You can talk all you want about who the quarterback is going to be, or who’s gonna carry the ball or who’s gonna replace Michael Floyd. When you want to get serious, I’ll be here. Go on. What? You’re back? Couldn’t stay away from the Bayou, could you? You’re not the first, baby. And you won’t be the last. But before we get into all that, let’s talk about the offensive line.
To be honest, if the O-line doesn’t dominate the line of scrimmage, you could have Matt Barkley or Andrew Luck behind center, and it wouldn’t matter. As Coach Kelly said in the video above, a strong offensive line “has always been a staple in any good football program.” The corollary to that, of course, is that a weak offensive line is a staple in any crappy football program. Believe me when I say this: the 2012 Fighting Irish have a very strong offensive line.
And it’s not just me saying that. The internets are saying that. Athlon ranks our O-Line in the Top Ten, right there with USC, Oklahoma and Michigan. In fact, if you love O-line play, and if you don’t you should stick to watching synchronized diving, you are going to LOVE this season. Along with ND, USC, Michigan and Oklahoma, Michigan State and Stanford made it into the preseason Top Fifteen. Bottom line is that our front five are as good as anybody’s and this should be the year the start crushing it. Why, Bayou? Why 2012?
2012 will be the year of the O-line for several reasons, the first of which is that we will have a mobile quarterback back there to keep the D-line honest. Let’s face it, loyal readers, Tommy Rees had the mobility of a fireplace. Do you know what that does to an O-lineman? Well, let me tell you: it makes you nuts. When you hear “pass” in the huddle, you curse silently to yourself, because you know that no matter how good you are, YOU CAN’T HOLD YOUR BLOCK FOR TWENTY MINUTES. Not without holding. Sacks (and turnovers) are poison to the morale of the offensive line. They infect the relationship between the QB and his line and they can begin to undo the relationships between the linemen themselves.
Tony Rice, who knows something about playing quarterback at ND, thinks Golson is “better” than he was. That’s saying something. Me? I think our O-line might be better than his. Rice had Grunhard, Heck, Heldt, Ryan and Brown in front of him. Golson (or Hendrix) will have Lombard, Golic, Cave, Watt and Martin in front of him, and these young men are beasts. They’re all over 300 pounds and Lombard is a monster at 6’5″ & 309. They have a new line coach in Harry Hiestand, who brings a respected NFL-pedigree to the program.
Finally, they have experience and maturity on their side. Like rowing, the offensive line is a collective of individuals functioning as one. They communicate constantly and cover for each other in a symbiotic relationship from center to guard to tackle. With the “good morale and great communciation” that Coach Kellly mentioned in the video at the top, they stand ready to improve upon last year’s not insignificant accomplishments. Last year, they were #1 in the nation (7/7) on Fourth Down conversions and were tied with 10 other teams for 24th in the country in sacks allowed with 17.
And if you don’t think going against Nix, Manti and the rest of the boys all day long in practice won’t make our O-line an elite unit when it’s all said and done, you, my friend, should go back to watching rhythmic gymnastics.
The front five who take the field against Navy on September 1 are going to set the tone with their speed, size and ferocity. They will play at once the most important and unheralded role in clawing the Fighting Irish over the top and onward to victory.