Elmer settling into own spot on Notre Dame's offensive line

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — After Sheldon Day lauded teammate Steve Elmer’s strengths — length, knowledge, ability to meld well with other offensive linemen among them — it was pointed out to Day just how big Elmer is.

“Yeah,” Day said with a chuckle of the 6-foot-6, 317-pound Elmer, “very big.”

Elmer is not only big, but also a very big part of Notre Dame’s offensive line plans entering the 2014 season.

The product of Midland, Mich., played in 10 games as a true freshman, starting four. As the Irish enter the home stretch of their spring — the 15-practice slate concludes with the April 12 Blue-Gold Game — Elmer is ticketed as the starting left guard. He was recruited as a tackle and served as the first lineman off the bench last year in a jack-of-all-trades role.

“It’s nice to have a certain position you can focus on and kind of pour all your effort into that,” Elmer said.

“Just whatever the coaches want me to do, wherever they think I can help the team the most, I’m willing to play there. It’s still offensive line, whether it’s guard, tackle, left side, right side. That’s just kind of how I look at it; and the biggest thing is to have one position I’m looking at now and I can settle on honing in on that one.”

Elmer’s first action last season came in the Week 2 loss at Michigan. As a high school junior, Elmer was on a visit to Michigan during its 2011 comeback victory over Notre Dame, and then committed to ND the following week while on a visit to South Bend. His first college snap was a play-action pass, the second a play on which Elmer said he took a bad first step.

“It was mostly a blur. A blur of blue and maize,” Elmer said. “Other than that, I don’t really remember.”

Elmer moved into the starting lineup when right guard Christian Lombard was lost in October after undergoing back surgery. He started three regular season games and the Pinstripe Bowl win over Rutgers.

“The experience of being able to play in games last year has really helped accelerate my ... I had to grow up pretty fast,” Elmer said. “That was tough at the time, but really helpful for long-term development. I think it was a really valuable learning experience.”

The fact that Elmer was able to quickly pick up on things shouldn’t be surprising. Last fall, left tackle Zack Martin called Elmer intellectual and joked that the rookie was a little nerdy. That led to Elmer recently being asked just how smart he is.

“Everyone thinks I’m really, really smart. I did all right in a couple first semester freshman classes and all of a sudden I’m the next ...” Elmer said. “I’m doing well. I enjoy it. It’s really cool being at a university like this where that’s taken so seriously.”

Taking last spring seriously offered Elmer a big opportunity to work his way into the rotation, one that has set the foundation for him to be an anchor — wherever that may be — for the next few years.

“Last spring was invaluable,” Elmer said. “Looking back at how things turned out in the fall, it was definitely, definitely in hindsight, a very good decision to come in and be here and get extra time to prepare and lift and con-dition and help learn the system and work on my technique.

“All that stuff, it was very, very big.”; 574-235-6428

Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Steve Elmer is expected to be Notre Dame's starting left guard this season. (SBT File Photo)