Notre Dame Offensive Line Starting To Show Dominance

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame is expected to be anchored in 2020 by a dominant offensive line, but the first time we saw the line it certainly didn’t look like one of the nation’s best. In looked more like the unit that struggled to establish the ground game in 2019.

The Irish offense sputtered through the first 30 minutes of the Duke win, scoring just 10 points in the first half. Notre Dame’s ground game was especially ineffective, with the Irish racking up just 39 yards on 13 designed runs, which went for just 3.0 yards per carry. The Irish failed to get a push up front, there was little room to run and the offensive line gave up two seconds in the early going.

The Irish started to clean things up in the second half against the Blue Devils, and the line was brilliant in the 52-0 victory over South Florida in week two. Over the last six quarters we’ve seen the Irish line start to play like the unit that was expected to be one of best blocking groups in the country.

Just look at Notre Dame’s run efficiency rating in the first half of the Duke game compared to the last six quarters. An efficient run is one that is considered a win for the offense based on yards gained/result relative to down-and-distance, whether the run gets a first down or reaches the end zone.

A 50% or better run efficiency rate is quite good based on my metrics, and anything over 60% is elite. Here’s how the first two games have gone for the Irish run game.

Duke First Half - (4-13) - 30.7% efficiency
Duke Second Half - (9-17) - 52.9% efficiency

South Florida - (29-39) - 74.4% efficiency

Here’s another way to look at it:

First 2 Quarters (4-13) - 30.7% efficiency
Last 6 Quarters (38-56) - 67.9% efficiency

A 67.9% run efficiency rating is beyond elite, regardless of the level of competition. Against Duke it was more about being assignment correct, but against South Florida we saw the line start to exert physical dominance in a way you'd expect from an elite line.

Let's look at the raw rushing numbers:

Duke First Half - 13 carries, 39 yards, 3.0 yards per carry
Duke Second Half - 20 carries, 115 yards, 5.8 yards per carry

South Florida - 42 carries, 270 yards, 6.4 yards per carry

First 2 Quarters - 13 carries, 39 yards, 3.0 yards per carry
Last 6 Quarters - 62 carries, 385 yards, 6.2 yards per carry

Note: These numbers refer to called running plays only, not scrambles

Pro Football Focus gave junior center Jarrett Patterson the best run blocking grade of his career in the win over South Florida, and I noted in my post-game grades that I felt it was the best game of his career. Left guard Aaron Banks also earned the best run blocking grades of his career from PFF in the USF win as well, and left tackle Liam Eichenberg’s Duke and South Florida run blocking grades are the second and third best of his career.

Notre Dame has also allowed just one sack in the last six quarters.

The Irish line has also benefitted from outstanding early season blocking from tight ends Tommy Tremble, Michael Mayer and Brock Wright.

When Notre Dame gets back out on the field Oct. 10 against Florida State it will face arguably the best line it will see all season, so we'll see if the unit is ready to take that next step and become a consistently dominant group.

But the tests will continue; two weeks later it will face an extremely talented defensive front when it heads to Pittsburgh. Of course, the Clemson defensive line will present an extremely difficult challenge.

We have a lot to learn yet about this unit, but if the physicality we saw in the South Florida game becomes the norm there is little doubt this unit will live up to expectations and drive the offense all season long.

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Comments (6)
No. 1-3
chamgel
chamgel

I came away from Saturday highly impressed with the offensive line. That is what an elite line should to do an undersized and out talented opponent. I know some will say it was just USF, but Notre Dame player Bowling Green and New Mexico last year and wasn’t able to dominate up front like that.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the offensive line handles the upcoming slate of games, as you pointed out FLorida State will be a test.. but based off the early returns, bringing in Chris Watt to help the interior offensive line and run blocking was a shrewd move by Kelly and Quinn.... credit to both for acknowledging a weakness and making a move to address it. If we continue to see returns like that this offensive line will be special.

Jherbeck91
Jherbeck91

This line is loaded with talent and it's about time they showed it. The RB room, which in the preseason could've been thought of as a liability, is showing to be quite good. The duo of Williams & Tyree running behind this line could be really really good.

Now if we could get our QB and WRs to take a step forward this offense could be really fun to watch.

thomasna33
thomasna33

I'm really happy with the OL right now. I hope they keep it up. Patterson is turning out to be a very good addition. PFF is not the end all be all when it comes to assessing teams play but they have ND's OL high. I think Eichenberg and Hainsey are both top 10 tackles, Patterson is the #1 center, Banks is top 10 guard and Hainsey is #18 or something like that. We'll know if those rankings hold weight better after FSU.


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