Sizing up Notre Dame's offensive line

Sizing up Notre Dame's offensive line
August 18, 2013, 3:45 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's starting offensive line isn't set yet, but the picture is coming into focus.

A unit that started the same five players in all 13 games in 2012 may not have that consistency this fall, but that also may not be a bad thing. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has a lot more to work with this fall in terms of depth and talent.

Here's how things are shaping up on the Irish line with less than two weeks left until Temple:

Left tackle: Zack Martin. No explanation needed here. Coach Brian Kelly did say he thought Martin could, if required, play every position on an offensive line, like Alabama's Barrett Jones did while in Tuscaloosa.

Left guard: Chris Watt. He wasn't in pads for Saturday's practice, but Kelly expects him back and to be ready for Aug. 31's season opener. Freshman Steve Elmer played guard in his stead on Saturday.

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Center: Nick Martin. Has been running with the 1's since spring practice, and has earned plenty of praise from Kelly and his teammates.

Right guard: Christian Lombard. Here's where things get more muddled. Lombard's been at right guard with Conor Hanratty on the sidelines. Lombard, who started all 13 games for the Irish last fall at right tackle, has the flexibility to move inside to guard -- and the guy playing left tackle may have offered some clarity as to what Notre Dame is thinking going forward.

Right tackle: Ronnie Stanley. He's another guy who Kelly feels has the flexibility to move between guard and tackle, but played tackle -- his natural position -- during Saturday's practice. Lombard is a little more flexible to go between guard and tackle than Stanley, so perhaps that's a sign Notre Dame is doing more than keeping the seat warm for Hanratty at right guard. Kelly has said his goal is to get the five best offensive linemen on the field, and Stanley's been running with the 1's during fall camp. Perhaps would've got that chance in spring practice had he not been limited early on while recovering from elbow surgery.

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This could all change when Hanratty puts the pads back on, or if Elmer -- a guy Kelly is very high on -- keeps forcing the issue. Kelly said on the outset of camp there isn't a need to quickly figure out the five linemen, but with gameplanning for Temple beginning to get going, expect further clarity here soon.

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