McDonell Says Interior Progressing Nicely

The Irish have suffered a number of nagging injuries this spring. But, the interior offensive line has been relatively healthy all spring which is a good thing. We spoke with offensive guards and centers coach John McDonell to get his thoughts on the interior line play.

McDonell says he's happy his unit has remained somewhat healthy this spring. "It's been good," said McDonell. "We've got a lot of good work although Dan Santucci kind of tweaked his ankle a little bit—that's been unfortunate. For the most part the health has been good and they guys are getting a lot of good action."

Speaking of Santucci, McDonell had high praise for the junior guard prospect. "I've been very happy—very pleased," said McDonell of Santucci. "He brings a lot of naturalness to the position. Explosive, intense, tough, I think he's going to be a really good player for the Irish."

Another player sitting out most of spring due to injury has been Jamie Ryan. McDonell says Ryan has been very limited this spring. "Very spotty, probably he's more eager. He's very eager to get in there and do some things. Just to make sure he's been very, very limited."

McDonell isn't ready to say the starting offensive center position will eventually go to sophomore John Sullivan, but everyone else expects this to be the case. "There's avenues and channels you have to go. He's having a very good spring. We think he's going in the right direction and doing some good things. We'll just continue to work with that process."

Former starting center Bobby Morton worked almost exclusively at offensive guar that we saw on Tuesday. We think that is a sign that Sullivan will eventually end up starting at center. "He's been swinging a little bit with center and guard and doing a good job with both spots," said McDonell of Morton. "It's just kind of been that way. I wouldn't say it's anything that's solidified right now, but it's been going, it's just the amount of reps that everyone's getting."

Another player who has impressed us and McDonell has been senior guard Dan Stevenson. "Danny's a very smart football player. He's trimmed down a little bit. With that, we think he's a lot more active. He's right around 295. I think he played around 310 or 315 last year. It's allowed him to move around a little bit better."

McDonell says his unit is much further along than they were last year at this point and that has allowed them to do some nice things along the offensive line this spring. "We're farther along. That's a lot due to people being in the system. A lot of those kids got game experience. Just from the fact that they've played a lot more football in the system, we've been able to move farther ahead faster."

The interior offensive line will be key for the Irish this fall. It appeared on Tuesday that they were working very well as a unit. If they can become an efficient unit in 2004, that should take the offense a long ways in becoming a more productive offense.


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