Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2015

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

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BY LOU SOMOGYI T wo years ago while preparing for the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, Notre Dame had maybe seven serviceable offensive linemen. Sophomores Nick Martin and Conor Hanratty were the top backups at both tackle and both guard positions, re‑ spectively, while staring right guard Mike Golic Jr. was the next option be‑ hind Braxston Cave at center. Soph‑ omore reserve center Matt Hegarty had just undergone heart surgery, and prized freshman Ronnie Stanley was recovering from elbow surgery. Consequently, minimal contact work occurred in practice, and it was mani‑ fested in the 42‑14 loss to the Crimson Tide. In this year 's preparations for the Music City Bowl, numbers were no longer an issue along the offensive line — even though fifth‑year senior right tackle Christian Lombard's football career was ended with lingering back problems that also sidelined him the second half of the 2013 season. After signing five offensive line‑ men in 2013 and four in 2014, assistant coach Harry Hiestand had almost a full group of three lines — 14 schol‑ UNDER THE DOME FALLING INTO LINE Numbers improve along offensive front, but overall unit must grow Head coach Brian Kelly praised freshman offensive tackle Alex Bars in December, calling him "one of the best I've seen in 25 years." PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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