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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Roster Review | Offensive Line

January 30, 2023

After an opening two games where Notre Dame struggled to run the ball and lost both matchups, Marcus Freeman preached patience regarding an offensive line that had two young tackles and missed Jarrett Patterson in week one. For Irish fans, it was hard to be patient when they rushed for only 3.1 yards per carry.

It turns out that Freeman’s patience paid off.

The line struggled against two top run defenses (Ohio State’s defense was 11th in EPA per rush and Marshall’s was 3rd), but as the line gelled and they established who they were on offense with Drew Pyne at quarterback, they started to play much better the rest of the season. It was the type of progress that was necessary, but they still have to be better to live up to the standard of past Notre Dame offensive lines.

They have the potential to do that with a group that has experienced talent returning and raw talent across the board. 15 of the 18 offensive linemen on the current roster were composite blue-chips (4 or 5-stars) as recruits. That’s as good as any program in the country.

With that, they should have expectations to be a Joe Moore Award finalist this season as the best offensive line in college football. If they can achieve that, they’ll be doing that with their returning offensive tackles leading the way.

Joe Alt was made some All-American teams after a fantastic second year as Notre Dame’s left tackle. The former high school tight end might be the best run blocker in the country. Whether it’s moving people at the point of attack or getting out wide to block in space, Alt was great in just about everything he was asked to do.

It says it all that the part of the game he needs to work on the most is pass blocking when he gave up zero sacks and him getting beat in the Gator Bowl was noticeable because it just hadn’t happened very much in 2022.

Put it in stone that he’ll be a pre-season All-American.

The Irish also have Blake Fisher playing right tackle and after showing his inexperience early in the year, his play got better and better as the season progressed. Maybe he won’t be listed as a pre-season All-American like Alt, but it’s not out of the question that he might join Alt being named to those teams after next season.

There are instances where he dominates in the running game. There’s a bit more inconsistency in pass protection and that’s the area where he needs to be better in 2023, but considering he was coming off a year where he missed almost an entire season and had to make the adjustment to the opposite side, it’s fair to assume that the arrow is pointing way up for him.

Tosh Baker is the third tackle and while it’s difficult to assess any improvement from him with limited snaps (16 total) in ‘22, the Irish could certainly do a lot worse with a third tackle. He’s a monster of a young man with two more years of eligibility left.

One of the players that everyone seems to be intrigued by heading into ‘23 is Aamil Wagner. He arrived at Notre Dame with work to do in the weight room and it looked like he made progress in that department as a freshman, but we’ll have to see where his weight is at when they update the roster in the spring.

It’s a huge development year for him even if he doesn’t play much this fall. They’ll likely need him to be an important player for them in 2024.

Ty Chan worked at right tackle in camp as a freshman, but we’ll see if his future is to stay there or kick inside to guard. Physically he looks the part and he could push himself into the mix for the two-deep.

The jury is out on Caleb Johnson who has struggled in pass protection in the brief instances we have seen practices. There have been cases where that has happened before and players have turned it around, but right now he is tough to project as someone who could emerge as a primary backup.

Sullivan Absher arrives in the summer and he is going to take some time to develop as a pass blocker after playing in an extremely run-heavy offense in high school. He has the physical tools to succeed and they won’t have to push him to play before he is ready.

Zeke Correll returns as the starter at center and was solid there for the majority of the season. He is more than competent in pass protection, but can get overwhelmed going against disruptive defensive tackles that are bigger than him in the run game.

While it’s safe to assume he’ll start again and be better in ‘23, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone could challenge him to start.

The first up on that list might be Pat Coogan. He’s bigger (6’5” 309) and with this being his third year in the program, the time for him to make a move could be now. He’s also someone who could compete at guard as well.

Ashton Craig is another candidate to watch at center as another bigger option. He also could be someone to watch in the wide open guard competition as well.

Joe Otting arrives in the summer and his long term fit is likely playing center. Lock him in as a redshirt candidate as he adds the necessary weight and strength to play interior offensive line in college.

Now we get to the interesting part. Notre Dame is losing a fifth-year and sixth-year player at guard. One of those is four-year starter Jarrett Patterson and to say he’ll be missed is an understatement. He’s going to be a tough player to replace.

First in line will be Andrew Kristofic. He’s the only guard on the roster with starting experience and he played fairly well in the second half of the 2021 season. He has to be considered the favorite to take back the left guard spot that Patterson moved to.

The one thing that has always stood out with Kristofic is how he came in undersized as a tackle and put in a lot of work to get big and strong enough to play guard. We already know what the floor is with him if he wins a starting job and the offensive line is the one position where experience matters more than anywhere else.

If there is one player on offense who needs to have a great spring, it’s Rocco Spindler. The former highly ranked recruit hasn’t made the noise that his classmates Alt and Fisher have so far at Notre Dame, but now is a golden opportunity for Spindler to make a leap.

We haven’t seen or heard enough things to declare him as an obvious choice to take one of the guard spots. This offseason is the time for him to change that narrative or risk getting lept over by younger players on the depth chart.

One of the players who could do that is Billy Schrauth. Most saw the praise that Howard Cross gave him during bowl prep, but there has been positive buzz around Schrauth even before he was healthy enough to practice at Notre Dame. This may be the start of a multi-year run for him as a starter at guard.

There may not be a greater enigma on the offensive line than Michael Carmody. He went from the sixth man on the 2021 offensive line out of camp to being a bit of a forgotten man after his initial ankle injury that season.

His weight is a serious concern. The fact that he was in year three in the program and only weighed 280 is puzzling to say the least. He’s not getting in the mix anywhere at that weight and if he doesn’t have a massive offseason with his physical development, it’s difficult to envision him as a competitor to start.

Both Charles Jagusah and Christopher Terek arrive in the summer. Terek isn’t going to play as a freshman, but there have been some who have suggested Jagusah could be good enough to compete immediately at guard, but he did just have surgery for a torn PCL and though he may be ready to go for fall camp, it’s going to be a very tough ask for him to hit the ground running in that competition.

One darkhorse could be early enrollee Sam Pendleton. He’s definitely a long shot to play significant snaps, but as the only early enrollee offensive linemen and someone who I compared to Robert Hainsey as a prospect, I wouldn’t completely count him out as someone cracking the two-deep this fall.

There were some fans wondering if Notre Dame was going to look to the portal for a guard during the recent open transfer window, but it’s pretty clear that Harry Hiestand won’t lack options to choose from. Given his track record, the odds are very good he’s going to settle on two who can play quality football for the Irish.

If that happens, then there is no reason that this group can’t be a contender for the Joe Moore Award in 2023.

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