Jul 28, 2014, 4:28 PM EDT
If Brian Kelly’s first order of business recruiting offensive linemen was to get bigger, longer and more athletic prospects, he took an old school approach when he signed sophomore John Montelus. A throwback road-grader, Montelus was the type of high school offensive lineman that never goes out of style.
But an injury at the Army All-American game required shoulder surgery as Montelus sat out his freshman season. And a transition from tackle and a two-point stance to guard in South Bend added more to his learning curve. Having reshaped his body over the last calendar year, dropping from 340 pounds to a “svelte” 320, Montelus enters training camp in a battle to make his way into the two deep, a steeper and steeper climb as the Irish continue to pile up prospects up front.
Let’s take a closer look at John Montelus.
6’4″, 320 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 60
A Top 100 prospect with offers from elite programs like Florida, LSU, Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State, Notre Dame won a big recruiting battle for Montelus, snatching Massachusetts’ top prospect and bringing him to South Bend. Viewed as an interior prospect from the start, Brian Kelly went into his hometown to snatch Montelus.
On Signing Day, Kelly joked about Montelus’ size compared to the other four offensive linemen in the 2013 recruiting class. But he spoke highly of the powerful prospect Harry Hiestand brought into South Bend.
“He’s not short on physical play. He will knock you out,” Kelly said. “He gets off the ball, he’s physical at the point of attack. He played a lot of tackle. We see him moving inside for us. But again, just his personality, his makeup, his family. I see it from‑‑ my guys are out there finding the talent, and then I get a chance to spend a lot of time with the families, and single mom who’s raised John, it’s just a great story in terms of the success, coming from Haiti and now getting an opportunity to be successful here at Notre Dame.”
Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action.
Another offensive lineman recruited by Harry Hiestand, another top-flight prospect who needs to fight to find the field. Montelus looks from a different mold than some of the other Irish recruits, a more powerful, compact prospect than the lengthy, athletic types he joins.
Montelus didn’t see the field as a freshman, but had a very productive year with the weight loss. A year with Paul Longo will do that. It’ll be interesting to see where he’s listed in the official fall roster that should be out shortly, as he’s going to need to continue to physically improve to crack this depth chart.
On paper and on his high school film, Montelus is the type of interior brawler that gets hard-nosed football fans excited. He’ll have his first opportunity to work his way onto the field this fall, and then a battle for playing time begins when Christian Lombard departs after the season.
For as promising as Montelus is as a prospect, it might be a while until he works his way into the lineup. This season is a perfect year for him to get some experience on special teams, a massive interior blocker that should keep punters and place kickers safe. From there, he’ll need to continue working, as he’ll battle some promising prospects for playing time, especially as Hiestand’s recruiting efforts don’t seem to be slowing down.
In many ways, Montelus reminds me of a better-developed Chris Stewart. It took the former offensive lineman a few seasons to get his body under control and to find the best way to tap into his potential before becoming a nice starter for the Irish.
We’re going to have to recalibrate what we expect from offensive linemen in South Bend, especially as the two-deep becomes packed with players capable of contributing. That means that Montelus might not be on the field all that soon, but his future is still as bright as ever.
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