Injuries Put The Pressure On Notre Dame’s Formidable Offensive Line

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 NOV 16 Navy at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 16: Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson (55) ... [+] looks on in game action during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Navy Midshipmen on November 16, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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In 31 games as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, Ian Book has worked with just two starting centers: Sam Mustipher, now a backup with the NFL’s Chicago Bears, and Jarrett Patterson, one of the most physically gifted to play the position in program history. 

With the second-ranked Fighting Irish trying to reach the College Football Playoff for the second time in three seasons, this is no time for breaking in a new center, but that’s the situation at hand. 

According to multiple reports, Patterson will miss the rest of the season after suffering a foot injury in the Nov. 14 win at Boston College. The third-year sophomore from Mission Viejo, Calif., was the anchor of one of the college game’s most experienced and accomplished offensive lines. 

Joining Patterson on the shelf, according to Irish Illustrated, will be senior right guard Tommy Kraemer. Already dealing with back issues, Kraemer reportedly underwent an emergency appendectomy on Friday. 

With a combined 147 consecutive individual starts, the Irish line was considered the frontrunner for the Joe Moore Award given annually to the best FBS line in the land. Notre Dame last won it in 2017, when future NFL standouts Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey were steamrolling opponents. 

Now, at 8-0 heading into a Black Friday road game at prolific North Carolina, Book must get familiar with a new center. Redshirt freshman Zeke Correll, a former four-star recruit from Cincinnati, is expected to get the nod with versatile fourth-year junior Josh Lugg stepping in for Kraemer. 

 APR 13 Notre Dame Spring Game

SOUTH BEND, IN - APRIL 13: Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Josh Lugg (75) looks on in ... [+] action during the Notre Dame Football Blue and Gold Spring game on April 13, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Lugg successfully subbed for injured right tackle Robert Hainsey last November and started the rest of the way during a season-ending six-game winning streak. But after going 19-2 with Patterson at center, there will be an adjustment period with Correll snapping the ball.. 

Asked recently about the Irish line’s effectiveness, Patterson said it was a matter of “seeing everything through one set of eyes.” 

In his second season as a starter, Patterson had been given more responsibility in calling out pass protections and making last-second line adjustments as he identified expected blitzers..His communication level, not just with Book but with the rest of his fellow linemen, was at a graduate-school level. 

“The coaches have put a bit more trust in me, and I really appreciate it,” Patterson said. “It’s just trusting the guy next to you, just knowing the guy next to me is going to be there to look out for me.”  

Now, out of necessity, a pair of replacements must step in on the fly for line coach Jeff Quinn and try to keep lead back Kyren Williams and friends in a groove. Just four offenses had more rushing touchdowns through Saturday than Notre Dame’s 24. 

Three tuneups and less than a month remain before an expected rematch with Clemson in the ACC Championship on Dec. 19 in Charlotte. Suddenly, the pressure is on for Correll, Lugg and the rest of a newly disrupted Irish offensive line.

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