Swing Man

5th-year senior center Mike Golic's versatility, trial-by-fire experience last November, and notable weight room gains have him positioned to challenge for the line's open right guard spot entering his final season.

Close followers of the Notre Dame program point to an offensive line with three returning starters, three veterans to help ease the transition of a new right side.

Those followers, fans and media alike left out a former starter and 5th-year senior who happens to boast the second-best bench press effort (the same test used at the NFL combine) and top vertical leap among his fellow linemen.

"I'm really proud of the vertical; that 29-inch vertical (leap)," Mike Golic, Jr. noted half-jokingly. "I want everyone to remember that number. I'm a full-blown athlete now. I might go over to the basketball court and see if I can throw it down."

For a player whose functional strength was reportedly not up to par upon Brian Kelly's arrival for the 2010 season, it's a second combine number released by Notre Dame today that stands out: Golic bench-pressed the industry standard 225 pounds 28 times, second only to classmate Braxston Cave, who hoisted an obscene *40.

(*Former Oregon State DT and current Chicago Bear Stephen Paea broke the NFL Scouting Combine's 225-pound bench-press record in 2011 with 49 repetitions. The previous best was 45.)

"I think it's been a process, committing to Coach (Paul) Longo's program," said Golic of the team's Director of Strength & Conditioning. "It's a lot of the stuff in the weight room and the things he's doing in there, and also the things he talks about, like diet, putting the right food and supplements in your body to maximize what you're doing in the weight room.

"‘Get a dollar for a dollar' like Coach Longo always says. You want to get out what you put in."

Versatility the Key

If in good health following his continuing recovery from November foot surgery, Cave will be Notre Dame's starting center. Golic is the primary backup, but fortunately for his 2012 playing time prospects, he's also among the clubhouse leaders for the vacant starting right guard role.

"Since I've been here I've really been like a swing guy on the inside," Golic noted. "I've worked at all three interior positions (LG, C, RB). I've only actually played in games in a meaningful role at center, but I've worked the guard technique. I'm used to that set, so now its just getting used to the things, the last little bit (intricacies) of it."

Every offensive lineman in Brian Kelly's spread offense is called upon to secure blocks in space. Quick-feet are essential, but so too are explosion and leverage for each of the team's interior lineman. Golic's aforementioned feat of recording the second-best vertical leap among the current 12-man unit provides additional evidence he's up for the task.

"With Braxston not able to do everything I'm running center," said Golic of his main role this spring, "but as Braxston's able to get back in with his foot getting better, I'm doing more and more right guard alongside him. It's just getting re-adjusted to playing one spot over; a few basic things to correct."

Chief among his practice combatants are junior Chris Lombard (who also works at right tackle) and redshirt-freshman Conor Hanratty, a true guard prospect.

"We're all competitors. I think that's my favorite thing about this O-Line group is you have guys going out there every day busting their butts, trying to get everyone else better. We try to give the defense a look and crank it up," Golic offered.

"One of the things Coach Hiestand's really tried to instill in us is that to be a Notre Dame offensive lineman, you have to exemplify toughness at all times," Golic continued. "You have to go out there and exert your dominance on the defense, and that will make our defense better, and (the O-Line) better.

"Going out there and trying to hammer guys on each and every play. Really just getting used to playing at game speed at all times."

Remake from Wake?

Golic's first career action in a competitive contest came in Game Nine of his senior season. After Cave went down with a first half foot injury at Wake Forest last November, Golic stepped in and was lauded post-game for his play vs. lightning-quick Demon Deacons nose guard Nikita Whitlock (Whitlock finished the season with 14 tackles for loss, a number that would have led the Irish program in each of the last six seasons.)

But the season didn't end well for Golic and the Irish offense. The offensive line (in congress with its quarterback and running back) yielded 11 sacks over the final four games after surrendering just five in the first nine. After scoring five offensive touchdowns against Maryland in Game 10, the Irish offense managed just five total in a 1-2 finish vs. Boston College, Stanford, and Florida State.

That trial-by-fire prepared Golic for his final go-round this spring and next fall.

"You can't prepare for what you'll see in games, that's something you only get when you step on the field and you're playing at game speed," Golic admitted of his initial stint under center. "Being able to see things happen at that speed and against different schemes and the great defenses of Stanford and Florida State – to go against that caliber of player in game situations has really helped me tremendously, and I think now it's slowed down the game for me.

"I can see things better and communicate them to everyone else, too."

Playing time last November and in Orlando showed both potential and weaknesses in Golic's game. That experience allowed for a focused off-season goal: "Build on those weaknesses and make them all strengths," he stated.

And maybe throw down a dunk or two in his spare time.

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