SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The battle to replace Braxston Cave at center won't be settled for some time, but it does sound as if sophomore Nick Martin has the upper hand right now.
Martin, whose brother Zack is a returning captain and left tackle, has been getting more reps with Notre Dame's No. 1 offense than challenger Matt Hegarty so far in spring practice, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said Wednesday. Hiestand likes where Martin is right now, working on getting his repetitions instead of learning the position. He was quick to compliment Hegarty, too, and it's clear this is a battle that's far from over.
"The good thing is, we don’t have a game this weekend, so we can give them the opportunity to get better," Hiestand said. "That’s what they’re doing. They’re really focused on getting the ball to the quarterback, trying to do a good job there. Made a lot progress since the first couple days, so as long as we keep doing that we’ll be okay."
The fact Hegarty is even in the conversation, though, is amazing to Hiestand, who didn't expect to have the sophomore back on the field following a scary situation with his heart last winter.
"You understand an elbow, you understand a knee, you understand an ankle, you understand shoulders -- you don’t have much experience with a guy’s heart and an issue there," Hiestand said. "But when you’re around him, and you see his attitude about it and the smile on his face and the determination on his face, you kinda shake it off and and that’s what you want and we’ll give you the best we can."
Hiestand's excited about the prospect of added depth to coach along the offensive line, something that was lacking toward the end of last season. Freshman Steve Elmer, who enrolled early at Notre Dame in January, has caught Hiestand's eye with a quality approach to his status.
"As a young player, you tend to look at everything’s not very good -- but if you zero in on, okay, where do we get our head position, our hand position, our fundamentals, pick out one or two things, work on them and go to the next two, and chip away at it that way," Hiestand explained. "That’s what I like about him, he’s able to do that instead of (thinking) big picture too much."
Collinsworth has no fear after injury-riddled stretch
Safety Austin Collinsworth is as healthy as he's been in a year, and isn't thinking about his surgically-repaired left shoulder or back. Winning the mental battle after various injury-related setbacks turned out to be pretty easy for the junior.
"Maybe I got a screw loose or something, but honestly when I get on the football field, I don’t care about hitting anybody after these injuries," he said. "I feel good about it."
Report: Ole Miss in contact with Kiel
File this under things that make a ton of sense: According to a report (passed on by the guys at College Football Talk), ex-Irish quarterback Gunner Kiel has been contacted by Hugh Freeze's staff at Ole Miss. Freeze pulled together a stunningly-good recruiting class this year, so it makes plenty of sense he'd be in contact with 2012's top-rated quarterback who previously was committed to an SEC West school in LSU.
Joe Schad's report also tied Kiel to Kansas State, Tennessee, Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois, and it was previously reported Cincinnati was in contact with the quarterback.