SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame needed to find more than a quarterback when spring practice began.
Coach Brian Kelly also had to find two offensive linemen to help protect whoever starts for the Irish in the season opener against Navy on Sept. 1 in Dublin, Ireland.
Notre Dame lost starting right tackle Taylor Dever and right guard Trevor Robinson to graduation from a line that gave up 17 sacks last season and helped the Irish average 160.4 rushing yards.
We know about the left side in terms of (left tackle) Zack Martin, who just continues to get better. He and (left guard) Chris Watt working together are outstanding for us, coach Brian Kelly said. And now the battle on the right side, (Mike Golic Jr.) has done a nice job at center and (right) guard for us, as well as Nick Martin and Christian Lombard.
Lombard appears to have the inside track on winning the starting right tackle position as spring practice closed Saturday with the defense winning the Blue-Gold game 42-31 in Notre Dame Stadium.
The 6-foot-5, 309-pound junior-to-be worked mainly with the first-team offensive unit throughout practice. He didnt play as a freshman and appeared in 13 games last season as Devers backup.
I still have a long way to go, but I think Ive set a good base, Lombard said. I know what I need to work on in the summer. Consistency is huge for me. Thats what I need to work on.
The right guard position has been harder to decipher as Golic has bounced between center and guard during the spring as Braxston Cave, who started the first nine games at center last year, recovers from a foot injury.
Golic took Caves starting spot in the final four games last season, and he was at center Saturday as Cave sat out the scrimmage.
The 6-3, 295-pound Golic might be most valuable as a utility lineman as 6-4, 285-pound Nick Martin has shown some of the qualities his older brother, Zack, displays at left tackle.
They are similar, very athletic, long bodies. I think Nick really tries to mold himself after Zack, which isnt a bad thing, Cave said.
The three linemen started in Saturdays Blue-Gold game and helped the offense gain 239 rushing yards without giving up a sack.
Kelly isnt locking any linemen into a position at the end of spring practice, calling the two spots on the right side of the line a three-man competition.
Were going back and forth on that, Kelly said. Weve got Nick, weve got Mike Golic and youve got Christian Lombard. Youve got three for two (spots) there and how that plays out. What do you have with Golic? You have some experience. A little stronger physically, maybe not as athletic as Nick Martin. Christian gives you a little bit of both. Id say right now youre probably looking at Lombard at right tackle and Martin and Golic fighting it out for right guard right now. It could change.