In an offense infested with question-marks, Notre Dame’s O-line represents a haven of certainty. In fact, this position-group generates intriguing questions that revolve around true freshman John Montelus: how quickly will he see the field and how high is his ceiling? In the Martin brothers, Zack and Nick, Connor Hanratty, Chris Watt, and Christian Lombard, position coach Harry Hiestand has a well-seasoned stable of veterans, with seventy-plus games between them. In Montelus, he has a four-star freshman ready to push for a starting position. Whatever the answers provided by Tommy Rees or Malik Zaire or Andrew Hendrix or Greg Bryant or GAIII, the Irish O-line will beg no questions itself.
IRISH PLAYER TO WATCH: Nick Martin, Junior, C, 6’4″, 290 lbs.
Taking over from Braxston Cave, all eyes should be on Nick Martin, Zack’s younger brother, as he snaps the ball to whomever is going to hand it or throw it to whomever. To Nick will fall the responsibility of determining the protections, a difficult task against average defensive fronts and one that becomes daunting against talent-laden teams like Stanford and USC, who will switching to a 5-2 front in 2013. Regardless, to Martin falls that responsibility. He has shown the chops to be able to handle it. In the Blue Gold Game, Nick acquitted himself well against a pretty good defense and a decent nose tackle.
DEFENSIVE LINE: THE ENEMY
Thankfully, when running down the list of opponents about which I really worry, your Michigans, your Michigan States, your Oklahomas, your Stanfords, your USCs, I note that none of them have completely formed offensive lines. Of that bunch, though, Michigan’s may be the best and on that team, Taylor Lewan may be the best. Stanford’s O-line is going to be very solid, but, honestly, I think Lewan’s the best O-lineman maybe in the country and I didn’t want to pick Stanford again.
At 6’8″, 308 pounds, the All-American senior was last year’s Big Ten O-lineman of the season, winning the Rimington-Pace award. Heading in to the 2013 campaign, Taylor is on the Maxwell, Outland, and Lombardi Award watch lists. In a position group that benefits most from consistency, Taylor’s thirty-five starts give him more experience than Lindsay Lohan. The battle between Lewan and Tuitt should be epic this season as both are likely NFL first round picks.
Notre Dame’s O-line will not garner the headlines that the D-line will. The players’ names will largely go unread by the commentators. And that’s as it should be, for the most part. The men in the trenches only get noticed when they miss a block or jump the snap. This year’s Fighting Irish should quietly anchor the team, regardless of the questions around them.