Despite being matched up against an undersized defense from the Mid-American Conference, the Notre Dame offensive line had an abysmal performance in the win over Toledo. The line's play was so poor that it often directly resulted in the offense stagnating against a defense that a top offense should have dominated.
Notre Dame's line struggled in both the run game and pass game. The unit failed to get any push against the undersized Toledo front, and the Rockets were often able to whip the Irish line with just four and five players. That should not happen with any kind of consistency for a Notre Dame offensive line, and it shouldn't matter how many returning starters are on the line, not against Toledo.
The line had far too many misses in the pass game and the inability to hold ground in the pass game resulted in far too many collapsed pockets for the Irish quarterbacks. Footwork was also a major issue for much of the line. The line splits seem too tight and the line spends to much time stepping in place and then stopping their feet when they get contact. When it's happening to players across the board it's a coaching problem. I learned long ago that when things like that happen this often you are either coaching it to happen or allowing it to happen, and neither is a good thing.
Notre Dame line coach Jeff Quinn absolutely must get his line to play with more force and passion than what we saw against Toledo. There is no excuse for his line to get physically whipped by a team like Toledo, and that kind of performance cannot happen again.
Overall Grade: D-
Let's look at the individual player grades and analysis.
JARRETT PATTERSON, CENTER
Patterson had a much better performance against Toledo than he did in the opener. The senior looked rusty in the first game but his snaps were sharp and his blocking was much better against the Rockets. Patterson didn't get much help inside, but his blocks were sound and he was very active in this game.
He was called for an ineligible man downfield penalty that negated a 37-yard gain, but I felt that was a bad call based on my understanding of the rule. Outside of that Patterson had some strong moments. He had an excellent second level block on Notre Dame's 43-yard touchdown run and his pass protection was mostly sound.
Patterson got a decent push in the run game and outside of a few late misses in the pass game he was clean there as well. That's the next step for Patterson as he gets back on track from his 2020 injury, keeping his feet moving and finishing off blocks better than he did in this game.
JOSHUA LUGG, RIGHT TACKLE
Lugg's performance was a bit up and down. On the long Kyren Williams touchdown run it was Lugg who made the first crucial block. He had a great stretch block on the play and drove the defender way outside, which allowed Williams to press the line wide and allowed him to get free on the second level thanks to Patterson's second level block.
Lugg had some good drive blocks and at times got good movement at times, but like the rest of the line he stopped his feet too often and his initial footwork off the ball resulted in far too many stalemates.
His footwork in pass protection has been troubling, and it's not just him. Lugg was on his heels too much, and when that happens he gets knocked back and driven into the quarterback. The vertical pass set technique we see from Lugg also results in him being right in the quarterbacks face when he finally engages an edge rusher.
CAIN MADDEN, RIGHT GUARD
Madden had a truly rough game against Toledo in both the run game and pass game. He gets a D- instead of my initial grade of F because there were some snaps where he came off with good force and got very good movement in the run game. The issue, however, is that Madden had far too many mistakes, misses and pressures mixed in with those positive snaps.
For a player with his experience and expectations this kind of performance is unacceptable. Madden's two biggest issues in this game were technical. He's clearly a strong kid but he consistently stops hit feet at the point on contact, which is a big no no. Go watch the long touchdown run by Williams. On that play Lugg does a great job firing off, hitting the defender and then driving his feet though contact. Madden makes a strong initial hit but then stops his feet, allowing the DT to get off the block. If Lugg doesn't dominate his man the way he did that DT comes off and tackles Williams.
We saw snaps like that throughout the game.
Madden is also still struggling to pick up the offense, and the result is far too many run throughs and missed second level blocks. There are way too many snaps on basic plays where Madden seems to have no concept of who the second level defender is and whether or not he should be getting to him. His pass protection also suffered from him stopping his feet and he allowed far too many pressures and collapses of the pocket in this game.
ZEKE CORRELL, LEFT GUARD
Correll is way too talented to be struggling as much as he is. He's simply playing with no confidence, no force and very little idea of what he's supposed to be doing. That is causing him to play passively and we aren't seeing the tough kid we saw last season. The fact it's happening to multiple players tells me this is a preparation problem from a coaching standpoint, and Correll is suffering from it.
Correll, like Madden, is a short player that needs to use his height as an advantage. Against Toledo, however, both guards would step, raise up and lose leverage. Combine that with them stopping their feet and you see why they are getting zero push in the run game and why they are losing so many blocks.
Correll also seems to be struggling quite a bit with his assignments. He allowed multiple second level defenders to run right through his outside gap and he struggled to get off first-level blocks and onto second-level defenders. His movement in the run game was non-existent and he did a poor job finishing in pass protection.
MICHAEL CARMODY, LEFT TACKLE
Carmody gets a D because he played hard before his injury. That's the thing I like about Carmody and why I think giving him a look at guard should be considered. He is more of a mauler than an edge player and he's at his best when he can fire off and hit people, and he's the only lineman to consistently do that. When he got in trouble in this game was in pass protection. Carmody just isn't great on an island, which is why he allowed a sack and two quarterback hits in limited snaps.
He has been a bright spot in that he plays with toughness and he shows potential to quickly get on track, assuming he can stay healthy, and I think moving him inside would allow his game to flourish.
TOSH BAKER, LEFT TACKLE
Baker's technique was all over the place, but when he was right I was very impressed with him. He's really long and athletic but his footwork was a mess, which resulted in him giving up three edge pressures/sacks on plays where proper footwork allows him to gobble up the blocker.
Baker competed in the run game and showed a decent punch, but he has to clean up his footwork to be more effective. If he can do that his game could take off in a hurry.
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