SOUTH BEND, Ind. (MCT) — Since summer, every workout for Notre Dame’s offensive line has an epilogue. Even if teammates disperse, the line holds for 20 or 30 minutes, reviewing techniques or plays or whatever requires discussion. Hence the odd sight of four 300-pound men doing auditorium interviews in full pads Wednesday.
It would be the week for overdressing. Stanford is coming, and the job of protecting still-incubating quarterback Everett Golson against a tricky, unrelenting front seven requires overtime. The Irish line has assumed responsibility to keep Golson both upright and moving forward, and there is work to be done.
So on evenings this week, as with every week, Golson will wander into the room where his veteran line is dissecting film and join in for another chorus of “do you see what I see.”
“Anytime you have guys in there who have experience and can help other guys out, that’s what we want,” tackle Zack Martin said. “We’re trying to communicate and talk and get everyone on the right page.”
It’s not that the line wouldn’t do that with another quarterback, to recognize defenses and go over checks. It just has been more imperative that there is no static on the lines of communication, given Golson’s fits and starts mentally.
So it’s confirming cadence. It’s noting if the front is three-down or four-down. It’s calling out linebackers in an overloaded box or in a particularly tell-tale blitz alignment. It’s barking out the scheme for combination blocks, letting Golson know to whom the line is working.
It’s all of that, Notre Dame arguably playing with six quarterbacks on any snap.
“Honestly, the whole offensive line knows a lot of it,” center Braxston Cave said of the quarterback’s responsibilities. “When we know what he’s thinking, that makes our job that much easier.
“He’s picking it up really fast. It’s not even us as much now having to tell him anything. He’s making the calls on his own.”
The later-night film sessions help. What is broken down during position-group work during the day is reassembled when Golson and the line absorb more video later on.
“Watching film by yourself can be beneficial,” guard Chris Watt said. “But at the same time, when you can watch it as a group, you can bring your quarterbacks in there and be like, ‘OK, what are you seeing? What are you going to check on this play?’
“We can look at Stanford’s alignments on the film and be like, ‘All right, we’re going to block like this, and I’m going to check to this’ — so basically we’re not out on the field and not knowing what’s going on.”
In the spring, when Golson first began the process of earning the starting job, Watt said the line provided the sophomore “a lot of help.” Saturday against Miami, Golson checked to an outside zone play, and tailback George Atkinson III was in the end zone 55 yards later.
It’s not quite Ph.D.-level football thinking. And Stanford will be the most dense, complex test yet. But to preempt mistakes, Golson has protection, both literally (the line hasn’t allowed a sack in the last two games) and otherwise.
“We’re the group this game is going to come down to, how we execute,” Cave said. “We know that.”