Brian Mattes will eventually be a future starter at offensive tackle. Denbrock says he's starting to get the hang of it. "I think Brian is starting to settle in and understand offensive line," said Denbrock. "It's been a little bit of a transition for him coming over from the defensive line. I think now that he's had a chance to do it, he's feeling more comfortable and any little game experience we can get him is going to be huge for us."
Mattes has only seen a few snaps so far this season and Denbrock feels the Irish have to find ways to get the younger players into the games. "We need to get to the point where we can get some of those younger guys into the game. Unfortunately we haven't been in a situation where we've been able to do that. It's something we're looking forward to doing as soon as we get the opportunity."
Ryan Harris is a real rarity in college football. Harris has started since the Pittsburgh game as a true freshman. Denbrock has been thrilled with the play of Harris thus far. "I couldn't be more pleased with the things that he's done, how he's learned, and moved along in his progress. I think there's things he's going to be three times as good at next year as he is this year just from the experience of another year in the weight room, another year of getting the type of size that will make him successful. I can't say there's anything negative about the progress he's made. I think all signs point him into a direction where we're excited to see where he goes."
Denbrock also coaches the tight ends. Blocking was on major concern this year and Denbrock says they have been improving. "I think we're getting better at it. We're never going to be to the point where I'm going to be real pleased with it because I think there's still so much that we can improve and get better at. We've got to make sure we have that attitude. I do think their consistency has gotten better. I think they are doing a lot of things in critical situations a lot better. I'm happy with the direction that we're moving."
One tight end we haven't heard much about has been the progress of John Carlson. Denbrock says Carlson is showing the athletic ability they thought he had when they signed him last February. "I think John is a very athletic guy--somebody that's probably going to be able to put on 20 pounds and not have any problems. He runs like a deer, has a knack, at least when he's running the other team's offense, of making plays against our defense. He's showing up all the time in practice so that makes you excited seeing him out there doing that."
Anthony Fasano had made a major charge up the depth chart, only to be hurt against Navy. We asked Denbrock if Fasano had separated himself from the pack at tight end. "I think Anthony possesses the ability to do both things that we need from our tight ends. He's gotten a chance to run down the field, catch the ball, and make some plays. And, he's held up as a blocker in our run game. I think out of all the guys, he'd gotten to the point to where he had started to be as consistent as anyone in both those areas which gave us a chance to use him. We'll see how it goes and hopefully we'll have him back soon."
The Irish don't have a lot of depth at offensive tackle so the development of Mattes will be critical next year. Hopefully the Irish can get him in for a few series sometime this year. Harris is already playing like a veteran. The Irish will need to land three offensive tackles in this class to help fill the holes.
Fasano was emerging as a star at tight end before he got hurt. Hopefully the Irish will get him back soon. Carlson appears to be a solid, future prospect. The Irish have plenty of bodies at tight end. They just need to find a few that can both catch the ball and block in the running game.