Spring Wrap: Irish offensive line

Who took a step forward? Who might have fallen back? What we know now, what we think we know, and what questions remain.

What We Know...

That the 2014 line will look roughly like the group offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and head coach Brian Kelly put forth in 2015 as well.

By 2015, Notre Dame will enter its next golden age along the offensive front, but much work remains before a young unit that goes seven deep with legitimate starting talent can evolve from pre-season prospects to game day performers.

-- Junior Ronnie Stanley will start at left tackle…

-- Senior Nick Martin, assuming a return to health after November knee surgery from which he is reportedly ahead of schedule, will start at center (per Kelly).

-- 5th-year senior Christian Lombard, seniors Matt Hegarty and Conor Hanratty, and sophomore Steve Elmer each has starting experience at guard. The four will compete for two spots with Lombard having an apparent stranglehold on the right guard spot (again, per Kelly), despite missing the final six games of 2013 due to back surgery and most of spring ball with a wrist injury that required surgery.

-- Elmer is likely to start at right tackle if he does not win the left guard role…

-- Redshirt-freshman Mike McGlinchey was the starting right tackle for spring ball. If he proves to be better than Hegarty or Hanratty (or perhaps even Elmer) are at left guard, McGlinchey will start at right tackle. If not, Elmer will take his spot and the left guard spot will be decided between the seniors, Hegarty and Hanratty.

-- Confused? Don't be. All seven players listed above will play, likely every week.

Elmer (79) could start at RT or LG

What we think we know...

That Martin will return to form. But is that presumptuous?

Fans -- and maybe coaches -- have short memories, because three-year starting center Braxston Cave was a shell of his former self in the early portion of 2012 (remember Purdue?) before getting his groove back en route to third-team All-America selection per CBS Sports.

Martin is a key cog in the offensive machinery but there's no guarantee he'll be strong out of the gate.

Lingering question

Is it better to have seven quality starters or five proven players up front?

The overall health of the offensive line position at Notre Dame is promising, with seven (potential) future starters set to suit up for the team in 2014, not including the seven named above.

It's nearly a given that the 2015 offensive line will be experienced and stout, potentially at a national level. But will the 2014 group be ready in Week Two against Michigan, or clicking at a peak level when Stanford travels to South Bend to begin October?

Spring Star -- Hegarty

Kelly singled out redshirt-freshman Colin McGovern as the player that exceeded his expectations, but it was Hegarty -- serving as the spring's center in Nick Martin's stead -- that put himself in position to challenge for a starting guard role in August camp.

Hegarty, Martin, and classmate Conor Hanratty enter their fourth year at the program and barring a major injury, the trio will earn a fifth for 2015 as well.

Step Back -- Lombard

On the cusp of full strength after recovering from back surgery to repair a herniated disc (one he played through for seven contests), Lombard suffered another setback when he fell backward during a light contact drill, dislocating/breaking his wrist.

Lombard will be casted (or unable to move his wrist) for 4-6 weeks dating back to March 22. If in good health, Lombard -- a starter of 13 games at right tackle and seven at right guard (20 consecutive prior to surgery last October) -- will likely win the right guard role.

As Kelly noted multiple times in April: "he'll be difficult to unseat."

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