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How we got here: Offensive line

Oct 10, 2013, 10:31 AM EDT

Zack Martin AP

When left tackle Zack Martin decided to return for a fifth year of eligibility instead of likely being chosen in the first half of the NFL Draft, Notre Dame received a boost similar to the ones they got when Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert and Manti Te’o decided to come back for their senior seasons. While Martin might not end up a first rounder or a national player of the year candidate, he will be a four-year starter at left tackle and the team’s offensive lineman of the year for a ridiculous fourth consecutive season, setting the standard for durability and consistency that will be a model for the program moving forward.

Martin’s decision to return was also a key to stabilization up front. The veteran left tackle teamed with Chris Watt to create one of college football’s best left sides, and is such a far cry better than any other option currently on the Irish roster at tackle that it’s no wonder he’s considered a “six-star” recruit. With new starters Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin surrounding Christian Lombard, who has shifted inside to guard, the front was expected to be one of the best the Irish had in recent memory.

Has it been that? Not exactly. But it certainly has lived up to that billing in other facets as well. Let’s take a closer look at the offensive line.


Run Game:
189 rushes for 822 yards.
114th in Rush Attempts
66th in YPC (4.35)
91st in Yards Per Game (137.0)

Pass Game:
T-8th in Country in Sacks Allowed (4)
1.9% Sack Rate


Continue Dominating in Pass Protection. Against pretty stiff competition, the Irish have done a very good job protecting Tommy Rees, a quarterback that doesn’t have much scramble ability. Of teams with over 200 passing attempts, only Fresno State and Toledo have given up less sacks.

Keeping Rees protected is a key in a passing game that hasn’t been able to rely on quick throws and has taken more shots down field than any team in the Kelly era. While Rees did a nice job buying additional time in the pocket against Arizona State, he’ll be tested again by Clancy Pendergast’s Trojans defense, a top ten defense in terms of sacks.

Shore up the run blocking. It was about this time last year where the running game came to life as well. The bye week should be well utilized by Harry Hiestand to get everybody more comfortable in the ground game, where the offensive line has struggled sometimes accounting for defenders in the box and getting to the second level and blocking linebackers.

On paper, USC will be the fourth top 15 defense the Irish have faced thus far, amazing considering they gave up 62 points to Arizona State. Get off to a good start against the Trojans and that could build momentum for the season’s second half.

Keep developing depth. You probably didn’t notice, but that was freshman Steve Elmer working in at guard with Christian Lombard. That a freshman would come in to help a fourth year player gives you an idea of just how good Elmer could be. Ronnie Stanley’s growing into his role at right tackle, but a future with a rebuilt left side of the Irish line is coming sooner than many Irish fans want.

Starting to win some games comfortably should allow younger players like Elmer and Conor Hanratty to get more reps, while the rest of the talented freshman class continue to save a year of eligibility. It should also allow Lombard to get more comfortable playing guard, a transition that hasn’t always been smooth.


  1. wisner74 - Oct 10, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    Smitty. I am just really tired of it all re TR. And I am especially tired of it when it come to someone like Nude. Let me ask you a question: were you in the stands last year for Purdue? I was. And at least 20,00 jackasses booed Tommy Rees. This was the single most embarrassing experience I have ever had as an ND alum and ND fan in Notre Dame Stadium. I’ve been to at least 80 games, probably closer to 100. It was disgraceful.

    This is rightfully Nude’s site. He’s THE MAN here; so if you want to tell someone he’s better than that, it’s Nude (when he comes to TR) not me. TR is almost young enough to be my GRANDson. So I really, really hate what goes on here, and I assume, on other sites. It really detracts from the enjoyment.

    I’m going after Nude, because he, like a few others like Bern, have a lot to add. And it’s stuff I can learn from. But as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to TR, he’s and his minions are quite abusive.

    • mtflsmitty - Oct 11, 2013 at 1:33 AM

      I actually just wrote you a longish response and realized how dumb all this is. (So I deleted it). Why are Nude and getsome setting the tone for the comments section day after day? Because we foolishly respond, where no response would be better.

      Lets just talk football. Occasional good-hearted ribbing of one another, and our own uninformed analysis of player performance and coach’s game planning.

      I will ignore getsome. I’m sure we can all agree that’s a good idea. Ignore Nude on an as-needed basis. And we can all get back to enjoying Keith’s writing and our team.

      (Yes, I was at Purdue game. Was bad form)

      • wisner74 - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM

        I think getsome is a good example of a guy who can certainly post interesting stuff. I don’t want to ignore him, but I don’t want to have to wade through all the crap to get to what he really can add.

        I never ignore Nude. He’s just been over-the-top re Rees and I just want him to stop. He is a leader here, and I think the way he writes about TR provokes a lot of the rancor both in those who agree and those who disagree. I am hoping that if he dials it down a notch everyone else on both sides of this will also.

  2. getsome99 - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    I’ll be fair to Nudeman and give him credit when it’s earned. No need to constantly point out his good comments when I only take issue with his bad ones. (Sound familiar? Nudeman=Tommy Rees).

    I agree with Smitty. Nudeman doesn’t have followers, just people who share his passionate disdain for one player. And himself of course. If someone wants to say something nice or even neutral about TR, they should be able to do so without being taunted and/or challenged to a fist fight. The Dan Crowley is another prime example of these degenerates. As I was addressing Nudeman the other day, he was peculiarly angry and retaliated as if I said something personal to him.

    Again, I don’t recall behaving like this one time on this site other when I had to pimp slap Nudeman for getting out of line.

    • wisner74 - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:41 AM

      Stop it. Just stop it.

    • irishwilliamsport - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:05 AM


      You obviously are a relative or something of TR, I was responding to the first post from this article and will freely convey my opinion. The horse is dead, there’s nothing left to say about it so let’s move on.

      I think this would have been dynamic offense with Golson this year this year with all those weapons and all day to throw the ball.

      • wisner74 - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        I can only imagine BK’s reaction when he first heard that he wouldn’t have EG for this season. I am sure he had vision of an offense just like you described. It would have been so great to watch. And then EG did a foolish thing.

  3. getsome99 - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    So far, Nelson Agholar looks like a beast and Kessler can definitely scramble better than Rees.

  4. nudeman - Oct 11, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    Against my better judgment, I’ll respond to some of the stuff I’ve read here

    1) In this comments section I’ve been called a jagoff, stupid, idiot, henchman, etc. No Hitler card?
    2) I am reminded of Clarence Thomas and his “high tech lynching” comment. No pubic hair on the coke can though,
    3) Yet
    4) Interestingly, all these personal invectives came during or after cocktail hour. Next round is on me, guys

    Keep it up.

    • wisner74 - Oct 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

      There’s that humor that makes you one of the best.

      I’m just asking you to lay off TR . . . not change your opinion, just lay off. Your post at 7:07 last night was abusive. He’s a 22-year old amateur athlete who as far as I can tell is doing the very best he can.

      Despite your protestations to the contrary, you are banging on the kid. And as a leader on this site I think you not only influence how many of us think, you also influence how many of us post, both those who agree with you and those who do not.

      So, please stop the heavy-handed stuff and lead us out of this cesspool we get into every time TR comes up.

      • nudeman - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:13 AM

        I dong remember the exact post at 7:07, nor am I going to attempt to scroll back on my phone. But I take issue with “abusive”. That would involve a bunch if below the belt personal shots and maybe some 4 letter words. Pretty sure I didn’t do that.

      • nudeman - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM

        On the other hand, calling someone a jagoff ….

  5. domerboyirish - Oct 11, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    Where would this line be without Zack Martin?

    We have been fantastic on pass protection. How dominant could we be offensively with a dual threat QB?

    It’s great to see Elmer getting some playing time to get ready for next year. In the second half of the season I’d love to see some underclassmen get some PT.

    With pass protection this good, I do not know why we don’t run more screen passes to the RB’s? It seems like we could get these big guys out in space with any of our RB’s and get huge yards out of it. What DB would want to see guys like Martin coming down field to pancake anyone that gets in his way.

    I guess I could say the same thing regarding draw plays. With a line this good at pass protection, how about an occasional traditional draw play on second and ten? Just a thought.

  6. getsome99 - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    @ Nudeman,

    Don’t take it personal. I’ve been called all those things too plus the Hitler card. Hell, I was even invited to a barbecue and a fist fight.

  7. irishwilliamsport - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    Last night was a typical Arizona no defense 38 – 31 shootout. Pac 10 spread football stuff. Kessler is young and we have a pass rush now and it’s not going to be easy for him Saturday at ND. We would have blown them out if Tosh.0 was coaching but it will probably turn into a close game. Hopefully we can run the ball and stick to it, we do have a stud line and backs and why we are 110th in the nation at running attempts just puzzles me. 34 – 21 ND

  8. getsome99 - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    ‘Rich Rod’ QB throws for 363, 4 TD’s, and 0 INT’s against USC defense last night. This is a team that runs for nearly 300 yards per game and rarely throws the ball. We want to establish the run, but I think we’ll have more opportunities through the air. Should be a thorough beat down either way.

    GO IRISH!!!

  9. getsome99 - Oct 11, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    @ Nudeman,

    I apologize for calling you a jagoff.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 12, 2013 at 2:42 AM

      Aw, that’s sweet.

  10. ndadvocate - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    @ getsome99

    This article was posted on 10/10 at 10:31 AM. You begin commenting at 11:33 AM on the same day and have continued posting off and on for 24 straight hours on just this article! This doesnt even mention the other articles…What I’m trying to say is…you post too damned much. Go to work, take your dog on a walk, spend some time with your wife/girlfriend. It’s exhuasting skipping over all of your posts.

  11. getsome99 - Oct 11, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    How exhausting is it trying to tell people what to do? Is it nearly as exhausting as “not reading” user comments and recording how often and what time they were posted? Why don’t you focus on what you’re doing with your time and not worry about how others spend theirs?

  12. jem5b - Oct 11, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    get some – spirited cry expressing approval and the desire for more or to continue, traditionally associated in the Vietnam War to killing or sex

  13. getsome99 - Oct 11, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    @ jem5b

    I cannot comment on anything you may have found via the Internet as to it’s origin. I was born after Vietnam ended.

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