Proving Ground

Senior center Mike Golic has a golden opportunity over the season's final four contests – one that could secure a 5th-season of eligibility in South Bend.

Kapron Lewis-Moore, Braxston Cave, Jamoris Slaughter, and Sean Cwynar: Four of the team's 14 graduating seniors are all-but-guaranteed a fifth season of eligibility should they choose to return next fall.

There's no logical reason for the coaching staff to turn the quartet down, nor would any member of the group be guaranteed to be selected early in April's NFL Draft.

The remaining 10, to be blunt are caught in a numbers game relative to total recruits signed in February, potential defections through transfer, and a sampling of other roster machinations.

At the top of that 10 was, and we can suppose, is, Mike Golic, Cave's backup at center who had played nary a meaningful down of football at the school until he took the field and helped the Irish come back to defeat Wake Forest last Saturday in Winston-Salem.

"It's been a process, and everything hasn't gone according to plan as I envisioned it coming in," said Golic of his extended wait. "Obviously it took a lot longer than I planned on originally. But through my own support system and my family and the guys around me, just keeping the faith and knowing there's a time and a place for everything."

Golic's mentor has seen the upperclassmen grow over the last 22 months.

"Great kid, hard worker, (he's) always been very focused, and has improved tremendously in the time that I've been here," said offensive line coach Ed Warinner. "Off the field in is strength development and conditioning, and on the field in his technique and assignments…he stepped in and did a very nice job for us (against Wake Forest), and we expect him to do the same this week."

Golic, like a quarterback thrust into action when the starter goes down, had little time to prepare for action. The upside? There was also little angst involved in his first snaps.

"I didn't really have time for the butterflies," he said of last Saturday's action. "I had to go in there and make sure the offense didn't miss a beat."

It's a Snap

Failure to execute the quarterback/center exchange has already burned the Irish beyond recognition once this season – the Game Seven gaffe vs. USC resulting in seven points the wrong way.

That shouldn't be an issue for Golic, who drew rave reviews from his head coach for his (shotgun) snapping ability.

"Mike Golic is excellent at snapping, one of the traits that he's that we've liked about Mike from day one is his ability to snap the ball," Kelly offered. "The other things have come. He's gotten stronger, he's more physical; he's certainly not as strong as Braxston, but he is physically able to move his feet, get out and do the things, but I think it starts with snapping the ball. That's really where he's done a nice job and has been consistent in that respect."

Golic has practiced with the first unit at nearly a 50/50 pace at the behest of Warinner – consider it the ultimate contingency plan finding fruition.

"The number of reps he gets in practice is more than most twos across the country," Warinner said. "We won't change our game plan at all."

Golic has played in each of Notre Dame's nine games this season, serving alongside Andrew Nuss and Christian Lombard as the protective trio for punter Ben Turk in Notre Dame's spread punting formation.

"He's a BCS football player, and he's athletic," Kelly added of his new starter. "He has to continue to develop strength and he has. He is so far ahead of where he was last year."

Kelly added that senior right guard Trevor Robinson has been charged with most of the line calls, a practice Warinner noted has become more popular across the country.

"I just focus on the things I can do (in terms of) technique, putting my eyes in the right place, and being good (with) assignments…Golic said. "At the end of the day, the offensive line comes down to feet and hands.

Golic's feet, hands, and it is to be hoped, four-plus games of starting experience, will likely return to the Irish next fall, adding depth at three interior line positions or challenging for a starting role at center/right guard.

"I've been playing football my whole life and it's what I love to do, so I just kind of remember that and go out there and enjoy the wonderful opportunity," Golic said. "At the end of the day it's a huge blessing and I'm really, really fortunate to finally be getting this opportunity."


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