Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 6, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 63

16 NOV. 6, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL I t's hard to miss the height. Or t h e l e n g t h . Ju s t o n e p ra c t i c e viewing will reveal the intrigu- ing mix of strength, lateral agil- ity and athleticism. Whether it's for one of those rea- sons or a combination of all three, one look at Notre Dame freshman offen- sive tackle Joe Alt evokes visions of an impact player and future star. It's not often a 6-8, 305-pound 18-year-old shows up on campus, even at a program as lauded for its offensive line produc- tion as Notre Dame. Take it from those who face him in practice every day. "The whole D-line saw it and knew Joe Alt was going to be really good," ju- nior defensive end Isaiah Foskey said. But a freshman starter and left tackle stabilizer? No, nobody saw that com- ing this quickly. Not even the coaches at Fridley (Minn.) Totino-Grace High School, where Alt arrived in 2017 as a freshman quarterback and left as a Notre Dame-bound offensive tackle, with stints at tight end and linebacker in between. Maybe not even Alt. "I think his expectations were to redshirt and that's where he'd fit in," Totino-Grace head coach Jay Anderson said. A redshirt made sense. The list of players who have gone from a 240-pound high school junior tight end to major college football starting fresh- man left tackle is surely a small one. Alt is a freshman at a position that does not normally lend itself to first-year con- tributors. Yet here's Alt. He's a former three- star recruit whose on-paper profile suggests a freshman year as a third- teamer. Instead, he has stabilized a position stricken with injuries and in- effectiveness. In Notre Dame's ideal 2021 season, Alt redshirts because the Irish have con- tinuity at left tackle like they normally do. This isn't a freshman year like Kyle Hamilton or Michael Mayer, who forced their way onto the field at positions with entrenched starters. None of that should take away from Alt's ahead-of- schedule development and growth. "We didn't know he was going to start this year," Foskey said, "but we weren't surprised he was going to be next up at tackle." "He's a sponge," Anderson added. "Anything that's told to him, he soaks in." When Alt earned a spot on the sec- ond-team offensive line in fall camp, it felt like a good sign for 2022 and beyond — a high-ceiling player showing signs of his potential as a tackle of the future. Injuries and inconsistent play, though, opened the door for him to snag that role in the present. Turns out, he was ready to run through it. Alt made his debut on of- fense as a blocking tight end in the 27-13 triumph versus Purdue Sept. 18, earned a nine-snap trial run at left tackle in the 41-13 win over Wisconsin Sept. 25, slid into the lineup for the second half of the 24-13 loss to Cincinnati Oct. 2 and made his first career start the following week in the 32-29 victory at Virginia Tech. Alt was option No. 4 at left tackle this year, but that doesn't matter as long as he's the last. And it sure seems he has staying power. "If he gets his hands on you, you're screwed," sophomore tight end Michael Mayer said. "That dude came in here and worked his tail off. It's working out." It's not that anyone thought Alt wouldn't work out, but recruiting him felt like a down-the-line return on investment. Notre Dame identified a high-ceiling prospect when it offered Alt after his ju- nior year, before he even made the full- time move to tackle in high school. He had the frame. He had the athletic abil- ity. He even had the pedigree. His father, John, played offensive line for the Kan- sas City Chiefs from 1984-96, earning an All-Pro nod in 1990. He made the tight-end-to-tackle transition himself. It's one thing to have a ceiling. It's another to reach it. This is where Alt separated himself and where Notre Dame felt like it had a future asset in a developmental prospect. "When you take a kid at that size who's not fully developed, you're bank- ing on his want and desire to be great," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "We saw he had all of those intangibles that in our mind, this kid had a high, high ceiling because he had that drive. "Intrinsically, he was going to do all the things necessary to be a great of- fensive lineman." First, that meant developing between the end of his senior season and move-in week at Notre Dame. Especially as a pass blocker. He had a baseline understand- ing of pass protection from his inter- mittent time at tackle. Even as a tight end, he spent half of the route-running portion of Totino-Grace practices work- ing on pass protection with his father, an assistant offensive line coach. But it still required more catch-up and technical refinement than other areas. Alt worked with his dad on pass pro- tection in the winter and spring. He also asked teammates to pass rush against him one-on-one after school. AN UNEXPECTED HELPING HAND Freshman offensive lineman Joe Alt's fast development from high school tight end has helped stabilize Notre Dame's left tackle position

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Nov. 6, 2021