Notre Dame will be without starting center Jarrett Patterson for the remainder of the year, dealing a blow to what has been arguably the nation’s best offensive line. The Irish staff now must figure out what it will do next.
Based on the depth chart, the obvious choice is to insert sophomore Zeke Correll into the started lineup. Correll was one of the top recruits in Notre Dame’s 2019 class, ranking as the nation’s No. 95 overall player according to the 247Sports composite ranking.
According to my sources, Correll has come on strong this season as the backup center behind Patterson. The issue, however, is that Correll has just 46 career snaps, and the Irish offensive staff usually prefers a more veteran replacement.
Former walk-on Colin Grunhard could also be an option, but Grunhard has battled to stay healthy this season.
Another intriguing option could result in moving some players around. A source I spoke with last night said that senior captain Robert Hainsey, the team’s starting right tackle, has been taking snaps this season in case an emergency arose. With a week off, the staff could use that extra time to move Hainsey inside, which would give them a veteran player at center.
That kind of move would also boost Hainsey’s draft stock, but that isn’t (and shouldn’t) be the team’s top priority. Moving Hainsey inside would then open up the right tackle spot for senior Joshua Lugg, who is the team’s backup at right tackle and is considered the next best blocker. Lugg started the final five games of the 2019 season when Hainsey went down with a foot/ankle injury of his own, and the Pittsburgh native handled himself well.
The decision will ultimately come down to how ready the staff believes Correll is at this point. While there are high hopes for him down the road, him stepping into the lineup now would be much earlier than expected. Correll is talented, but he remains a bit undersized at this point, and the lack of experience won’t aid his cause either.
My guess is this decision will be partly based on how the staff feels Correll has been practicing of late. The end result could be a combination of both options, meaning if Correll has been practicing well lately and the staff feels he’s mentally and physically ready to go, it could give him the start, while also cross-training Hainsey to step in should Correll falter.
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