Position Analysis: Offensive Line

Notre Dame returns an experienced offensive line for the 2005 season. There is plenty of size and talent for the rushing game to excel and quarterback Brady Quinn to be protected. The big question will be can the starting unit stay healthy all year? Notre Dame simply cannot afford to lose anyone. A quick overview of offensive line recruiting is featured as well.

With the average starting Notre Dame offensive lineman averaging 6-5, and roughly 305-pounds there is no concern over a lack of size. Of course that is not what offensive line play is all about. Having a cohesive unit that fires off the snap of the football and dominating the line of scrimmage is a great place to start...

With every starter returning from last year's team, the offensive line should be in sync from the outset. From left tackle to right tackle, the starting lineup should be junior Ryan Harris, red-shirt junior Bob Morton, redshirt sophomore John Sullivan, 5th year senior Dan Stevenson and 5th year senior Mark LeVoir.

An added bonus is that redshirt junior offensive guard Dan Santucci has seen significant playing time as well. That's where the experience off the bench begins and ends for Notre Dame, however, as the unit is incredibly thin for what is traditionally one of the nation's top offensive line schools.

The other offensive linemen that dot the roster are redshirt junior Scott Raridon, who has moved to center, and will also be in competition for the long snapping duties, redshirt junior Brian Mattes, offensive tackle, redshirt junior James Bonelli, offensive guard, and redshirt freshman Chauncey Incarnato, offensive tackle.

Paul Duncan and Michael Turkovich are two freshmen offensive tackle recruits who will likely redshirt this year, but if there are any significant injuries to either Harris or LeVoir the redshirt years could be thrown out the window rather quickly. Hopefully both of the young tackles will be able to redshirt and develop at a normal rate like most offensive linemen do.

Normally I like to do a position-by-position breakdown of the depth chart, but with the offensive line being so thin it's rather pointless. None of the returning reserves are expected to to see playing time minus Santucci so keep your fingers crossed that the injury bug does not infect the Irish this summer or at any point next season. This is easily the thinnest Notre Dame offensive line of the past twenty years.

Recruiting - We all know the names by now, but here is a quick look at what is expected in terms of a time table for each to make his decision.

Sam Young, OT, 6-8, 280-pounds, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., (St. Thomas Aquinas) – Look for Young to make a late decision due to in large part that St. Thomas Aquinas is expected to make a return trip to the state finals the second week in December. Most of his official visits will likely take place in January.

Daron Rose, OT, 6-5, 310-pounds, Tampa, Fla., (Jefferson) – Jefferson is also one of Florida's top high school programs so there is a chance that Rose will be going deep into the playoffs. With as much talent as Jefferson has there is certainly a good chance he will not be making a decision before the New Year. Rose is beginning to narrow his list of schools but no official visits have been set.

Bartley Webb, OT, 6-7, 290-pounds, Springdale, Ark. – Webb has stated that he will take his official visits before deciding, although some people within the recruiting business think he might pull the trigger before the summer is out. Time will tell.

Kiante Tripp, OL, 6-5, 250-pounds, Atlanta, Ga., (Westlake) – Tripp does not appear to be in any hurry to make a decision. That might bode well for Notre Dame as the Irish appear to be a long shot at this point.

Chris Stewart, OG, 6-5, 330-pounds, Klein, Texas – Stewart has already narrowed his list to six schools – Arkansas, Notre Dame, Louisiana State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Nebraska – so that could speed up the process. The question once again will be how far his team goes in the state playoffs. Klein always has talent, but plays in a competitive area and could face stiff competition from the first team it faces during the playoffs.

Matt Carufel, OL, 6-5, 280-pounds, St. Paul, Minn., (Cretin-Derham) – This is one of the few offensive line recruits that "might" decide before Christmas, but it's certainly not set in stone. Look for Carufel to take at least three official visits before making a decision.

Alex Stadler, OT, 6-6, 300-pounds, Bealeton, Va., (Liberty) – Stadler has not set a time frame for making a decision. The longer his recruitment lasts the better it is for Notre Dame. The Irish just recently offered the giant offensive lineman a scholarship and he has not taken an unofficial visit to Notre Dame to date.

Notre Dame has also offered two Ohio natives in Conner Smith and Aaron Brown, but both recruits are extreme long shots for the Irish. In fact, Smith is expected announce for Ohio State later this summer and is no longer considering Notre Dame. Brown is expected to choose between Ohio State and a handful of southern schools.

There are other offensive line recruits in the mix but this is a general overview of the top names that are publicly known. Look for the list to change as summer turns to fall.

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