Bob Morton says he amazed at how fast his time at Notre Dame gone.
"I can't believe time has gone this fast," Morton said. "Seems like it was just yesterday I was showing up on campus and moving in with way too much stuff and not realizing camp is a big hurdle for a freshman to take on. Even though camp changes every single year, and there are different things you have to get through every time, I can't believe I have gone through this so many times already."
The Irish have all five returning starters along the offensive line, but Morton said the backup players are still improving at a fast pace.
It's a great thing. If I had to use one word, it would be ‘fantastic,'" said Morton. "We have been playing together for a few years now, and the guys who have played in games and even those who haven't played, we are all family. We are a tight-knit group of brothers and we are pushing each other left and right. We have so many guys who can play this position or that position and the competition is not with just the number ones but with the number twos and threes. Everybody is jostling around and nobody is antsy or anxious to see what happens, but everybody wants to make something happen, and this has really made it an exciting camp."
The Texas native has played guard and center for the Irish and is happy players are being taught to play more than one position.
"It's an absolutely a great thing for this offensive line because if you have a center who has worked at guard or a guard who has worked at center, he knows what it is like to be on the other end," Morton explained. "If I'm working at center and I'm trying to reach a nose [tackle], I'm not going to leave my left guard out completely to dry because I know what it is like to be left out to dry. So when everybody on the offensive line has had some kind of experience somewhere else, it really brings us closer together knowledge-wise. We are making ourselves a smarter offensive line by working at different positions.
"We have gotten so close over time that we don't want to let the guy next to us down. As far as proving things to others, I don't think we really have to do that. We have high expectations of ourselves so we will stick to proving it to ourselves."
The two-time monogram winner told us he is now comfortable playing either of the line positions.
"Mentally it has gotten to the point where it's not too difficult to do," he said. "There's always a difference when I put my left hand in the dirt the first time again because it's shifting the legs, but usually after a couple of reps, that will go away. At center I had better go away pretty quick because if that ball ends up on the ground, I'm taken off pretty quick. It's not a seamless transition, but it isn't a major speed bump anymore."
Summer conditioning seems to have produced good results for Morton and his teammates as all the offensive linemen look much thinner than we've seen in the past.
"The job of an offensive lineman is to grit your teeth and work hard," he said. "We had a great summer of working out together and always having offensive linemen with you working out in the groups. It was just really gritting our teeth and putting our head down and working hard. It really paid off this summer. I'm about two pounds heavier at 295. I played last year at 293. I spent a lot of time this summer quickening the feet and quickening the body and trying to put muscle in places I haven't had it before.
"As an offensive lineman you have to have a certain level of strength where it is very difficult for someone to run straight over you. I think a lot of times when people end up getting run through when it's on the exterior of their body and someone is running from the outside. So what we want to do is put our body in between them and whatever they are trying to get to and therefore make it a lot more difficult to get pushed backwards."
The veteran center/guard is impressed with Coach Latina and what he bring to practice every day.
"He's a great motivator and has done a fantastic job," said Morton of Latina. "We have different personalities on the offensive line and he has done a great job of bringing his personality in, as well as accepting all of ours, and learning how to motivate us and push forward."
Irish Eyes believes Bob Morton will continue to improve his play and his versatility will be a major factor in the success of the offensive line in 2005.