Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 12, 2022

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

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Page 4 of 55 NOV. 12, 2022 5 N otre Dame offensive coordina- tor Tommy Rees brought up a mind-boggling factoid dur- ing his media session on Nov. 1. No, it didn't have anything to do with the productivity (or, at times, lack thereof) of his Irish offense. The game is often bigger than numbers, wins and losses. Rees was hired as the Fighting Irish's quarterbacks coach in 2017. One of the Irish's current starters began his college career the same year — graduate student right guard Josh Lugg. Rees doesn't know a world in which Lugg has not been a rostered player at Notre Dame while he's been employed as a coach there, his alma mater. Sixth-year seniors aren't as rare in 2022 as total solar eclipses. In- stead, they're quite commonplace — like students in their last semester in South Bend skipping study hall for a 32-ounce beverage at the Line- backer Lounge across from campus. They pop up all over the country be- cause of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted to all student- athletes who played in 2020. Still, Notre Dame only has seven players on the 2022 roster that do not have any eligibility remaining beyond this season. Lugg is one of them. And just as strange as it is for Rees to look up and still see big No. 75 in the huddle all these years after they first came into contact, it'll be just as pecu- liar — if not more so — when that isn't the case at the turn of the calendar. "Lugg is a heartbeat guy nowadays," Rees said. "We've been here six years together which is odd for me, but it's good to have him around. He's playing his tail off. He's a leader." Rees recently had a conversation with Notre Dame offensive assistant Chris Watt, a member of the Irish offensive line from 2009-13. Watt was a Notre Dame teammate of five-time first-team All-Pro member Zack Martin of the Dallas Cow- boys. He knows what it takes to be elite along the line. He's seen it firsthand. Lugg isn't on the level of Martin. Hardly anyone is. But it certainly hasn't been for a lack of trying. "Chris said he prepares better than any offensive lineman he's seen," Rees said. "To the point where he will come up to you and go, 'That was play 24 from the Boston College game.' You go, 'Yeah, I think.' He's that prepared. "There is a reason why he's having success on the field. Obviously the con- sistency is showing now. He's been a stalwart." Through Week 9, Lugg had played every single one of Notre Dame's 572 offensive snaps per Pro Football Focus. Only two other players could say that; senior center Zeke Correll and sopho- more left tackle Joe Alt. Center and left tackle are arguably the most important offensive line positions. Lugg has played just as much as Notre Dame's starters at those spots. That says everything about his dependability and durability. Fifth-year graduate student Jarrett Pat- terson has had his issues with the latter, meanwhile, but he could be classified in the same category as Lugg as far as preparation goes. Patterson has played 513 snaps in seven games after missing the season opener with a foot sprain. There's no question Notre Dame is better when No. 55 is sandwiched between Alt and Correll at left guard. "His poise and his confidence on the field makes everyone else calm down and relax," Alt said. "When he's poised, we follow along. He's the tone setter for us for sure." "He's a warrior," Rees added about Patterson. "I can't say enough good things about him. The injuries he's battled through — the injuries he's battling through — you want to talk about a guy that earns respect every day, that's him." Soon he'll be gone. And so will Lugg. Notre Dame will have plenty of talent along the line with Alt and right tackle Blake Fisher. Correll could be a graduate student pres- ence, but he won't bring as much experience into his fifth year as Pat- terson brought into his or Lugg into his sixth. There is no substitute for time spent in the trenches. Whoever fills the voids left at guard won't have played as much football in a blue and gold uniform as the departing duo. Patterson and Lugg made two Col- lege Football Playoff appearances to- gether. They were a part of the Notre Dame program for all 54 of the record- breaking wins for a five-year stretch between 2017-21. They personified the self-proclaimed best college football culture in the country during those pro- lifically successful seasons. The Notre Dame offensive line should still be in good hands talent-wise. And it should still thrive strategically with Harry Hiestand at the helm as position coach. But don't take the last handful of games in the careers of Lugg and Patter- son for granted. They've meant a whole lot to a place that means a whole lot to a plethora of people. ✦ GOLDEN GAMUT TYLER HORKA Tyler Horka has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2021. He can be reached at Notre Dame sixth-year senior Josh Lugg had played every single one of Notre Dame's 572 offensive snaps prior to the Clemson game, per Pro Football Focus. PHOTO BY KAYDEE GAWLIK Don't Take Dynamic Guard Duo For Granted

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