The return of Joe Alt is something that immediately brings comfort to Notre Dame’s coaching staff and fan base. One reason centers around the fact that he enters the 2023 campaign as arguably the top offensive tackle in college football. Another is that he’s holding down the spot that will protect the blind side of new Irish signal-caller Sam Hartman.
Alt is a massive specimen at 6-feet-8 and 305 pounds, with genetics that stems in part from his father John, who spent 13 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs as an offensive tackle. The younger Alt has emerged as a star with the Irish and comes off a season in which he not only didn’t allow a sack but also developed into a solid running blocker.
Two years ago, Alt was the newcomer looking for a regular starting berth up front. Now, he’s the leader of this group and has developed a strong line of communication with his teammates just prior to an offensive play. That unsung skill will come in handy as the Irish look to integrate two new guards into the lineup.
Growing Into Stardom
During his high school days, Alt saw time on both the line and at tight end, presenting his quarterback with a huge target. He also showed off his athleticism by playing on the school’s basketball team but was clearly cut out to follow in his father’s footsteps. Notre Dame signed him despite offers from a host of Big Ten schools, including his father’s alma mater, Iowa, and Alt began the process of bulking up from his former 240-pound self.
Alt’s first preseason camp in 2021 didn’t quite go according to plan after he was beaten out of the starting left tackle spot by Blake Fisher. However, Fisher went down with an injury in the opening game and didn’t return until the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. In addition, other injuries made Alt’s presence in the lineup vital, and he began to show what he could offer.
By the end of that 2021 campaign, Alt had established himself at left tackle. His pass protection was still a work in progress after allowing a trio of sacks as well as seven hurries. Still, making his mark as a true freshman gave a clear indication that his career was ready to take off.
Last season, Alt and his fellow linemen struggled to build a viable level of cohesiveness, woes that led to an 0-2 start. As noted, he did his part in helping Irish quarterbacks avoid sacks and also allowed only three hurries on the year. Yet, a four-loss season still left a sour taste heading into this year.
There for the Taking
Now, in what could be his final year at Notre Dame, Alt has every incentive to further develop his leadership skills and work out any kinks in his overall game. He’s certainly not a finished product, considering that there’s been some criticism of how he’s dealt with bull rushers.
The combination of Alt’s on-field stature, mobility, and aggressive approach in the trenches is why another strong year will undoubtedly mean that he’s headed to the NFL. Some early draft outlooks have Alt going among the top 10 picks in next April’s draft, though avoiding either a decline in his play or a major injury is paramount to making that vision a reality.
If Alt is forced out of the lineup at some point this season, Tosh Baker is likely in a position to replace him. There could also be a scenario in which Fisher is moved over to the left side, with Baker and Michael Carmody then battling it out at right tackle. Ironically, it was injuries to all three players two years ago that allowed Alt to emerge.
Notre Dame has developed a pipeline of offensive linemen that ended up going to the NFL. If Alt does happen to be taken in the first round, it would mark the fifth time since 2014 that an Irish lineman has achieved that distinction.
The draft parade that began with Zack Martin, continued two years later with Ronnie Stanley and culminated in 2018 with both Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. Alt is now in a position to join this stellar group, something that could benefit him in the years ahead and the Irish in 2023.