State Of The Irish: Notre Dame Offensive Line

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State Of The Irish: Notre Dame Offensive Line
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

State of the Irish will be a nine-piece miniseries, analyzing Notre Dame football from top to bottom while also predicting what's ahead for the team.

Left Tackle

No. 72 Paul Duncan, 5th-year Senior (6'7, 315)

After sitting out the entire 2008 campaign following hip surgery, Duncan returns to the team at full strength in his 5th-year of eligibility.

Duncan has proved to Coach Charlie Weis that he can be a durable, productive lineman for the Irish. 

In the horrid 2007 season, he was one of the brighter spots along the line, starting all 12 games for the team.

As most would assume, Duncan has beaten out underclassmen Matt Romine and Lane Clelland for the starting spot on the preseason depth chart.

Protecting the blindside of Jimmy Clausen is the most important job along the line, so Duncan has a lot of responsibility for the success of the unit this year.

If he can hold his own against the elite defensive ends, the sky is the limit for this unit.

If Duncan struggles, 2009 could be another mediocre season.

Backup: No. 77 Matt Romine, Junior (6'5, 295)

Romine came into Notre Dame as a highly touted prospect in high school, but suffered minor injuries in the beginning of his career.

After redshirting his freshman year of school, he played minimal time in his second year on campus.

Until he sees the field, Romine will be a question mark on how big of a contributor he can be.

Left Guard

No. 59 Chris Stewart, Junior (6'5, 330)

Stewart came into Notre Dame as one of the largest and biggest (physically) recruits to commit to the Fighting Irish.

In the spring of 2006, Stewart weighed in at a whopping 397 pounds.

Now a junior, Stewart finds himself at a respectable, leaner 330 pounds.

Still the biggest lineman on the team, Stewart is more athletic and in-shape to play extended periods of time.

After starting 10 games last season, he missed the final two with an injury.

If Stewart stays healthy and uses his frame to his advantage, the Irish running game will get a major boost.

Backup: No. 52 Braxton Cave, Sophomore (6'3, 310)

So far in his Notre Dame career, Cave's biggest contribution to the program has been his recruiting skills.

His house served as the recruiting headquarters of the sophomore class, which paid big dividends.

On Friday, Coach Weis pointed out that the players have spent a great amount of time hitting the weights this off-season.

Most notably, Cave is now able to max-bench 520 lbs.

After starting his career as a center, Cave made the move to left guard this season.

Expect him to spend the year as a solid backup to Stewart when he needs a breather.

Center

No. 55 Eric Olsen, Senior (6'4, 305)

The biggest shake-up along the line this offseason has been Eric Olsen's move to Center.

Olsen started 2008 at left guard for the Irish, displaying his intensity and fierceness on every snap.

You will rarely see a defensive lineman throw this guy around.

Although a solid offensive lineman, Olsen will now have the added responsibilities of snapping the ball to Clausen. 

However, his biggest responsibility will be displaying leadership.

If the offensive line is to be successful as a unit in 2009, Olsen must come foward as a leader and let his intensity rub off on the other four starters on every play.

Backup: No. 51 Dan Wenger, Senior (6'4, 302)

Losing a starting job is never fun.

Losing a starting job in to a sophomore makes it even worse.

After playing a total of 378 minutes in 2008, Wenger will have a minimized role as a backup in 2009.

Losing the starting job does not mean he will not be on the field, but he needs to perform when the opportunity arises.

Luckily for the Irish, this is a good sign.

This is the first position switch that shows the team has finally re-developed the depth that was long gone.

Expect Wenger to have a solid year as a backup, apply for a 5th-year, and re-take the starting job in 2010 for Olsen when he graduates.

Right Guard

No. 78 Trevor Robinson, Sophomore (6'5, 305)

Finally, the depth along the offensive line that Coach Weis has been waiting for has arrived.

After playing a Blue-Gold game without two full units, Weis made it a priority to sign some top linemen in the next few classes.

One of them came in the form of ex-Nebraska commit, Trevor Robinson.

Robinson found his way into the starting lineup after contributing heavily as a true freshman.

The move comes at the expense of Dan Wenger losing his starting center spot, but the staff made it known that they want the best five linemen on the field at the same time.

In his presser Friday, Weis said that Robinson's play will be a big factor in the Irish's running game.

Based off of his first two years at the school, look for Robinson to make a run at All-American honors in the future.

Right Tackle

No. 74 Sam Young, Senior (6'8, 320)

Coming into school as a five-star recruit from Florida, Young had high expectations from the start.

Forced to play from the get-go as a true freshman, he had to adapt to the college game Saturday by Saturday.

This led to some fans being disappointed in Young's performances.

Dating back to his freshman year, Young has played in an impressive 38 consecutive games at both tackle spots.

He has shown durability, and flashes of brilliance, but has moments where he looks lost.

His frame screams NFL 1st-rounder.

If Young and the line have a solid year for the Irish, he will be a heavily-scouted prospect.

Inconsistency always comes along with Young, but look for him to have an excellent last season for the team. 

 

Next State of the Irish: Wide Receivers

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Quarterbacks

Backfield

 

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