When it comes to driving a defensive lineman off the ball, junior right guard Steve Elmer takes a back seat to no one along Notre Dame’s talent-laden offensive front.
When it comes to catchy monikers or apt descriptions of his play? Let’s just say he could use a little help.
“I like right guard,” said Elmer, previously a starting tackle. “It’s a nice spot. Not too flashy. Kind of like me.”
Elmer has flashed on your television screen this season in large part because of his run-blocking prowess. Among Notre Dame’s six trips to pay dirt via the rush, Elmer has secured a crucial block on five, most notably a handling of Georgia Tech defensive tackle Jabari Hunt to spring C.J. Prosise for a 91-yard jaunt – the longest in Notre Dame Stadium history.
“Eh. It wasn’t a perfect block, we’ll say that,” offered the less-than-impressed Elmer. “I got enough of him.”
Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand apparently hasn’t been effusive in his praise of the group’s efforts when game film is dissected.
“I don’t recall those words being said,” joked Elmer of a pursuit of the perfect block. “He gives credit where credit is do, but he hasn’t said that so far. He wants you to do what you’re capable of doing. You’ll get a plus or even a double plus (during film grades) if he’s really excited when he watches it.”
FIVE PISTONS FIRING AS ONE
There’s the brawler (Quenton Nelson). The mauler (Mike McGlinchey). The future millionaire (Ronnie Stanley). And of course, the two-time team captain (Nick Martin).
Elmer? Well he’s a former fullback (hey, the 8th grade counts), turned offensive tackle, turned guard. And he’s fine with operating under the radar.
With the media horde focusing on McGlinchey in the pre-season, Stanley’s curious captaincy controversy last week, and Nelson’s brutish ascent at present, Elmer – a 20-game starter after Saturday – will continue to work diligently on his perceived weaknesses while augmenting his strength.
Which happens to be his strength.
“I love to drive people, to get off the ball,” he said. “If I hear, ‘Steve, drive this guy 10 yards’ that’s awesome…but it’s about knowing when to come off the ball and maul someone, and knowing when I’m supposed to get my hands on them and move them (out of gap).”
Maul and brawl are words associated with Elmer’s bookend at guard, the redshirt-freshman Nelson, a rookie with the penchant for the physical.
“Q likes to maul people,” said Elmer. “That’s one of his favorite things to do. Sometimes it’s not the most appropriate thing, but he comes off the ball hard. You have to know your assignment and can’t get so psyched up that you forget what you’re doing, or you’ll fall on your face like I have before.
“(But) Q hasn’t done that. Your head has to be (in the game) but you have to come off the ball when your number is called, for sure.”
Just three starts into his Irish career, Nelson has already made his mark when his number is called – both inside the Stadium and on the practice field.
“Q and Mike (McGlinchey) are brawlers and Q is really a brawler,” said Mike linebacker Joe Schmidt. “He's somebody that loves to get in there. He's a tough, hard-nosed, nasty football player and that's what you want on the offensive line position. Q is a guy that, like, for me, it's the ultimate challenge physically because there are very few people built bigger than Q.
“If he ever gets a free release up to the linebacker, it's going to be a long, long day for you, I don't care who you are.”
While Nelson and McGlinchey hammer away at anything that moves, the veteran trio of Stanley, Martin, and Elmer ensure the unit meets its lofty, daily standard: the pursuit of perfection…and the playoffs.
“The brains of the operation is still in those veterans,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “It's still in those three guys that have played a lot, and they kind of set the tone for the group: The attention to detail, holding them to high standards.
“But there is now a toughness to that group that I think -- those guys are hard workers and play hard and play tough. But I think that there's a personality that (Nelson and McGlinchey) bring to the five that has definitely shown itself this year.”
With a quarter of the 2015 season in the books, the brainy, brawling Irish offensive front has the program well-positioned in pursuit of its playoff goals.