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Football: Line dance

Mike Gilloon | Wednesday, August 31, 2005

There isn’t much Bob Morton wouldn’t do for Dan Stevenson. After three years together as teammates on the Notre Dame offensive line, they’ve formed quite a bond.

“I told him the other day, ‘You know, Dan, I think I may only like you about 50 percent of the time and 50 percent of that time is when we’re on the football field together,” said the Irish center. “But I also told him that if we’re ever in a life or death situation, I’d be there for him. And if he was hanging off a cliff, I’d do everything in my power to make sure he didn’t fall.”

Having all five starters from last season returning forges relationships like the one between Morton and Stevenson. The unity also gives the Irish a solid base around which coach Charlie Weis hopes to create a potent offensive attack.

Left tackle Ryan Harris believes the line is ready for the task of making sure the offense runs smoothly beginning Saturday at Pittsburgh.

“I think offensive linemen kind of want that burden to kind of get things going,” Harris said. “We want that opportunity, and we’d love that responsibility.”

John Sullivan is the fourth man in a four-man group rotating between center and the two guard slots. Morton, Stevenson and Dan Santucci are the other members of the foursome, and Sullivan is confident they will start the season in a positive way.

“I feel like we’re going to have a really, really good unit,” Sullivan said. “I just think there are a lot of smart players on the O-line, a lot of older guys now. I think that makes a huge difference.”

Though the starting unit is one of the more experienced groups on the Irish squad, offensive line coach John Latina’s focus is to make sure his players keep improving every day.

“The biggest thing to me is I think we’re better today than we were two days ago, three days ago,” Latina said. “The bottom line is until you go out and play a game, you really don’t know where you are in terms of how well you’re playing. The big test is coming Saturday.”

He also stressed that though the lineman have been starting together for at least a full season, everyone from the freshmen to the seniors are all equal in the new offense.

“[The new coaching staff has] only been here a certain amount of time,” Latina said. They’re really all equal in terms of experience for us.”

Notes:

u Notre Dame will hold two more days of practice this week. The Irish will work out tonight from 5-7 p.m. indoors at the Loftus Center, using noise to simulate conditions Saturday at Heinz Field. They will practice Thursday from 7-9 p.m. in Notre Dame Stadium then take the day off Friday for travel to Pittsburgh.

u Offensive line coach John Latina’s son is a senior at the University of Mississippi, located in a state that has been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. Latina was relieved after making sure his son was safe and expressed concern for those affected by the disaster.

“You always feel bad for those affected by a tragedy like that,” he said.