SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A common thread through Everett Golson's development has been a level of poise not always seen from first-time starters. In pressure-packed situations at Oklahoma and USC, Golson looked calm and confident, and he has his natural disposition to credit for that.
But no matter how cool of a quarterback Golson is, that poise may not have been there without good blind side protection. And that protection came from Chris Watt and Zack Martin on the left side of Notre Dame's offensive line.
"I dont even think Everett knows about a blind side," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin joked last week.
Golson was sacked 13 times, hardly a beating compared to plenty of other quarterbacks around the nation. Coach Martin chalked a lot of that up to the spectacular play of lineman Martin.
"Ridiculous," Martin said. "I tell coach, he should have two scholarships. And hes been so good every week, so, so consistent every play. He rarely misses his block, rarely ever."
Having Martin back for 2013 -- he decided to forgo entry into the NFL Draft, despite a second-round projection -- will be key in not only continuing Golson's development, but also for helping transition to a new crop of running backs.
Theo Riddick will play his final game Jan. 7 in South Florida, while Cierre Wood is still deciding whether he'll enter the NFL Draft or not. If Wood doesn't return, some combination of George Atkinson III, Amir Carlilse, William Mahone, Cam McDaniel and incoming freshman Greg Bryant will be counted on to fill the void left by Notre Dame's senior backs.
There's a lot of talent in that group, but not much experience beyond Atkinson's sporadic use and McDaniel's gains late in blowouts. But the playbook may not change too much from where it is now, and that's with Notre Dame leaning heavily on Martin and Watt for run blocking purposes.
"We certainly use the left side of our offensive line, Id say at times at a ridiculous rate," Chuck Martin said. "Im not giving away any secrets. Alabama can listen to the press conference -- theyre not very good at what they do if they dont know some of our tendencies running the football. We typically like to go left, so its not by accident."
Another year of Martin and Watt on that side of the line may not change things.