Offensive line looks to improve on strong Temple showing against Georgia
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, September 8, 2017
Earlier this week, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart referred to the Irish offensive line as “as good looking of an O-line as you’ll play ever.”
After leading the Irish (1-0) to 422 rushing yards against Temple on Saturday, one of the best offensive lines in the country is hoping to keep up the strong performance against one of the top front-sevens in the country.
Irish senior left guard Quenton Nelson said the offensive line’s success against the Owls, and potential continued success throughout the season, can be attributed to a stubbornness offensive coordinator Chip Long has instilled in the offense this season.
“We started out pretty strong [against Temple], our first run was a touchdown, so we started out strong,” Nelson said. “But we had some runs that weren’t too successful and Coach Long stuck with it, and that’s what you’ve got to do. You’re not going to get 10 yards or a breakout play, but if you stick with it, and with this offensive line, I think you will. I think we’ve got five guys that are working very hard every day in practice and it’s transferring to the game is what it looks like.”
However, this weekend’s matchup will not exactly be against an opponent of the same caliber as Temple. The Bulldogs (1-0) have one of the best and most experienced defenses in the country, which will test the Notre Dame ground game, on which there was a heavy emphasis Saturday. Nelson noted there are definite improvement the offensive line needs to make over the course of the week to prepare for Georgia.
“The O-line, we had some things that wouldn’t [be] good enough against Georgia, when looking at the Temple film,” Nelson said. “We’re working our best to make those slight adjustments or sometimes corrections. Georgia plays a totally different defense as well. They’ve got their three down with a two-four rise.”
Irish graduate student left tackle Mike McGlinchey said the squad’s success against the Owls does not guarantee the same result against the Bulldogs, although he feels he and his coworkers on the line have put in the preparation to put up a strong performance.
“[The Temple game] was awesome. It was a lot of fun,” McGlinchey said. “You know, that’s the kind of game we like to play, we want to play. Four hundred some yards is no small feat, but we had a lot of mistakes that we need to clean up, and if we don’t clean them up, it’s going to be a longer Saturday against Georgia. It’s just one of those things that, yeah, we had a great job on Saturday, we rushed for whatever many yards, we had three guys [rush for 100 yards], whatever. But it doesn’t guarantee anything against Georgia, and we’ve just got to go back and try and do it again.”
McGlinchey said in order to protect his teammates from the Georgia defense, each member of the offensive line will need to keep on his man.
“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast and they play sound football,” McGlinchey said. “They’re going to do a great job of using their hands, getting off blocks and we just have to do our job to stay on them. They’re going to be a group that plays real hard and a group that plays real fast and they’re just going to bring it on Saturday and we’ve got to do the same.”
Despite the hype surrounding the talent of Notre Dame’s offensive line, the five players up front are not completely set for the year — as there is still competition at the right tackle position between sophomore Tommy Kraemer and freshman Robert Hainsey. Although Kraemer got the start against Temple, Hainsey also saw the field and McGlinchey said he was pleased with the progress he has seen both of the underclassmen make.
“I see a lot of myself in those two,” McGlinchey said. “They’re at that point where — in your career with [offensive line coach Harry] Hiestand, it’s kind of the make-or-break point. They’re getting thrown into the starting lineup. They’re the youngest guy on the line … they take their lumps for sure each and every day at practice. But it’s about how you respond to that, and I joked with them before the game because Tommy and Rob both asked me last week, like ‘what’s it like, man, what’s this going to be like on Saturday?’, and I said, ‘to be honest with you, it’s a lot easier than Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, because the stress that you’re dealing with isn’t really hard-nosed stress that we deal with throughout the week.’
“But it’s easy because you’re free. You can play on Saturdays, and the two of them, I see a lot of myself, and not necessarily my game, but definitely the things that they’re experiencing right now for sure.”
Irish junior running back Dexter Williams had nothing but praise for the offensive line — especially after the 124 yards and two touchdowns he rushed for against Temple.
“If you give me that size of a hole, it just really opens everything up for me,” Williams said. “Just seeing those holes being made, I could tell the progress of the offensive line and Coach Hiestand working with them day in and day out. I could see how they’re getting better. The chemistry is just getting better, they’re getting stronger and each and every day they’re giving their all.”