Tuesday, June 3, 2008

In The Trenches - Part III

If size and tenacity are what one seeks for interior offensive linemen, then the interior of the Notre Dame offensive line should be an excellent place to start. Manning the center position will be redshirt sophomore Dan Wenger, who played well at the end of last season for injured John Sullivan. Wenger, who's listed at 6-4, 300-pounds by the Official Athletic Site of the University of Notre Dame, is best described as a finisher. He more than held his own against the top interior defensive linemen and inside linebackers last season, plus he displayed the ability to force a few defenders to land on their derrieres despite their displeasure. Having Wenger around for the foreseeable future will greatly benefit Notre Dame Football.

The backup center will likely be Thomas Bemenderfer, a local product who attended Mishawaka Penn and attended Northwestern before transferring to Notre Dame. Bemenderfer will be a senior this fall.

The heir apparent at center will likely be Braxton Cave, another Mishawaka Penn product, but this former Kingsmen will only be a true freshman this fall. Cave played very good in high school All-Star action and possesses excellent strength for a player that has yet to take part in a college weight lifting program. Another possible center could be Mike Golic, the son of … well, Mike Golic, who played at Notre Dame in the early-to-mid 1980s before playing professional football for the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers. The younger Mike could also end up playing offensive guard. Either way, he will need a couple of years of strength and conditioning work to add needed muscle mass to his currently listed 6-5, 260-pound frame.

Coming to Notre Dame within the same recruiting class as Wenger, offensive guards Eric Olsen and Chris Stewart will be the starters this fall. The left guard will be Olsen, 6-5, 303-pounds, who plays football with the same mentality that Wenger does, and Irish fans should expect to witness many “pancake” blocks during the course of the next two seasons. Stewart, meanwhile, could become one of College Football’s top run blockers based upon his progress last season. At right guard, the 6-5, 340-pound Stewart engulfed more than a few would-be defenders towards the end of the 2007 season, and will be expected to do the same moving forward in addition to becoming a more consistent pass blocker.

Backing up Olsen will be senior and former left guard starter Michael Turkovich. His strength is run blocking. The backup for Stewart will likely come from redshirt freshman Andrew Nuss, 6-5, 303-pounds, and the highly touted Trevor Robinson from Elkhorn, Neb., who enrolled at Notre Dame this past January and participated in spring practice.

The interior of the Notre Dame offensive line appears to be ready to take the next step towards becoming an efficient unit. The size, talent and, as Irish fans certainly know, all-important factor of experience are in place for the Irish to play physical football. Adding the physical nature of the offensive line should aid Jimmy Clausen and the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield considerably.

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