High expectations haven't hindered Notre Dame commit Josh Lugg
The Josh Lugg demolishing opposing defensive linemen on a weekly basis barely resembles the 14-year-old version of himself.
He was bigger than the average freshman at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, yet he had plenty of growing left to do. He also had to wait his turn.
Lugg sprouted to 6-6, 250 pounds by his sophomore season, but he couldn’t crack the starting offensive line at North Allegheny (Pa.) High School. Lugg backed up both tackles and played as a blocking tight end at times.
That didn’t stop college football coaches from extending him scholarship offers. Pittsburgh became the first school to offer him last November. After West Virginia offered in January and Tennessee followed suit in March, Lugg began to consistently pick up scholarships by the month as he developed into a 6-7, 280-pound prospect.
Lugg received an offer from Notre Dame after camping with the Irish in June. He followed that up with a commitment to the Irish in August. His recruitment unofficially wrapped up before he started his first high school football game.
That day finally came in September. With his hulking frame and a starting spot at left tackle came monster expectations.
“It’s unbelievable what he’s done,” said North Allegheny head coach Art Walker. “Because of how he did in camps and because of his size, there were so many high expectations for him right out of the gate.”
Lugg answered by paving the way for an offense averaging nearly 250 rushing yards per game. The season hasn’t come without hiccups, but with every mistake came an opportunity to improve.
“He learned some things early on the first few games,” Walker said. “It’s unbelievable his work ethic; what he’s improved upon. His approach to things, being a great teammate and always wanting to improve and get better — he’s one of the most coachable Division I players that we’ve ever had.”
In the last game of the regular season, Lugg plowed through defenders for 18 pancake blocks. He’s become a punishing run blocker, but he continues to work on pass blocking any chance he gets. In a run-heavy offense, those opportunities don’t come often on Friday nights.
Lugg emphasizes improving each week, but Walker admits it is hard to find teammates that can challenge him in practice.
“At times it’s tough,” Walker said. “We’re fortunate to have a very good right tackle who is 6-5. We’ll do some things one-on-one. We try to do a lot of different one-on-one drills, combination drills where those guys are going against each other and battling and doing some things so we get some quality looks.”
Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand speaks with Lugg every Sunday night to review how the week went for both of them. The connection with Hiestand played a big role in Lugg choosing to give his pledge to Notre Dame.
“His ways of teaching schemes and philosophies for the offensive line is like my offensive line coach,” Lugg said. “I understood what he was trying to explain to us. The other big thing was the offensive linemen on the team had told me how he’s big on the Notre Dame offensive line family and everybody is there for each other. That was a big part.”
North Allegheny (8-1) opens the playoffs Friday with a game against Norwin. The next day Lugg’s future teammates will take on the first school to offer him a scholarship. Lugg, who saw the Irish play in Philadelphia last week, will be in attendance.
“It’s my hometown, so it’s pretty cool I get to go see that game,” Lugg said. “I had been recruited by Pitt a lot before I committed to Notre Dame. That’s two teams that I had a pretty good connection with. Notre Dame, I love them. I’m excited to see them. I think they’ll put out the win.”
Lugg has fully embraced his role as a Notre Dame commit. He’s been contacting other recruits to try to get them to join him and watching every game. Lugg will have to be patient with his signing day still 15 months away, but he’s used to waiting.
“It’s very intense. I love it,” Lugg said. “Notre Dame’s gone through a lot of adversity since week one and they keep improving every week. It’s cool to see it from a commit view, because it’s unreal to think that I’m going to be there in a couple years.”