Q&A: Offensive Line

We had questions, now we have the answers. At least most of them. Irisheyes.com takes a position-by-position look, Q&A style, at the 2012 season. The questions of August camp answered by the events of the 2012 season, with crucial queries still remaining for the January 7 title tilt vs. the Crimson Tide.

Click here for our Q&A regarding Notre Dame's defensive line.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish linebackers.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish defensive backs.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish quarterbacks.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish running backs.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish receivers and tight ends.

Offensive Line

Pre-season speculation divided the line between the veterans (LT, LG, C) and new starters (RG, RT). Twelve weeks later it was clear the group was able to work as one.

Camp Questions: Could new right tackle Christian Lombard match departed 5th-year senior Taylor Dever's level from 2011? Could new right guard Mike Golic, Jr., beat out redshirt-freshman Nick Martin for the starting spot? And could Golic hold the position for a 12-game season? Was center Braxston Cave fully recovered from November 2011 foot surgery? Could the senior left side tandem of Zack Martin and Chris Watt continue their ascent, thereby giving the program its best tandem of the decade? Would a reliable No. 6 OL develop? Would a No. 6 or No. 7 lineman see weekly minutes as a valued backup? Could new OL coach Harry Hiestand deliver a rushing attack that would allow a young offense to develop as the season progressed?

The season's answers

Hiestand's proverbial stock soared with the fan base as the season progressed -- a low point in Week Two vs. Purdue (52 rushing yards), the high point in efforts vs. Miami, at Oklahoma, and in the Coliseum vs. USC when it became apparent Notre Dame's rushing attack was the backbone of head coach Brian Kelly's offense.

Lombard was likely the unit's fifth-best overall but he made no costly mistakes and progressed to the point that he began to pull block as did Dever from a right tackle spot by season's end. Golic showed great development after consecutive tough games vs. Purdue and Michigan State -- his contributions as a move blocker in the run game was paramount in the team's between-the-tackles approach.

Cave also played his best ball late, earning third-team All-America honors -- a major leap from his September efforts. Martin was the team's best for the third straight season; his absence from post-season All-America honors a joke for those who've watched even a moment of game film. Watt turned into the mauler most expected and developed enough to serve as a move blocker for quarterback Everett Golson on the team's oft-used play-action passes and designed roll-outs right.

Backup Nick Martin performed when called upon, but no consistent No. 6 lineman was utilized in 2012. The Irish were fortunate to start their entire chosen quintet through 12 games with a 13th on tap.

Season Takeaway: The unit's seniors, Martin, Watt, Cave, and Golic, are a resilient quartet, one that thrived under their third (Martin/Watt) and fourth (Cave/Golic) position coach of their collegiate careers.

BCS Championship Questions

Notre Dame's offensive line likely faces the best defensive front of their collective careers with Stanford's front seven -- especially its linebackers -- the only group presenting a similar challenge. Can this veteran quintet take over in the fourth quarter vs. the mighty Tide as it did during victories over Michigan State, Michigan, Brigham Young, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, and USC? Will the group be able to protect Everett Golson should the Irish fall behind by two scores, or more likely, in certain third-down passing situations?

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