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Published: August 26, 2010 12:30 p.m.

Sorting out the offensive line

Tony Krausz
The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin has been a stable presence on the offensive line. And he is about the only one.

The Irish are still sorting out the center competition between Braxston Cave and Dan Wenger, sophomore Chris Watt has impressed enough to challenge fifth-year senior Chris Stewart at left guard – who has been limited recently with a neck injury – and Taylor Dever and Andrew Nuss continue to battle for the right tackle starting role.

But even though the Irish are still looking at plenty of guys in the line rotation, there is a desire for stability.

"I don't want guys running in and out of the huddle every down," coach Brian Kelly said. "But we know we've got some key players and guys who can come in and fill in if need be. You want to maintain as much continuity as possible

"When you change personnel, the defense can change personnel. I like to go. It's not like you are going to see guys running on and off the field like a Pop Warner game. We will have some guys that may get some reps in there during the game, but we are going to try to get our 22 guys on the field and go from there."

Wenger and Cave said the constant feel that they are auditioning to be the starter has helped them keep their intensity up at practice.

"There is never a moment to relax and get comfortable," Cave said. "I think it has been good for both of us coming out here and knowing that every day your job is on the line."

Wenger said he feels he is playing a little catch up with Cave after missing some time last week because of concussion symptoms.

"My biggest focus is to work on regaining my conditioning and work on the things necessary to compete and try my best to get back into the starting lineup," Wenger.

Offensive line coach Ed Warinner said the center battle continues to tight and isn't ready to say which one has a leg up on the other.

Warinner said if the Irish rotate centers it will not drastically affect the relationship between the quarterback and the guy snapping the ball.

"I think if we need to we will," Warinner said. "It's different because we are not under center as much, so their (the quarterback and center) relationship is from five yards apart more from in the huddle and under center. It's a different deal in our system. Either guy goes in there and they do the job. They've been with the quarterbacks enough, that I don't think the quarterbacks can tell one way or another."

As far as Martin goes, Kelly said his athletic ablitiy has set him apart.

"He's going to be able to move his feet and take of some of the guys who come off the edge with great speed and quickness," Kelly said. "He's the most athletic offensive lineman that we have. When you are talking about pass protection, he's going to be able to take care of the speed rushers. Having said that, he's going to have to continue to get stronger. His anchor has to be better on a bull rush. But I'd rather work against a bull rush, because we get the ball out pretty quick, then someone coming off the edge."