Morton Ready to Contribute at Guard or Center

Junior guard/center Bob Morton is a veteran on the offensive line. He started eleven games at center in 2003 logging 265:54 minutes of playing time. Morton could see time at either guard or center this year, which gives the offensive line much needed flexibility. Irish Eyes talked with this personable player after a recent practice to get his thoughts on the season.

Ask a question of junior offensive linemen Bob Morton and you'll usually get a mouthful. The always delightful Morton has always had plenty to say and he gave us plenty in our recent interview.

The McKinney, Texas native says he believe the Irish offensive line has been improving this season.

"We've grown an awful lot," Morton said. "Andd the open-end part of that question is; we have a long way to go; a long way to grow. But the fact does remain, we have grown a lot.

"We have started to develop that identity as a group. Whenever you lose people to the next level, or just to graduation, like we lost Jim Molinaro, we have to develop a new identity. You can never be exactly the same. We just need to strengthen our identity over the next couple of weeks."

The former second-team USA Today All-American says he's starting to understand the offense as a whole a lot better.

It's really tough to compare one year to another," Morton said. "Because I know, myself, I am two sets of shoes from last year to this year. I feel a lot more comfortable this year than I did last year. But I know the offense a whole lot better.

"I feel like I have a better grasp of what we want to do. Last year I was just making sure where I was going on each play. Now this year, I want to know where everybody is going and what the play is designed for and things like that.

"So I think an understanding of the offense and being ready to go - I think we are further along than last year. We really can't compare ourselves to last year; we have to set a whole new standard."

The veteran center has been getting reps at center and guard and said, "I like it. Put me at tackle, tight end, if I can play 22 positions in a game, that's how many I want to try out. The more positions, the better.

"In high school, I played a couple positions. Then my freshman year here on the scout team I played wherever they needed me. So when they have needed me, I have been available and that's what is kind of going on.

The former Texas high school Academic All-Stater is using last year's experience to improve his game this season.

"I know I'm not the biggest or strongest guy, but after last year, I know what areas my strengths lie in," Morton said.

"I may not be able to take a 300-pounder coming right at me straight on, but I now know the techniques I need to use to make myself stronger and better and use leverage and things like that.

"Because I understand it; I am thinking quicker now. I am able to use techniques I have learned from spending time and talking with Coach McDonell, and by using these techniques it will really help my game and bring it up." he said.

Morton said he's seen a number of his fellow offensive linemen really improve their game over the spring and the summer.

"A guy who has really stepped it up is Dan Santucci who came from the defensive line last year," Morton said. "He had spring ball and this camp and the first couple of days at a new position --it was like being reinvented. The way he plays with reckless abandonment was really a calling for the rest of the offensive line to start playing harder.

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"You look at Ryan Harris switching over from right tackle, he has stepped it up a great deal in changing his sets and everything.

Dan Stevenson is using his quickness and not just his strength and is continuing to improve every day.

"Darin Mitchell, myself, John Sullivan, and everybody has really stepped it up as we are trying to get the best two groups of five.

"It really has been a collective effort and through the summer with coach Mick and practice and stuff like that I feel like our entire group has taken positive strides forward." the junior business major said.

Although he appeared to be a vocal leader on the 0-line last year he, Morton says he needs to become more of a leader this season.

"I hope to be more of a leader this year. Last year I tried to lead and say something, but this year I have a better grasp where I really fit in," he said.

"Dan Stevenson is a guy who is going to go out there and play and be vocal at times. Mark LeVoir is mostly a quiet guy, but Dan Santucci and John Sullivan are vocal so everybody has their time to be vocal.

"I just kind of want to weave in between all of them so when no one is being vocal I will step up. I don't want to be the guy who yells every single second of the game but says something at the right time and so far that's what I have been doing this fall. You really have to be both a vocal leader and leader by actions."

The first-time monogram winner gave us his opinions of the defense by saying, "They're good. They're quick. They have definitely improved their quickness," Morton said.

"They have always been strong. Greg Pauly has always been as strong as an ox but now he has quick moves and it is hard to prepare for him.

"Then at center, when I have to try and get to Derek Landri and Trevor Laws, they're into me before the ball is halfway off the ground. They are just so much quicker than they have been in the past.

"And the guys who have always been quick, like Justin Tuck, have improved in strength and they're becoming like machines and the best overall players they can be. It is really great to go against them."

Morton's likely move to offensive guard will allow Notre Dame to get their five best players on the field at one time. We expect Morton and the offensive line to have a much more productive season in 2004. P>

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