With Nick Martin out, Irish O-line again has depth tested

With Nick Martin out, Irish O-line again has depth tested
November 24, 2013, 11:00 pm
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Notre Dame center Nick Martin suffered a "significant" knee injury against Brigham Young and is out for the remainder of the 2013 season, coach Brian Kelly said Sunday.

He's the second starting offensive lineman to go down with a season-ending injury -- Notre Dame lost right guard Christian Lombard to back surgery following a 14-10 win over USC Oct. 19. Left guard Chris Watt missed a start Oct. 26 at Air Force with a PCL tear, too. When Matt Hegarty lines up at center Saturday at Stanford, he'll be the eighth offensive lineman to start a game for Notre Dame this season.

[More: Re-focused Irish send seniors out with a win]

Last year, Notre Dame started the same five offensive linemen in all 13 games, a stroke of luck given some serious depth issues within the unit. The depth is far better in 2013, and it's showed -- Hegarty stepped in and performed well against BYU on Saturday, while Elmer and Hanratty rotated in on a series-by-series basis at right guard.

"I think it could be an absolute disaster, right, if you think about the entire right side as well as missing Chris Watt for a game," coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. "You're talking about three and four different guys going in there on the offensive line at times, and (offensive line coach Harry Hiestand) has done an incredible job of putting this together as a unit."

Kelly didn't have specifics of Martin's knee injury during his conference call Sunday, though he'll have more information on it later in the week. Either way, Martin's done for the season, meaning Hegarty is in line for two starts at center.

Martin distanced himself from Hegarty for the No. 1 center job in spring practice and strengthened his grip in August. While Hegarty's in-game minutes were limited leading into Saturday's game, he impressed Watt by needing little direction identifying the fronts and blitzes BYU was throwing at the Irish offense.

"He was like 'yeah, yeah, I know. I got it. Let's go out there and do it.,' " Watt said.

[More: In last home game, Dan Fox leads Notre Dame's defensive charge]

And too, Watt was impressed with Hegarty's poise in handling the senior day pressure -- specifically, lining up next to fifth-year seniors Watt and Zack Martin, pillars of Notre Dame's offensive line who've started all but one game since the 2011 season opener.

"Matt did a great job, he really surprised me coming in," Watt said. "I'm so proud of the way he played. I know that coming into a game like this and the atmosphere it was, it being senior day, was going to be a lot of pressure on some people. Matt just took it in stride and played his ass off."