Notre Dame will now be down two starting offensive linemen when the Fighting Irish take on North Carolina this Friday. Starting center Jarrett Patterson is out for the season and right guard Tommy Kraemer is now out for at least the matchup against the Tar Heels.
That is certainly a big blow for a unit that has been the backbone of the offense this season. Notre Dame will have to replace a pair of blockers that combined for 56 career starts. Even more problematic is that Kraemer was expected to help ease the loss of Patterson by providing leadership to whoever starts at center.
There are three options to replace Kraemer at right guard, beginning with what I believe are the two most likely to be done by the staff, and a third option that is least likely, but remains something that should be considered.
Zeke Correll To Center, Joshua Lugg To Right Guard
Sophomore center Zeke Correll and senior swingman Joshua Lugg are considered the two options to replace Patterson at center, and according to my sources Lugg has been option one during practice this week but Correll is getting an opportunity as well, and he supposedly has impressed.
Now with Kraemer out, another option for Notre Dame is to insert Correll into the center role and play Lugg at right guard, which is a position he has played during his career. In fact, Lugg played 13 snaps at right guard against Georgia Tech when Kraemer was hobbled, and he has 43 career snaps at that position.
With two veterans to the right and left of the center it easier for whoever won that battle to transition into the lineup. With Kraemer now out the staff must figure out what the best overall makeup is. With Dillan Gibbons (see below) at right guard and Lugg at center you have one relatively inexperienced player from a snaps standpoint (Gibbons) flanked by a more experienced player in Lugg, but a player with no career snaps at center.
That could certainly be an option, but there is some uncertainty with it.
Moving Correll into the lineup with Lugg at right guard would give the staff a far less experienced player in the lineup from a career snaps standpoint (compared to Patterson), but you would have a player that has been practicing at center for the last two years, and then you would have a right guard - either Lugg or Gibbons - who is playing a position where they have taken game reps.
This option would be largely dependent on the staff's comfort level with putting Correll into the lineup based on how he has practiced in their eyes.
Insert Dillan Gibbons Into The Lineup
When left guard Aaron Banks was kicked out to left tackle against Florida State (to replace an injured Liam Eichenberg), senior Dillan Gibbons was inserted into the lineup, and he handled himself quite well.
Gibbons should be able to make a smooth transition to right guard should the staff desire to go with a more experienced lineup. Although Gibbons doesn't have a great deal of experience, he has played 175 career snaps, he has been in the system for four years and he did handle himself quite well in the win over Florida State.
Gibbons also played 49 snaps at right guard in 2018-19 according to Pro Football Focus. The transition to right guard would likely be a relatively smooth one.
Of course, the staff could choose to move Banks to right guard and let Gibbons play left guard, but that would be more disruptive to the current alignment and would seem far less likely.
Robert Hainsey Move Makes Sense
The final option remains an intriguing one, but it would also cause the most shake up. That would be moving right tackle Robert Hainsey into center to provide a far more experienced player capable of making line calls and getting everyone on the same page.
That would result with Lugg at right tackles and Gibbons at right guard. You'd have a completely remade offensive line with two players at new positions (Hainsey, Gibbons), but Lugg has five career starts at right tackle and almost 500 career snaps at that position, and Hainsey is such an experienced and smart player that he could make that kind of move easier than anyone else on the roster.
The high level of moving parts makes this option less likely, but it would give Notre Dame its best combination of experience and having a center that you know can make all the calls out of all other possibilities.
To comment below be sure to sign up for a FREE Disqus account, which you can get HERE.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes.
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook