Many long time and old school Notre Dame Football fans state that games were, are and will be determined by offensive and defensive line play. That sentiment would be hard to argue. There are the rare exceptions where a team's offensive skill position talent is so overwhelming (see SC at the end of the 2002 season – but it had good line play, too) that mediocre line play is good enough to win against top-notch competition. With that said, Notre Dame started to build its offensive line three years ago with a talented recruiting class and followed that recruiting class with two more good offensive line hauls.
With an offensive line that will simply be massive this upcoming fall, not to mention experienced (finally), Notre Dame now needs to develop quality depth for the 2009 and 2010 seasons when Notre Dame will have a realistic opportunity to play for National Championships. The most important name without a doubt, Matt Romine, who played briefly last season before being held out for the remainder of the season in an effort to gain a medical redshirt down the line, must make his mark, and soon. He can play left tackle in coach Weis' offense, which says quite a lot about Romine's physical skills. Then again, Romine must prove he can remain healthy, period. He seems to be dinged up frequently. He must stay healthy, now, period. Yeah, that may not be fair, but without a left tackle, Jimmy Clausen will not be upright long enough to play into the second game of any season. Romine will likely be the starting left tackle to open the 2009 season, if not sooner…could he eventually beat out senior left tackle Paul Duncan? Duncan has flat out underachieved at times despite his physical talent. This will be an interesting battle to watch moving into fall camp.
Another possible left tackle could be incoming freshman Lane Clelland from Maryland. Overmatched at times during the post season all-star game down in San Antonio, Clelland needs more strength before playing at the major Division I level, not that that is a surprise, but still a necessity. He possesses great quickness for a young man his size, and a willingness to drive block as evidenced by his high school film. He did, however, play against several high school players that were overmatched by his sheer size. Clelland's development, if rapid, could help push Romine and could even lead to Clelland (or Romine?) moving to right tackle to earn playing time. Time will tell, but Clelland's talent will be welcomed in South Bend regardless of his exact position.