Last season’s offensive line performance for Notre Dame began on a bumpy note before eventually getting back on track. This season, the hope is that such issues are avoided, especially with three starters returning to this unit. The key area of concern will be the guard spot, where Andrew Kristofic is battling with Rocco Spindler for the right guard spot, while redshirt freshman Billy Schrauth is set to handle duties on the left side.
Barring any preseason injuries, Schrauth will finally get to see some action after sitting out last season. He definitely gives off an imposing presence at 6-feet-4 and 305 pounds and would help bolster the line by coming through in 2023. From all indications, his work ethic is off the charts, and that attitude will hopefully rub off on his teammates.
Schrauth’s combination of ability and hard work paid off handsomely during this year’s spring ball when he managed to emerge at guard amid plenty of competition. Among the players he stood out against were veterans Michael Carmody and Rocco Spindler, with Spindler still struggling to gain a foothold as part of this unit.
The fact that the Irish were able to sign Schrauth in the first place remains a feather in Notre Dame’s cap. That’s because it only seemed natural for him to stay home in Wisconsin and play for his home state Badgers. Instead, Marcus Freeman bolted from his introductory press conference in December 2021 to make his final pitch to Schrauth.
Winning All-State honors in 2021, Schrauth was the main part of an offensive line that rolled up nearly 250 rushing yards per game. That accomplishment is more impressive when considering the fact that in the latter part of that season, he was dealing with a foot injury that required offseason surgery.
That surgery came at a time Schrauth was an early enrollee at Notre Dame and effectively eliminated him from taking part in spring practices. He remained on the sidelines for all of last year, earning a redshirt season that may or may not be needed down the road.
Getting Attention Early
Schrauth’s ability to make his presence felt is nothing new to the big man, who grew up in a big family that was needed to run the family’s large dairy farm. If his physical stature wasn’t enough to emphasize his aggressive approach, his eagerness to hit defenders came through early on in his time with the Irish.
That aggressiveness can be attributed in part to Schrauth’s days on the defensive line. As a sophomore, among his 44 tackles on the year were 19 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Those experiences on the other side of the ball offer the hope that he can get a sense of a defender’s mentality and adapt accordingly.
Notre Dame’s new offensive line coach Joe Rudolph needs no introduction to Schrauth, considering that Rudolph made every effort to get the big man to play at Wisconsin. That goal now gets to materialize in new surroundings, with the coach no doubt looking to take full advantage of his prize.
A Look Into the Crystal Ball
Even though Schrauth didn’t see the field in 2022, he did get the attention of Notre Dame’s defenders during the team’s practices. Some of the most notable aspects concerning his abilities were how quick his hands were and his level of field awareness. Such talents can often take time to develop, which means that his transition into the starting lineup should be a short one.
That would be a welcome relief after last year’s aggravating start that included the embarrassing home loss to Marshall. This season’s beginning will be a little easier, with Navy and Tennessee State the first two opponents. Becoming a cohesive unit by the time Ohio State arrives for its September 23 clash with the Irish is a necessity.
For Schrauth, lining up between Joe Alt and Zeke Correll can only help him this season. Alt has made a habit of giving his linemates a sense of what to expect on each offensive play. Meanwhile, Correll’s ability to deal with blitzes can help Schrauth get more comfortable as the season progresses.
One former Irish guard that Schrauth is seeking to emulate is Quenton Nelson. Shortly after arriving on campus last year, Schrauth spoke in awe of Nelson’s technique, which helped make the former Notre Dame standout a first-round NFL draft pick. That same scenario could be a part of Schrauth’s future, but for now, he’s simply focused on making his first season with the Irish a good one.