Mailbag: Anything but the QBs

73 Comments

Just to get our mind off the big quarterback news. Let’s tackle a few mailbag questions… that don’t talk about the guys playing behind center.

 

twebb2: why are you so bullish on our offensive line? The reason I ask is that a year ago they were supposed to be the strength of the team, but seemed to struggle more-or-less all season, forcing the coaching staff to mix it up. They really put it together against LSU, thus kicking off 2015 on a good note. I agree with you that there’s lots of talent, lots of experience, lots to like, but I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned their disappointing 2014 performance.

You make a fair point, though I’m not sure it’s necessarily true to say that they struggled all season. While the running game was a bit sporadic, I think that was more because the offensive philosophy — and the juggling of personnel — made that the case.

That said, the shuffle of the offensive line also pointed to some issues being had by two key contributors: Nick Martin and Steve Elmer. Martin just wasn’t as healthy as he was in 2013 when he made his debut in the starting lineup. And Elmer isn’t a right tackle, even if he looks like one. Throw in the back injuries that Christian Lombard dealt with all season, and even the best laid plans needed to be scrapped.

Why be optimistic about this year? Well, Notre Dame might have the best left tackle in college football in Ronnie Stanley. Martin is healthy, back playing center. He’ll be one of those Watch List guys. Elmer finished the year strong, with only a few ugly snaps leading to the perception that his sophomore season was a mediocre one.

The new starters, Mike McGlinchey and (likely) Quenton Nelson have a lot to like. Both are physically dominant players — McGlinchey a road-grader at right tackle who did more than hold his own against LSU (and didn’t get exposed against Leonard Williams at USC) while Nelson is a beast coming off a redshirt year. Throw in Alex Bars as a sixth man and this group is in great shape.

It’s a pretty perfect mix of experience, talent and a new commitment to the ground game. Maybe that’s why I’m expecting big things.

 

Nudeman: Here’s a question I saw on another board that is THE question for the year: what will be the game ND loses this year that they have no business losing? Don’t argue with me boys, it’s happened every year in the BK era except 2012.

Tulsa, Pitt, Northwestern, Navy, Louisville, etc … Who gets added to the list this year?

Oh Nudey…. Shocker that this one’s coming from you. But I’d like to point this out before getting to the actual question: Are you trying to say Brian Kelly is the only coach to have an upset pulled on him each season?

You could just as easily indict USC’s program, or Florida State’s (up until the last season and a half), with the same “shouldn’t lose” games tripping up just about everybody—Nick Saban included. Jimbo Fisher might as well have been known as “Guy who loses as a 12-point favorite on an annual basis” before selling his soul to the devil Jameis Winston came along.

I’m going to do some parsing. Throw Tulsa away. I hope we never experience a week like that again, and it’s hard to say that anybody really should care about that football game just days after losing Declan Sullivan.

As for Navy — the national champs last season were on the ropes entering the fourth quarter, so while it’s certainly one of the uglier losses of the BK era, it’s not the laugher that it was before the program turned around under Paul Johnson and Ken Niumatalolo. It’s a bad loss. But again — it was a Year One defeat.

Louisville had double-digit players drafted from last year’s team. So I’m disqualifying that loss as one that Notre Dame had no business losing. But I give up on Northwestern. That was brutal. Throw in the Pitt game from 2013 and they were both ugly, ugly losses.

If I’m looking for some unexpected speed bumps next season, I’m going back to two well-known culprits: Pitt and Boston College.

With Pat Narduzzi building off of Paul Chryst’s momentum, you’ve got a hard-nosed offense combined with a defensive master craftsman who is familiar with the Irish offense at the helm.

And playing in Fenway Park against Boston College (if Eagles fans can afford a ticket), I think Steve Addazio—a former Notre Dame assistant under Bob Davie—will have his dudes ready to play.

Those are my pothole games. I don’t think Notre Dame is losing either, but those are the ones I’d circle.

 

boatclubprez: Who is your best guess to start at Center after Martin departs? Could you see McGovern or Montelus making a move?

First off, great handle. RIP Boat Club. What a filthy, yet wonderful, establishment.

It’ll be interesting to see how Tristen Hoge develops. Notre Dame hasn’t really recruited a true center during Kelly’s time in South Bend, so if he’s as good as advertised, expect him to be in the conversation.

But during spring ball, Sam Mustipher was given the first chance at the backup job. And you’ve got to think he’ll stay there, with no interest in burning a year of eligibility from Hoge—though whoever is backing up Martin will need to show they can handle the shotgun snapping.

While keeping Matt Hegarty on campus would’ve been nice, with the roster crunch to get to 85 (much less crunchy as of today) I still think the Irish will be okay. But life after the Martin brothers will be interesting, and we’ll finally get a chance to see if Harry Hiestand has recruited as well as we think he has.