Irish Offensive Line vs. Virginia Tech Defensive Line
I’ve said it before, the strength of the Irish offense remains on the shoulders of the front five. They keep the quarterback protected and open up running lanes for the backs. Generally, the Irish will have the upper-hand in this matchup vs their opponents, but this week they face a very good, very experienced defensive front.
This will be the best defensive line Notre Dame has seen since they played Michigan. With the loss of guard and veteran captain Alex Bars, the usually solid interior of the offensive line becomes more of a toss-up. Senior Trevor Ruhland will fill the spot with sophomore Aaron Banks most likely rotating and seeing more playing time. Fortunately, the playing field is somewhat even after one of Tech’s top pass rushers Trevon Still was dismissed from the team following their loss to Old Dominion.
Virginia Tech lost defensive tackle Tim Settle, but redshirt senior Ricky Walker is back and will anchor their front as one of the better run stopping defenders. Redshirt senior Vinny Mahota will play alongside Walker and combine to put a lot of pressure on the interior of the line in the run and pass game. Center Sam Mustipher will need to be his usual self and have a great game anchoring the interior of the line. Keeping a clean pocket for Book and getting movement on double teams with Ruhland and Kraemer in the run game is going to be huge.
Redshirt junior Houshun Gaines and redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Belmar will be seeing most of the action at both defensive end spots. Gaines is a 6-3, 240 pound physical end who has seven career sacks and 11 tackles for loss. After the confident words of left tackle Liam Eichenberg, this shouldn’t be a problematic matchup.
At the end of the day, Notre Dame is facing one of the best run defenses without one of their best offensive lineman. That will be one of the biggest storylines of the game and it will feature two of the better position groups on both teams.