Offensive Line Begins to Gel

Our review of Notre Dame's position groups continues with a look at the Irish offensive line and tight ends, a unit that offered its best effort last week in Tallahassee.

O-Line and Tight Ends

From the outhouse (Purdue, Stanford, UNC) to the penthouse (FSU). The Irish offensive line was at its best when it was needed most. If the group continues to improve, Notre Dame will finish the season 11-1 and in contention for the Final Four.

Top player to date: LT Ronnie Stanley -- Ranks as our No. 7 overall player per film reviews through seven contests.

On the Rise: RG Steve Elmer and LG Nick Martin -- Lost early as a right tackle, then too often off-balance following his initial transition (back) to right guard, Elmer has settled in as a consistent, sometimes dominant drive-blocker for the Irish running game. Better feet in pass protection is next on the agenda.

Martin played through injury through the season's first six games but was one of the 10 best players on the field last weekend against Florida State. Repeats of that performance are in order if the Irish are to finish 5-0.

Sleeper for the final five: TE Ben Koyack -- Crucial to the rushing attack, Koyack was reintegrated into the passing game against the Seminoles. Look for more of the latter over the final five contests.

Best game as a unit: Florida State -- It was perhaps the unit's best performance against a strong foe since the Irish offensive front dominated a penetrating Arizona State defense in early October 2013.

Most Difficult Outing Stanford -- Which was to be expected. The unit aided the Irish running game with a respectable 4.0 yards per carry but quarterback Everett Golson was under siege throughout the contest. Neither Michigan (1.9 yards-per-carry) nor Purdue (constant pressure) was a walk on the park.

Toughest Upcoming Test: Louisville -- The Cardinals rank third in rush defense, seventh in sacks, and are tied with Stanford at No. 14 overall nationally in tackles-for-loss per contest.

Crucial area for Improvement: Sustaining blocks -- Arizona State brings heat from every angle, Louisville boasts one of the nation's most seasoned and, at least statistically, strongest defenses, and USC has athletes across its front seven. Notre Dame's offensive line must continue its recent ascent after a rough first six contests as Saturday in Tallahassee, for the first time this season, and against a collection of future pros, the Irish O-Line maintained its blocks at a championship level.

Quote from the Coordinator:"I thought the guys up front really did a nice job (against FSU). All of us would love to be running for 250 yards per game but with juggling those guys around and trying to get the combination right, it takes some time for those things to gel together. I feel like those guys are gaining confidence in each other, their communication is a lot better.

"This helps their confidence moving forward and obviously it helps as a play-caller. We're at our best when we have the ability to run it and throw it. And the threat of play-action and the things we do off of play-action. We can go faster, we can do more things when that's a possibility."
-- Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock Top Stories