The secondary, running backs, and front seven have been examined this off-season. Now we turn to the big uglies up front on the offensive line.
Let's take a look at what Harry Heistand gets to work with this fall.
2012 Offensive Line
It was a strong year for Notre Dame at this position with some notable exceptions like Purdue, Stanford, and Alabama. The team ran for 189.3 yards per game (38th nationally), 4.87 yards per rush (30th nationally), and a total of 2,462 yards (38th nationally). The latter stat is a high water mark for Notre Dame in the Brian Kelly era and for this century as well.
There was pretty solid experience coming in to last year. Zack Martin had been starting for 2 years, Chris Watt was coming off his first year as starter, Braxston Cave was heading in to his 3rd year of starting, Mike Golic had seen the field regularly in 2011 and made 4 starts at the end of the season, while Lombard was the only true new starter.
It's no secret that the depth and versatility just wasn't there for Notre Dame last year. The Irish are recruiting what feels like a couple dozen offensive linemen over the past two cycles for a reason. I'm not really sure the Irish coaching staff would have been comfortable with any backups from 2012 having to play serious minutes and that goes to show how lucky the team was to have the starting lineup healthy for the entire season.
2013 Offensive Line
The 2013 O-line actually has more experience (78 vs. 65) when you look at career starts heading in to the season but having to replace 2 players with new wholly inexperienced players lowered the ranking for this group. Nevertheless, experience isn't much of an issue when you have 2 outstanding veteran 5th-year leaders in Martin and Watt.
It's the time of year where opponent sites and magazines are asking me how positions and units are shaping up for the Irish. My response for the offensive line has been, "They'll be about the same as last year."
I really don't have much to add beyond that. I'm a little more concerned about the right guard spot, others more so about the center position, yet there is definitely more potential with this 2013 unit. I think most would agree that Martin and Hanratty (or Martin and Stanley) are more athletic than the 2 seniors that left the program.
The best thing that could be said for this upcoming line is that a legit 2nd team should be developed. I still expect one of either Bivin or Montelus to turn heads this August. We'll see if that happens.