This Irish offensive line is consisted of 4 seniors led by the All-American candidate Zack Martin, then Chris Watt, Braxton Cave, and Mike Golic Jr. There is one junior on the offensive line and that is Christian Lombard, who will be the only returning starter on the offensive line. When talking about the offensive linemen they are usually lumped into a group, as a group they would receive an A. The Notre Dame rushing attack averaged 4.99 yards per carry this season, which is 28th in the country. Notre Dame has allowed 16 sacks on the season, which is a four way tie for 30th in the nation. With limited stats you have to go back and look at the games and performances they had. There is a saying, “offensive linemen only get recognized when they mess up.” These are often true, but let’s see how one of the best offensive lines in the country did individually. I don’t know if many people realize that there is a chance that all four senior offensive linemen could be taken in next year’s NFL draft.
Zack Martin, LT
Along with being a senior team captain he is an All-American candidate, Lombardi Award candidate, and Outland Trophy candidate, which isn’t even the beginning. The three year starter has played and started in 38 games in his career with one to go. He has started on the offensive line since he was only a sophomore, which is rare for offensive linemen. The communication Martin has with his fellow ‘Big Uglies’ makes the offensive line much better when an audible does happen. He has only given up one sack this year and according to UND.com he received the highest grade as an offensive lineman (done by the coaches each week). Martin could be taken as high as the first round in the NFL draft, but the second round is where most people think he will be taken.
Overall Grade: A
Chris Watt, LG
One of the four seniors on the offensive line, who had a solid season for the Irish. He started 25 games in his career, with one remaining, and he saw action in all 13 games as a sophomore. He has started every game next to Zack Martin since 2011. At 6’3’’ 310 pounds he is a big offensive guard, but not slow at all. His point of attack is always fundamental and even though Golic does most of the pulling for the Irish, you will often see Watt make a good combo block against a 3-4 defense from the nose or end to a linebacker. He has one year of eligibility left and it will be interesting to see where he gets selected in the NFL draft.
Overall Grade: B
Braxton Cave, C
The only other person than the quarterback that touches the ball every offensive possession is the center Braxton Cave. Last year he went down with foot injury against Wake Forest and caused him to miss 4 games. He received a 5th year of eligibility and came back to have a very good season for the Irish. Notre Dame struggled when Cave was out last year and you can see the anchor of the line really taking effect. At 6’3’’ 304 pounds he is not only quick and agile, but a very strong lineman. Especially when he has to take on nose guards, which usually weight upwards of 315 pounds. It takes a lot of concentration snapping the ball and then firing out at a defender that is just as big as or bigger than you. When facing a 4 front defensive scheme I think Cave is a much better center. In a 4 front the center will usually double down on one of the defensive tackles or go for the backside linebacker.
Overall Grade: B
Mike Golic Jr. RG
The son of Mike Golic Sr. who played at Notre Dame and in the NFL for many years. Golic Jr. When Notre Dame is under center on offense there is a very good chance that they will run the football and when they do they have a couple of plays they run. On one particular play when Golic will pull to the strong side and kick out the defensive tackle or a linebacker that is filling. To me Golic is at his best when pulling. There were points he would over step his footwork and have bad leverage against an opponent and he would also lunge at times instead of playing with his feet underneath him. He has had his fair share of false start penalties this year, but overall he has had a good year and might have seen his draft stock rise as the season progressed.
Overall Grade: B-
Christian Lombard, RT
Last year he saw action in all 13 games, but didn’t start any of them. This year he has started all 12 and will start the 13th in Miami. At 6’5’’ and 309 pounds he is the tallest of the linemen, and I do feel sorry for those poor defensive players that have to deal with this guy for 60 minutes. He is the junior of the bunch and the most inexperienced, but this year he has gotten better and better with each game. Throughout the season I saw him struggle making his kick slides when pass blocking. Lombard didn’t look totally comfortable with the technique he was using. As the season went on you can see a clear improvement in his footwork. The improvement I saw was in the Wake Forest game when he pulled and had a key block for Cierre Wood to spring that long run in the 3rd quarter. He did everything correctly on that pull and it shows how he has progressed over the year. He is a key for the 2013 Notre Dame offensive line, since it will be very inexperienced.
Overall Grade: B-