One of two seniors to swap sides of scrimmage during spring ball, John Montelus is likely closer to playing time as Notre Dame’s No. 5 nose tackle than he was as a second unit guard, as the latter was a matter of depth chart semantics.
That is, the former four-star prospect would not likely have been inserted in competitive game action on offense unless at least three, perhaps four guards – classmates and rookies alike – were lost to injuries first.
Instead, Notre Dame’s No. 3 nose tackle role – one that could result in snaps near the goal line or in short-yardage situations – remains up for grabs, and Montelus is one of three little-to-never-used competitors vying for the role.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s roster continues with Montelus, a player searching for his first taste of competitive action as he enters his senior season in South Bend.
Montelus fights his way through training camp and eventually overtakes younger competitors Brandon Tiassum and Pete Mokwuah, thereby earning a third string role. A quality showing thereafter would position him for the crucial sub package role of goal line nose tackle, forming a massive middle with Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage when the Irish defense has its back against the wall.
Fifth-string nose tackle is no way to spend your senior season.
Current junior teammate Jimmy Byrne, who has yet to appear in a collegiate contest? Former teammate Bruce Heggie? The latter flip-flopped between the offensive and defensive lines as needed as a scout team competitor during his career, though unlike Montelus, was not a major college prospect during his high school days.
Like Montelus, classmate Colin McGovern lost his rookie season under the Dome as a result of a high school surgery (knee, in the case of the latter), and like Montelus, McGovern has yet to make a competitive game impact, though the latter could work his way into “sixth-man” status along Harry Hiestand’s offensive front with a strong training camp.
Scrimmage flips are nearly an annual occurrence at the program, though a move from the offensive line to the defensive front occurs far less than does defense to offense. (As Lou Holtz mused of position changes, “The last stop after the offensive line is the bus stop”).
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
A member of the Scout.com 300 for 2013, Montelus was the nation’s 51st ranked prospect and tabbed as the nation’s second-best guard entering the college ranks.
Shoulder surgery following his prep career put Montelus behind the 8-ball upon arrival, as did an additional 50 pounds of bad weight gained between his National Signing Day listing in February and his first Notre Dame training camp (295 to 345).
Montelus is by no means the first lineman to fall behind his teammates and fail to make an impact but he’s among the highest rated by recruiting services – and likewise by the coaching staff that brought him to South Bend.
MONTELUS AT HIS BEST
To date he’s only played in just a quartet of contests, three of the four during September blowouts (2014 Michigan; 2015 Texas and Massachusetts), plus a surprise appearance at Pittsburgh last November.
In terms of competitive game action, his insertion vs. Panthers ranks as the most relevant playing time, though in terms of a memorable career highlight for a future Notre Dame graduate, Montelus’ late-game field time (it was his career debut, to boot) during the ’14 bloodletting vs. rival Michigan likely takes the cake.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“It’s a big difference. It’s a hard move. He has a great attitude about it. I’m hoping in training camp he’ll be over the jitters and understand what it takes to play on the defensive line and them maybe he can do a bit more. Less thought process and he’s built for (nose), a power guy, not a finesse guy. He can play over the center and hold his gap and be dominant.” – Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore