Recruited to be the next Zack Martin, sophomore Steve Elmer is on track to becoming the next Chris Watt. And that’s a very good thing for Harry Hiestand’s offensive line, with the 6-foot-5.5 lineman a super-sized guard with the athleticism and physicality to play both inside or out.
An early enrollee who took advantage of a depth chart that needed him to be ready to step in and play, Elmer has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him, including play guard (both in 2013 and 2014), all in an effort to get the best five linemen onto the field.
Let’s take a closer look at Steve Elmer.
6'5.5", 318 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 79
Elmer was an elite recruit, committing to the Irish very early in the process and sticking with Notre Dame until enrolling early. He had a bit of a roller coaster when it came to his overall ranking, but it was pretty clear the Irish staff identified Elmer as elite early and knew exactly what they were getting.
Elmer ended up a four-star prospect, a Top 100 talent that picked Notre Dame over home state Michigan. Here’s how Brian Kelly described Elmer when he announced the 2013 recruiting class.
“I think when you look at all the things, he’s got the size, he’s 6'5", he’s got great feet, he’s 300 pounds right now, but looks like he could put on as many pounds as we need to in strength and conditioning with Steve,” Kelly said. “Bright, articulate, he fits all the profiles that we’re looking for with great feet, athleticism, can play on the edge, play the tackle position for us, and again, just a great student and a great young man.”
A perfect building block that became not just a top talent, but a great student-athlete.
Freshman Season (2013): Played in 10 games, starting four of them at right guard after Christian Lombard’s season ended with back surgery. Elmer shared playing time and the starting role with Conor Hanratty at Lombard’s guard spot.
The sky is the limit for Elmer, who still might end up a tackle both collegiately and at the next level. He’s the prototype of this “next wave” of Irish offensive linemen recruited by Harry Hiestand: bigger, stronger and more athletic than their predecessors.
Looking the part and actually playing to that level are two very different things. And in his second year of eligibility and first in a starting role, getting Elmer to play like an upperclassman and dominate when he’s really a true sophomore might be a challenge.
With Ronnie Stanley the preferred left tackle by Kelly and Heistand, and giant Mike McGlinchey given the first opportunity to step in at right tackle for Stanley, Elmer is another potential tackle playing on the interior. That should help add some thunder to the offensive line while making for a highly versatile Elmer -- he’s still likely the first man in at either tackle position if an injury hits.
There are few linemen I like more than Elmer, a solid kid who is showing quite a bit of maturity by sliding inside to guard and taking one for the team. In the end, if he’s as good as we all tend to think, it could end up helping. A Swiss-Army lineman could do similar things in the eyes of NFL scouts as Zack Martin -- and Elmer doesn’t have “size” issues that plagued Martin.
Putting him in Martin’s class is a bit premature. At least until we see him dominate like Martin did from the moment he hit the field. But Elmer didn’t get the benefit of redshirting like Martin did, so he has some work to do before he wins multiple lineman of the year awards at Notre Dame.
Ultimately, Elmer, Stanley and McGlinchey have the opportunity to do something very special and form a nucleus that will elevate the Irish offensive line to heights we haven’t seen.
(And no, I’m not talking about the trio being tall.)
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