Four of the five starting positions in the 2016 Notre Dame offensive line were locked up coming out of spring practice. The 5th is still an open competition more than a week into camp with senior Colin McGovern and sophomore Tristen Hoge splitting reps and battling it out.
Heading into fall camp, the right guard position was expected to be a battle between Hoge, McGovern, Hunter Bivin and true freshman Tommy Kraemer. On Saturday though, Brian Kelly noted that the Hoge and McGovern were the main competitors at the position.
“We have two guys in there that are really sharing the load in there right now,” Kelly summarized the right guard battle. “We’ve been focusing on Tristen (Hoge) and Colin McGovern – those two guys,” Kelly said over the weekend. “We want to get Hunter (Bivin) some more work out at tackle so those two have gotten a lot of the work in there.”
The fourth competitor, true freshman Tommy Kraemer, drew high praise from his head coach over the weekend but does not appear to be in the mix for the starting position any longer. Still, Kelly described Kraemer as being “light years” ahead of any freshman offensive lineman he’s coach at Notre Dame.
Right now its Hoge vs. McGovern and the two bring slightly different skill sets to the same position.
“We knew Tristen’s athleticism is really a big plus for him. He moves well,” Kelly said.
“He got out in a screen today. I think normally we would have cut one of our guys that was in space but he was out on him right away and gave Torii Hunter a great lane to pull up on on a third down screen,” Kelly said. He later cautioned, “His traits are really obvious, it’s the learning curve. Then the next play Jerry Tillery beats him across his face for a tackle for loss. It’s just that process that we’re going through with him.”
“On the other hand, Colin gives us a really steady performer in there. Knows what he’s doing. Knows the offense really well,” Kelly said of McGovern. “”I think Colin’s had a really good week in at the right guard position.”
Those characteristics for both shouldn’t be a surprise given the other positions each plays. Hoge came to Notre Dame as a natural center and cross trains there. If anything were to happen to starter Sam Mustipher, Hoge would be the first man in to replace him. McGovern on the other hand also plays tackle.
Because the right guard position is the only open spot on the offensive line right now, Kelly doesn’t seem to be concerned the battle is still raging or be in any rush to name a starter. “We don’t feel like there isn’t a cohesiveness in the sense that you’ve got Alex Bars who’s obviously getting a lot of the work at right tackle, Sam (at center), and then the left side. We’re really just working at that right guard position right now.
In case you forgot, Notre Dame is replacing three starters on the offensive line with Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin off to the NFL and Steve Elmer off to pursue a career in politics in Washington. Bars and Mustipher are entrenched at center and right tackle though while Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson have the left side of the line on lock.
At this point, if I were a betting man, I would bet on McGovern. With Notre Dame also replacing all three wide receivers and still not having its starting quarterback named, the Irish offense should be a run first attack this fall. If it is, McGovern likely gives the Irish the best five up front.