Notre Dame commits to a deeper, healthier offensive line

Notre Dame commits to a deeper, healthier offensive line
August 25, 2014, 1:15 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Two years ago, Notre Dame prepared to face college football's best team with six healthy offensive linemen.

In the month leading up to the 2013 BCS Championship, injuries depleted an already-thin offensive line unit to the point where Notre Dame coaches couldn't do everything they wanted to get ready for Alabama.

"It was a crazy rotation," offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. "… It was unique for players who were available who could go in and function."

Notre Dame had 12 offensive linemen on scholarship in 2012, and with half of them sidelined in December a handful of walk-ons had to fill in. The good news was the same five offensive linemen started all 13 games, but the bad news was there weren't enough scholarship linemen to fill three units, let alone two in December.

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"It makes it stick out," Hiestand said. "Coach Kelly's committed to changing that. He went out and recruited players to make sure that doesn't happen."

Hiestand was being modest with that quote - he's been instrumental in improving the health of Notre Dame's offensive line over the last two years. 2013 saw Notre Dame bring in five offensive line recruits, including this year's starting right tackle Steve Elmer and next man in Mike McGlinchey. Four more offensive linemen were added in 2014, a group headlined by five-star tackle Quenton Nelson.

Notre Dame now has 15 scholarship offensive linemen, giving the Irish three full units to run with in practice provided everybody's healthy. Even if the group experiences a string of injuries, chances are Notre Dame won't encounter the same numbers crunch it did two years ago.

Having a deeper offensive line probably wouldn't have altered the outcome of the 2013 BCS Championship, but Notre Dame at least would've had more of a fighting chance than it did in a 42-14 loss.