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Elmer fills all roles

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Steve Elmer was not always an offensive lineman.

For one 60-yard drive in eighth grade, Elmer transformed from lineman to a 6-foot-3, 230-pound wrecking ball at fullback. Elmer carried the ball on every play of the drive that culminated in a touchdown.

“It was awesome,” Elmer said.

Nowadays, Elmer is paving the way for touchdowns instead of scoring them. The freshman from Midland, Mich., has ditched his ball-carrying past to push his way into the Irish lineup.

Elmer, who has been inserted at nearly all the positions on the line, helped the Irish offense post 45 points against Air Force last week in his first career start.

The now 6-foot-5.5, 317-pounder said he saw a lot of areas for improvement when reviewing his first full game.

“I saw a lot of things that I need to clean up,” Elmer said. “I definitely feel pretty good about it. There’s lots of things I need to work on. I think I handled it pretty well.”

One of those things may be apparent to Irish fans. At the end of No. 25 Notre Dame’s first drive at Air Force, the Irish faced a fourth-and-two from the Falcons 24-yard line. But that’s when Elmer was whistled for a false start and the Irish were forced to attempt a 46-yard field goal.

“It happens,” Elmer said. “Obviously, I wasn’t happy I jumped. It happens to everybody but I didn’t let it get to me.”

Graduate student left tackle Zack Martin said Elmer responded well to the early error.

“He did fine,” Martin said. “Steve knows we have a lot of confidence in him. He’s been here since the spring and we’ve been kind of light on the O-Line since then, too, so he’s been in with the ones a lot and we’ve gotten reps with him and we’re all used to playing with him. He’s a very bright kid and very talented.”

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Elmer’s intelligence was just one thing that makes the freshman stand out.

“The other plus is he’s long,” Kelly said. “I mean, he’s a long, athletic kid. He can make up for some deficiencies in terms of some of his techniques, because of his athleticism. Got to get stronger, physically stronger. He’s still just a freshman, a true freshman. So that physical strength needs to continue to come along and develop. And he needs to play with a consistent technique. He has a tendency to get out in front of himself a little bit if you know what I mean. He just needs to slow down a little bit.

“But all-in-all, if you’re asking about a true freshman playing, the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses.”

Elmer has been the first man off the bench for much of the season, plugging any holes on the line caused by injury or equipment malfunctions before receiving a start against the Falcons following a season-ending back injury to senior offensive lineman Christian Lombard. Although Elmer said he was equally comfortable at each different position, he had never played guard before coming to Notre Dame and was strictly a tackle in high school.

“I think I was a little bit more stressed about it than I really should have been,” Elmer said. “I wasn’t that stressed but it wasn’t a huge adjustment, it’s still offensive line. Sets are a little bit different, assignments are a little different but it’s still doing the same sort of things.”

Elmer will look to build off his strong first start this weekend when the Irish (6-2) take on Navy in Notre Dame Stadium.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu