindza stared down his spot. Envisioned making the kick. Took a final deep breath before waiting for the snap.

    And then he missed it.

  2. Live chat — Notre Dame vs. Louisville

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:15 PM EST

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    How will the regular season end for the Irish? Let’s talk about it here during the home finale from Notre Dame Stadium.

  3. Mailbag: Still steaming mad about last week

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:33 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    With the questions (understandably) a little bit more filled with frustration than usual, it seems more than a few of you are searching for answers to last week’s loss still. Let’s answer a few mailbag questions before the game.

  4. Former Irish greats talk about their favorite Notre Dame memories

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:42 AM EST

    Washington v Notre Dame Getty Images

    With Senior Day a perfect time to look back, some former Notre Dame football greats are looking back at their time with the Irish. And they’re doing it in a pretty cool way.

  5. Pregame Six Pack: Battling Louisville in Senior sendoff

    Nov 21, 2014, 4:31 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

    And just like that, Notre Dame’s season is nearly over. While losing three of four games has dampened the spirits of fans and detoured the team’s postseason hopes, the Irish will play their final game at home on Saturday, a senior sendoff in Notre Dame Stadium for a large group with a still-to-be-determined future.

  6. After unexplainable loss, can Irish rally again?

    Nov 20, 2014, 2:21 PM EST

    BYU v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Few memories are shorter collectively than football fans. Every mistake is magnified in the prism of “now,” with the devastation of a difficult to understand loss like last weekend’s to Northwestern consistently taking dead aim at the foundation of a football program, regardless of its stability.

  7. Louisville Mailbag: Now Open

    Nov 19, 2014, 11:07 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    Send your questions in below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  8. And in that corner… The Louisville Cardinal

    Nov 19, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    DeVante Parker, Tyler Hunter DeVante Parker, Tyler Hunter

    Another Saturday, another football game for Notre Dame. And because of last weekend’s loss to Northwestern, the Irish face what now feels like a must-win game on Senior Day.

    Mark Ennis gets us ready for the Louisville Cardinals.

  9. Kyle McCarthy announces he’s cancer free

    Nov 19, 2014, 12:02 AM EST

    Washington v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Notre Dame graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy took to Twitter to share the good news that he’s been given a cancer-free diagnosis. The former Irish captain had been battling an undisclosed type of cancer since earlier this year, staying with the team throughout surgery and multiple treatments.

  10. BK: “We’re going to fight through this rough spot”

    Nov 18, 2014, 4:40 PM EST

    Purdue v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Brian Kelly met with the media this afternoon, a few days into preparation for Louisville. While there were certainly questions about how the Irish were going to challenge a Cardinals team with some really exceptional personnel on both sides of the ball, the focus was mostly on the guys inside Notre Dame’s locker room.

  11. The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

    Nov 17, 2014, 1:22 PM EST

    Will Fuller, Nick VanHoose Will Fuller, Nick VanHoose

    A little less than 48 hours after Notre Dame’s loss to Northwestern, it doesn’t seem like too many people are over it. So let’s dispense with the introductions and pull the band-aid.

    Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Saturday’s disastrous 43-40 loss to the Wildcats.

  12. Former Irish back Jonas Gray has monster game for Patriots

    Nov 17, 2014, 10:46 AM EST

    Jonas Gray Navy

    Jonas Gray became the NFL’s overnight sensation. It only took three long years for him to get there. The former Irish back dominated in a breakthrough game for the Patriots.

  13. Kelly talks failed two-point play, moving on to Louisville

    Nov 16, 2014, 4:06 PM EST

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    As you might have noticed, Notre Dame lost to Northwestern yesterday. And that’s got more than a few people unhappy. Brian Kelly talked about moving forward on his Sunday teleconference.

  14. Five things we learned: Northwestern 43, Notre Dame 40

    Nov 15, 2014, 9:36 PM EST

    Northwestern v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Apologies to Van Morrison’s mother. There didn’t have to be days like this.

    Notre Dame’s overtime 43-40 loss to Northwestern Saturday is a game that defies explanation. Turnovers. Mistakes. Coaching blunders. They all add up to the worst Saturday Brian Kelly has ever had at Notre Dame Stadium, and perhaps one of the worst defeats in his 20-plus year coaching career.

  15. Live chat — Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

    Nov 15, 2014, 3:15 PM EST

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    After a long time away from South Bend, the Irish finally return home to Notre Dame Stadium. Met by Northwestern, the Irish have a chance to get back to their winning ways, against a Wildcat team that’s 3-6 and struggling in a less-than-stellar Big Ten.

  16. Online viewing guide for Notre Dame-Northwestern

    Nov 15, 2014, 11:13 AM EST

    NDonNBC

    It’s game day in snowy South Bend. For those of you not enjoying things from the “cozy” confines of Notre Dame Stadium, you can catch all the action, as usual, on NBC, with a pregame show starting at 3:00 p.m. ET and kickoff coming at 3:30.

  17. Northwestern Mailbag: (Begrudgingly) Moving on

    Nov 15, 2014, 11:03 AM EST

    Lloyd Carrington, Everett Golson Lloyd Carrington, Everett Golson

    Nothing like a difficult loss to rankle the soul of an Irish fan. And while I smartly steered clear of the comments, it doesn’t look like too many of you did. For a football fan, you can dwell on struggles and turnovers and other mistakes for weeks and weeks. For a football team? It’s on to the next one.

  18. Pregame Six Pack: Wildcats in the winter

    Nov 14, 2014, 2:37 PM EST

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    It’s a winter wonderland in South Bend. As an early snow covers the Midwest before the middle of November, it’s a wonderful reminder that FieldTurf has been installed in Notre Dame Stadium, allowing Saturday afternoon’s game to look more like football than broomball, as it has in the past.

  19. High stakes struggles: Irish D failing when it counts

    Nov 13, 2014, 2:48 PM EST

    Joe Schmidt Joe Schmidt

    Heading into the season, questions surrounded Notre Dame’s defense. With key starters gone at every position, the strength of Brian Kelly’s previous four teams would need to replace a cast of characters that played a lot of really good football.

  20. Northwestern Mailbag: Now Open

    Nov 12, 2014, 6:10 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    Drop the questions below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.