Reading between the lines of draft

South Bend Tribune


Two sides to every story.

One mans treasure is another mans trash. Ya know, that sorta thing.

Such is the case of the Notre Dame football program. While the Irish are basking in the afterglow of their best showing in the NFL Draft in two decades with eight selections, theres an elephant in the room that cant be overlooked.

So then, why was Notre Dame only 9-4 last season?

That 1994 draft class, which had 10 players selected and three Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor and Jeff Burris first-rounders, was coming off a national championship near-miss. The two-point letdown loss to Boston College that followed the amazing win over Florida State was the only blemish on the 1993 Irish record.

Now, that was a team.

Rather than a cause for celebration, the fact that eight players were deemed worthy of selection into The League, and several others including quarterback Tommy Rees landed there via the free agent route, is an indictment.

No way to get around it. The 2013 season was cluttered with underachievement. The NFLs opinion of the Notre Dame talent magnifies the issue.

Only LSU, with nine, had more players taken than the Irish. Its an accomplishment worth fluffing feathers over, but there seems to be a disconnect between talent in the war room and execution on the field.

To say guys like offensive linemen Zack Martin and Chris Watt and defensive linemen Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt were the nucleus of the 2012 run to the national championship game is a stretch. That team belonged to Manti Teo, Kapron Lewis-Moore, along with Everett Golson, Tyler Eifert and Theo Riddick, though Martin and Watt made the line sturdy and dependable.

Only six players off the 2012 team were chosen in the draft.

Speaking of Tuitt and Nix, that dredges up another area of concern.

After playing puffy for a couple years at Notre Dame, when there was a paycheck on the line, the two trimmed down to a chiseled fitness. Funny what can motivate a guy.

With a training table, diet and nutrition specialists, and a world-class strength and training regimen at their disposal, Notre Dame had everything in place to allow those two to be in the best possible shape.

There has to be a degree of want to on the part of the athletes.

The highest high-five should be delivered to Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. When he came aboard at the start of the 2012 season, one of his primary concerns was that the Irish hadnt had an offensive lineman drafted in the first round in a decade (center Jeff Faine, 2003, Cleveland, 21st overall).

That was one of his priorities when he took over: Developing top-notch talent that could evolve into All-Americans and first-round picks.

Martin, a tackle for the Irish who will likely play guard in the NFL, was made the 16th pick of the draft by Dallas. The last time a Notre Dame offensive lineman was selected higher than 16th was Andy Heck (tackle, Seattle, 15th) in 1989.

Martin is the new gold standard among Irish offensive lineman.

And validation that what Hiestand is preaching works.

Thats the good side of that story.


Notre Dame lineman Chris Watt runs through a drill during Notre Dame football pro day Thursday March 20, 2014, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)