Notre Dame football: The 5 best to play on the offensive line

Notre Dame offensive line (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Notre Dame offensive line (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Offensive line
Notre Dame offensive line (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

With a long history of excellence on the offensive line, there’s no shortage of great players who have made Notre Dame, “Offensive Line U.”

There’s no position group as overlooked as the offensive line. However, without a strong offensive line, it is impossible to operate an offense. It doesn’t matter if Tom Brady, Jerry Rice, and Barry Sanders are highlighting the skills positions. With no time and blocking, they aren’t able to operate.

A great offensive line is a full unit. If there’s one weak chain link it doesn’t matter how strong the other links other. The chain will break and pressure will burst through. That’s why it’s so important to have five talented offensive linemen. Without that, a team can hardly be great.

Through its history, Notre Dame has consistently had great teams. With this has come consistently great offensive lines and offensive linemen. Even with that long line of great offensive linemen, many of those players have been forgotten about as time has gone on. They’re just not as flashy of names as the likes of Tim Brown and Joe Montana.

It’s important to start remembering these players better. By not doing so would be a disservice to the long history of Notre Dame football.

Now, of course, there are some difficulties in judging the top five Notre Dame offensive linemen ever. There’s the issue of time for starters. The modern offensive lineman is huge. In their 2020 class, Notre Dame signed an offensive lineman named Tosh Baker. He stands 6’7″  and 271-pounds, and will likely gain weight as he works out in a modern college football strength and conditioning program. Compare that to offensive linemen from around a hundred years ago when Notre Dame football was beginning to make a name for itself. During the 1920s, the average size of an offensive lineman was 6′ and 211-pounds. For reference, that’s the size of Ian Book.

Comparing eras where players were that different physically is difficult, to begin with, and that’s before you take into account the change in their responsibilities. The modern offensive lineman needs to be as good at pass blocking as they are at run blocking. Cut blocking is rarely done in the modern game, and you can’t touch an opponent’s helmet. It’s like comparing Tommie Frazier of Nebraska to Luke Falk of Washington State. Both put up huge numbers, but what was expected of them were worlds apart.

Finally, there is a challenge in judging each position on the offensive line in one group as a whole. The job of a center is different from a guard or a tackle. Each position on the offensive line faces its own challenges and they must be accounted for.

Furthermore, this is a college list. The extent of success they had in the NFL, or as a coach, doesn’t have any value on their standings on this list. This is about their overall success as a Notre Dame football player.

So, here are the top five payers to ever play along the offensive line in Notre Dame history: