Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2016

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

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make sure you deliver the ball to the quarterback just right to get the play going." Oh yes … and then after getting the snap just right, you still have to take on what is usually one of the biggest, strongest players on the field — the opposing team's nose guard. "Being able to play behind [Martin] for a year and learn the things that he did and see the leadership qualities that he had, it made the transition so much easier than had he not been here," Mustipher said. "He taught me everything about the position. I credit a lot of what I do now to him. "He's so smart and I believe he was the greatest leader in the country last year. … He demands excellence from the guys who are next to him, and that's the most important quality about him." A prime physical difference is that whereas Martin was a rangier 6-4½, 301 pounds, Mustipher is a more compact and powerful 6-2¼, 305 pounds, allowing him often to achieve excellent leverage. In the Blue-Gold Game, he was even regu- larly able to get under the pads of 6-0¾, 315-pound Daniel Cage, who defensive line coach Keith Gilmore said might be among the three or four strongest players on the team. Mustipher graded out well, including several pancake blocks. "He's got the body type for it," Hiestand said of what inspired him to shift Mustipher to center. "He's thick and strong, and has really good quickness, and he's really smart. … Sam is probably your classic center body type, combined with intelli- gence and understanding of football. "We knew that he would eventu- ally be very good there. He's pro- gressing really well." Center also is classified as a cere- bral position because a lot of block- ing call responsibilities during the pre-snap is placed on him, although Mustipher downplays that aspect. "There are calls I make, there are calls that the guys around me make and there are calls that whoever is at quarterback will make," Mustipher said. "I just kind of do whatever I have to do. If somebody has a ques- tion, I'll be sure that I can answer it. "I feel like I'm comfortable in that role, and it makes it easier when you're around a group of guys like we have here at Notre Dame." Even though Hiestand has to find three new starters this year along the line, the word "rebuilding" is taboo because through his first four years at the school his primary objective has been to create a culture along the line that mandates a consistency in the attitude toward competition and with the fundamentals. " T h a t c u l t u r e c o n t i n u e s , " Mustipher said. "It's the same every day. We put our nose down, go to work every day and we know what we have to do to help this team win." "Our standards don't change, and what we're specifically teaching also has a consistency to it," Hiestand explained. "It's easier to pass it on rather than learn a new set of funda- mentals." It's not necessarily a snap, but play- ers such as Mustipher make it a little easier. ✦

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