Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Quinn Wants Perfection From Notre Dame's Offensive Line

December 17, 2018

It’s no secret the Clemson defensive line has been the hot topic leading up to the 83rd Cotton Bowl. The Tigers defensive line is likely the best in college football, so the hype is warranted, but  Notre Dame’s offensive line will be up for the challenge. 

Notre Dame is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has given up just 19 sacks in 12 games. On the flip side, Clemson leads the nation in yards per carry allowed at 2.4, second in the country in sacks with 46 and second in tackles for loss with 121.

“Defensively, I think you obviously start with the defensive front,” stated Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. “You probably have three guys there that could be top 50, top 60 players in all of college football. So that's a pretty good group.” 

In all reality, Notre Dame hasn’t seen a defensive line comparable to Clemson in quite some time. Kelly compared the Tigers group to past opponents, but even then, it might be an understatement.

“Comparing them to maybe North Carolina State last year in some fashion, LSU, that kind of capability on the defensive line,” Kelly said. “It’s a really, really formidable group.” 

The Clemson defensive line is led by All-Americans Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant, but the two-deep is loaded. True freshman defensive end Xavier Thomas had a tremendous season, and few are even talking about him as he recorded 28 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. 

The Tigers production against the run is going to a critical matchup as the 2.4 yards per carry is a concern, but they are allowing just 92.9 rushing yards per game and an incredible 276.7 total yards per game. 

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for our young men to be in this situation,” Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn said of his offensive line. “That’s exactly what they want. I understood very clear as the first game unfolded, I understood the expectations they had for each other relative to this season. That’s why being in this position is what we worked for. That’s what you train for and what it’s all about.

“We haven’t accomplished anything to this point other than getting to this spot. We have to do that against a great defense and team like Clemson.”

Even Quinn has noticed the stats the Clemson defensive line has produced in 2018.

“It’s an excellent defense. It’s one of the best,” Quinn said. “You can statistically say it’s as good as any defense you can face. We saw a lot of great defenses, and we see one every day. That’s the beauty of our football program.

“We have great football players, great schemes and great coaches. We face a great defense every day, and you have to be at your best every day to deliver when this opportunity presents itself.”

Perhaps the key matchup will be inside as Clemson can generate chaos with Lawrence and Wilkins in the run and pass game. Guards Aaron Banks and Tommy Kraemer will have their hands full, but captain and fifth-year senior Sam Mustipher is there to help to play perfect football on December 29th. 

“That’s what we are going to have to do for four quarters,” said Quinn. “One guy can’t make a mistake. We all have to be on the same page to accomplish all the goals we have set forth. Clemson’s two interior defensive linemen are big, strong, physical and get off blocks quickly. The ends are talented, and they have linebackers.”

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