Click here for our look at the competition for the field cornerback spot.
And here for a breakdown of the right tackle competition entering spring ball.
In addition to quarterback, field cornerback, and right tackle (each referenced in the links above), included in our forthcoming competition previews are the following: Dog linebacker, the third and fourth wide receivers, Cat linebacker, right guard, and place-kicker.
Below is the third position breakdown in our series: right guard.
(Unless otherwise referenced, each player's class designation is referenced in terms of 2012, not last season).
Position Preview #3 – Right Guard
Gone is 40-game starter and 48-game veteran right guard Trevor Robinson. Aside from two games missed due to injury in November 2009, the graduating senior manned the role in 40 of the last 42 Notre Dame football games dating back to the end of his freshman year in 2008.
The position's immediate future is further clouded by 5th-year senior swingman Andrew Nuss's departure. Nuss was the team's top backup at both guard spots last fall and one of three available veterans (along with Mike Golic, Jr., and Christian Lombard) who were slated to see duty throughout the season.
Spring (Crystal) Ball
New blood is assured with numerous combatants for the vacated role at the ready:
- Veteran Swingman: Expected 5th-year returnee Mike Golic, Jr. won’t beat out classmate Braxston Cave at center, but the versatile interior lineman should get an initial look at the right guard spot – while serving as Cave’s emergency backup – at spring’s outset. Both Cave and Golic will be gone after 2012; the emergence of a new competitor as the backup center, one that receives meaningful playing time during the ’12 season, would be ideal.
- Two-Deep Returnee: Redshirt freshman Conor Hanratty appeared on the team’s two-deep depth chart at right guard from the outset last fall, though he was never slated to appear on Saturdays – the aforementioned redshirt always part of head coach Brian Kelly’s plan for the former Scout.com 3-star prospect. Kelly lauded the first year competitor for his physicality and toughness last fall – and the marked improvement in both areas since his initial recruitment.
- Talent to the Fore: Former Scout.com 4-star tackle prospect and Irish redshirt freshman Matt Hegarty could challenge the team’s two-deep at any of five positions this spring and next fall. At present it’s safe to assume he’ll take part in the Battle Royale for the open right guard starting spot. Hegarty was also reportedly groomed to be the center of the future during fall 2011.
- Second Martin In? Local media was surprised to hear Kelly include Martin as an “inside guy” during a discussion of the five freshman offensive lineman last November. If that remains the case, there’s no reason to think the team’s designated No. 2 left tackle last fall can’t compete for the right guard role over the next eight months.
- Second Spring: 2011 January enrollee Brad Carrico should push for a backup role along the interior entering spring 2012. Competition behind Chris Watt on the left side would give Carrico the best chance to earn quality reps prior to summer conditioning.
(Barely) Educated Spring Guesses for the Right Guard Spot: Hanratty and Golic carry their right guard competition into August camp; Martin wins the No. 2 role behind starter Chris Watt on the left side, and Hegarty is the No. 2 center behind Cave after spring ball giving the Irish the following two-deep look exiting spring:
Left Tackle: Zack Martin, Jordan Prestwood
Left Guard: Chris Watt, Nick Martin
Center: Braxston Cave, Matt Hegarty/Golic
Right Guard: Conor Hanratty, Mike Golic/Hegarty
Right Tackle: Christian Lombard, Tate Nichols
Expect ample competition at RT, RG, backup C, and backup RG running well into August camp.
Coach’s Quote to Note:
“Inside guys,” said head coach Brian Kelly last November, specifically of Hegarty, Martin, and Hanratty, though Carrico is assume inside as well. “I think (Jordan) Prestwood’s got the ability to play outside but the rest of those guys are going probably to be inside guys.”