SOUTH BEND – While all eyes were on the return of quarterback Everett Golson as he returned to practice Monday as Notre Dame opened spring practice, there are plenty of other things for coach Brian Kelly to begin sorting out as the Irish get ready for next season.
One of the biggest puzzles to piece together is the offensive line.
Notre Dame has plenty of linemen returning who started at least one game last season in Nick Martin, who is limited in spring as he recovers from a knee injury, Christian Lombard, who is returning from a back injury, Ronnie Stanley, Steve Elmer, Conor Hanratty and Matt Hegarty. But the Irish are replacing the left side of their line as Zack Martin and Chris Watt exhausted their eligibility last season.
The Irish started spring practice with a first team offensive line that consisted of Stanley at left tackle, Elmer at left guard, Hegarty at center, Lombard at right guard and McGlinchey, who didn't play last season as a freshman, at right tackle.
The second-team offensive line had Hunter Bivin, who didn't play last year as a freshman, at left tackle, Hanratty at left guard, Mark Harrell at center, and two players who also didn't play as freshman on the right side in guard John Montelus and tackle Colin McGovern.
"There's a lot of work to be done on the offensive line," Kelly said. "You know, there are probably six or seven guys that are lumped together. We kind of have to sort through that and that it was alluded to that in my press conference on Friday as to what is the tackle situation going to look like. But even what is the two-deep situation looking like and, as you know, this year we kind of have to dig deep into the depth on the offensive line. So we have to sort that out."
There's also plenty of questions on defense as the Irish try to find three new linebackers, including replacing both starting inside linebackers, the right two players at safety and a cornerback to start opposite returning starter KeiVarae Russell.
And that's not even taking into account finding new defensive linemen to replace end Stephon Tuitt and tackle Louis Nix III along with the players getting used to new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
"I think there is a lot going to be happening, even at the safety position, as we move through the spring," Kelly said. "So a lot of things, a lot of dynamics, what I got out of (Monday) wasn't necessarily that, as much as it didn't feel like we had to take a step back. That was good for me."