This article is a part of our 2012 Player Projections series. During the summer months Blue & Gold Illustrated will be evaluating each player on Notre Dame’s projected two-deep depth chart — reviewing their careers to this point and discussing expectations for the year to come.
Notre Dame guard Chris Watt fits in well with the lunch pail attitude of new line coach Harry Hiestand.
Chris Watt — LG
Height: 6-foot-3 Weight: 310
Experience: 26 appearances, 13 starts
The uptick in attitude among Notre Dame’s offensive linemen this spring fits junior guard Chris Watt to a tee. The 310-pound guard’s biggest strength is the ability to bully opponents off the ball and get the line of scrimmage moving forward after initial contact.
“I loved grinding it out and getting after it,” Watt said this spring when asked about the upbeat pace of practice under new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. “He’s great. He’s all about getting after it with the defense every day in practice, positive attitude toward what we do and making us focus on our technique.”
Hiestand’s new energy has helped Watt and his fellow linemen take their worman’s attitude to the next level, prompting senior runningback Theo Riddick to comment that the group looked hungrier and angrier than he remembers in the past.
Watt beat fifth-year senior Andrew Nuss for the starting guard position last August and found his niche during the course of the 2011 season when he started all 13 games. He said he doesn’t expect the change in the coaching staff to have any major effects on his continued development. He said his biggest step during this offseason is learning to have a shorter memory when he makes a mistake.
“Last year if I would mess up on a play I might hang my head a little bit, especially if you are in a competition [for the starting job]. So, just move forward next play get right back up and get after that defensive linemen or linebacker,” he said.
Watt cemented his role as the team’s starting guard on the left side during his second season last year. He and left tackle Zack Martin will be called on to build a solid wall for the Irish running backs and whoever winds up at quarterback this season.
The offense kept things simple during the majority of spring practice, which allowed the line to focus on technique and doing the small things right. Moving forward in those areas will be a big part of Watt’s role during the season. He still has plenty of experience surrounding him in 2011, but needs to start grooming to be a veteran leader during his senior season next year.
“It’s really trying to develop that skill set and always trying to improve personally as well as the offensive line,” he said.
What’s a Good Season?
Lining up between two likely future pros in Martin and center Braxston Cave should give Watt all the support he needs to take a step forward during his junior season. As he said himself, eliminating mistakes and learning to keep the ones he does make from affecting future plays will be two major points of emphasis in Watt’s second year as a starter.
Tangible numbers are hard to come by among offensive linemen, but if Notre Dame can consistently stay above 4.5 yards per carry that’s a good sign that Watt is getting his job done on the interior. Notre Dame reached 4.0 yards per carry under Kelly in 2010 for the first time since 2003, and that number jumped to 4.8 last season. Without a prototypical bruiser in the backfield this season the onus for picking up tough yards in third-and-short situations will fall on Watt and his fellow interior linemen.