LeVoir Getting Comfortable at New Position

Senior Mark LeVoir is slated to be the starter at right tackle when the Irish open the season at BYU this weekend. The 6-7, 310-pound veteran has the most experience of the players on the offensive line. He started all 12 games at left guard in the 2003 season. Irish Eyes talked with Mark after practice recently to find out how he is progressing at the tackle spot.

Eden Prairie, Minnesota native Mark LeVoir is making the transition from left guard to right tackle. LeVoir says that transition has gone well so far.

"People always forget I was a tight end when I came in as a freshman and then I was at guard for two years," LeVoir said. "You just have to get used to playing with more athletically guys.

"You have to be quicker as you're out there on an island and you don't get quite as much help. I think the change is going well and I'm comfortable in that position."

While the switch seems to be working now, the senior admits to being a little rusty at the beginning of fall camp.

"I had to work on my techniques, different kick steps, and obviously going against quicker and faster guys," he said, "I have a long ways to go on my techniques. You always want to be better and have things to work on regardless of playing guard or tackle; and to improve, you have to work hard.

Playing against more agile players usually means a player would have to increase his speed as well. LeVoir says he's constantly trying to improve with quickness through the Irish workout program.

"I work on my speed and quickness with coach Marotti all the time," the two-time monogram winner said. "The strength and conditioning staff have done a great job getting me in good shape and improving my quickness in the off-season.

"I have lost some weight, so naturally I'm lighter and quicker and faster. One of the things I'm working on is my overall condition, because with better condition, that will help me play with better technique longer."

Even though LeVoir has earned the starting spot at right tackle, the senior says he's still trying to improve his game every day.

"Staying low consistently and being disciplined on pass protection," LeVoir said when asked what he's still working on as an offensive lineman. "Not lunging out, waiting for the defender to sort of come in your zone then punching rather than reaching out and getting off balance. You have to be patient.

Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham is pleased with LeVoir's move to right tackle and the options the move presents.

"First of all, having Mark be able to make that move has allowed us to get other players on the field and position him so that he is now a very worldly football player in terms of the offensive line," Willingham said.

"Now he understands the experience at guard, he understands how that relates to Dan Stevenson, who will be playing next to him," Willingham said. So, you have a better player based on having two positions under his belt, as compared to having just one."

The former Parade All-American has a lot of respect for the BYU defense. The senior anthropology major says Saturday's game will be a battle.

"We will have to work hard," LeVoir said. "They are a good team. With the type of defense they play, you really have to be on top of your game. They send a lot of guys from different areas; they're a veteran group up front. Basically, they have everyone returning from last year so they will be good and ready to go."

The BYU linebackers seem to be quick and active and will be a challenge for the big Irish offensive line. When questioned about this, the former high school tight end replied, "Yes, they're smaller and quicker, but if you get your hands on them, then they're done. They don't have much of a bull rush or able to counter.

"It's more technique and getting up and hitting on them and staying on them. You've got to use your quickness and move your feet. I'm getting better at it, but it is always something you need to work on."

The Eden Prairie, Minn, native has had the opportunity to block for a number of good running backs in his career at Notre Dame. LeVoir feels the Irish are very deep this year at running back.

"All of them have looked good," LeVoir said when asked about the Irish running backs. "Ryan (Grant) has looked very good. Obviously, he is number one. He has a lot of experience. Travis Thomas has done well, so has Marcus Wilson. I think we're fine in that area. We have a lot of depth and a lot of good athletes back there."

As the new season draws near, a concern has been the ability of the offensive line to give adequate pass protection as they struggled at times last year giving Irish quarterbacks enough time to throw.

LeVoir thinks you'll see starter Brady Quinn have much more time to throw this season.

"You know we've made positive steps and we've got to keep working and keep watching film on different defenses," the big tackle reported. "We are a veteran group compared to last year, so when we see things, we're able to pick it up faster and help each other.

"Last year it was kind of new to all of us. This year we have experience and that helps but we still have to work hard to get to where we want to be."

Speaking of Quinn, we asked LeVoir about Quinn's camp and progress this fall and the former first-team USA Today All-American enthusiastically responded, "Brady has looked great. I have no worries about him. I have total confidence in him."

There is no doubt Mark LeVoir is a hard worker and his own toughest critic. Irish Eyes believes these factors will help him to be an impact player and a leader on the improved offensive line this season.

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