Last season, left tackle Joe Alt was thrown into action as a freshman after the Irish offensive line was gashed by injuries. Despite his inexperience, Alt played incredibly well, earning a freshman All-American accolade. This season, the sophomore has continued to build on his freshman year success. He has built off last year’s progress to become one of the most dominant left tackles in college football.
Alt has found this year’s additional experience helpful, notably in late-game situations.
“Experience is definitely huge,” Alt said. “There’s confidence as the game goes on knowing that you have been there and trusting your ability.”
Alt also knows the importance of improving his form, both with his feet and hands.
“For me, it’s been about building confidence, snap in and snap out. We break down the film every practice and every game. I think for me, my biggest focus has been working on my footwork and making sure that it’s good in everything we do in the pass and run in that first second.
“And then also with my hands,” Alt continued, “Making sure I am being as efficient as possible and trusting my punch in the pass game and getting the defenders where I need to have them in the run game.”
These improvements will be especially crucial against Syracuse. The Orange defense has shown a lot of movement this season, and Alt understands the importance of keeping his feet beneath him every play.
“In the film, they showed a lot of movement. We need to make sure our feet are beneath us, and we are seeing the alignments and attacking the proper way,” Alt said.
Alt credits his improvement this season to his improved footwork and ability to win battles in the first second after the snap.
“Looking back to last year, the footwork has been so important to me this year and winning that first second. That’s so crucial to [offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s] coaching for me,” Alt said.
Alt recognized the importance of getting in the right position and finishing out every play.
“I need to get into that position where I am in between the defensive end and the quarterback and just use my punch and finish blocks,” Alt said.
In addition to focusing on the rest of the offensive line, Alt has made sure to pick up his fellow teammates. Right now, that means supporting sophomore running back Audric Estime, who has had some ball control issues as of late.
“We have so much faith in Audric that he is going to run the ball hard, and we know that. It’s just building trust as the offensive line, knowing that he is going to be able to run behind us,” Alt said. “[Audric] knows he can be confident and run the ball, and we know he’s going to be great.”
Ahead of Saturday’s matchup against Syracuse at JMA Wireless Dome, Alt and the Irish have prepared for the noisy atmosphere.
“It’s going to be a dome, so it’s going to be loud,” Alt said. “I think it’s going to be crucial for us to be ready for all the noise. We have prepared for it, so we know it’s going to be there, and we just need to perform our best.”
“We pump in some music [in practice] just to know that it’s going to be loud there,” Alt said. “Communication is going to be tough, so we want to practice that here.”
The offensive line has evaluated film to prepare for the difficult test. Syracuse ranks top-15 in the entire country in total defense. Alt stressed the importance of the offensive line working together as one unit to shut them down.
“We are going to develop our scheme this week and play the best we can as an offensive line. We are going to see what we are going to see and perform our best,” Alt said.
Alt stressed the importance of the offensive line playing as a singular unit. That is vital to giving the quarterback protection and having success in the run game.
“As an offensive line, the biggest thing is playing five as one,” Alt said. “We need to handle their movements up front in both the pass and the run game. When we get on guys, we need to use our arm strength and move guys as best we can.”
Alt hopes his offensive line can facilitate success in the Irish run game on Saturday.
“The biggest thing for us is building confidence and being able to run the ball,” Alt said. “For us, when a team can’t stop the run, it builds so much confidence in the offensive line, and you feel so good about that.”