Sophomore offensive lineman Steve Elmer has had a lot of his plate since enrolling early his freshman season. The 2013 starter was thrust right into college football from the get-go, starting a number of games during his freshman season. Elmer, who was recruited to play tackle, played right guard last fall, and moved to left guard this past spring. However, this fall he’s back at tackle, and the Midland, Mich. native says he’s happy to play whatever position they want him at.
“I’ve been told that I’m a more natural tackle,” Elmer said when asked which position is ideal for him. “I’ll play wherever they want me to play, guard, tackle, not center, yet.
“With guard, it’s a little bit harder for me to stay down. That’s something I was always working on when I was playing guard. Now that I’m on the outside, I still have to have good knee bend, but it’s a little bit easier in that regard.”
Making the jump from high school football to the college game is quite a leap for any athlete, but having to switch from tackle, to guard, back to tackle again, is also a major hurdle for anyone to overcome. Elmer thinks he can handle the challenge.
“It’s hard at the beginning,” Elmer said of the challenge of switching positions. “Now that I’ve done it a few times—-played a stint at tackle, played a stint at right guard, left guard—-you build your knowledge base of what each position is doing and how to do each position. How to do the steps. What to expect from the defensive players. Bumping around at this point, I don’t think would be nearly as big of a deal. Just because I’ve been in it, I’ve seen through my own eyes, numerous positions, and it’s helped me learn the offense and know what to expect better.”
Elmer said he felt settled in at left guard after spring practice, but his comfort ended pretty quickly after spring ball when he was approached about a possible position change.
“It was about early summer, about the end of the spring semester,” he said when asked when he was approached about the possible move. “I started kind of working on tackle stuff, tackle sets. I guess they just think this is the best spot for me right now.”
At 6-foot-6 an 315 pounds, Elmer’s body better fits the tackle position, but even he’s not sure where his long term position will be for the Irish.
“They recruited me at tackle,” he said. “There was a need at guard, there was, I play where they want me to play. I think, if they could, they might’ve been wanting to move me out to tackle. I can’t really speculate on what it was. I’m just playing where they want me, playing where they need me.”
Regardless of where Elmer plays, one thing is certain, he will start and play a lot. Right now the starting five is a bit up in the air, but the sophomore lineman says they should have all of that ironed out very soon.
“We’ve got guys who haven’t played next to each other previously,” Elmer said when asked to assess the offensive line at this point in camp. “Zack (Martin) and (Chris) Watt were so good together because they played together for so long, and they’re really talented players. Right now we’re working real hard. We’ve got a bunch of great guys, really talented guys. We’re working on gelling together and working on cohesiveness and communication. We’re rolling.”
Speaking of Zack Martin, Elmer said the former Irish great was a huge influence on his game, and he considers him as being the bar for offensive lineman.
“Having that gold standard,” he said of Martin’s impact on him. “Model yourself on how you play. Just to see how he played the game. He was at a different position than what I play, but he played the game so well. So smart, powerful and quick and decisive. It was invaluable, and from Watt as well. To have those two guys up there showing us how it’s done. We still have them on film, so they can set an example for us.”
As a true freshman, most offensive linemen aren’t physically ready in the strength-wise to compete. Elmer clearly was, but was hardly the strongest guy on the offensive line. With another year under the tutelage of strength coach, Paul Longo, the right tackle feels he’s much better prepared to be a more dominant player this season in the strength department.
“It’s definitely noticeable, being in coach Longo’s program for now, going on two years,” he said. “Upper body strength, lower body strength, just all around. It’s more stable, when you’re blocking. When I first got here last spring, it was ‘throw yourself in there and drive your legs.’ Now, with the stability and the strength being built up a little bit more, it’s easier to not (be) flying out there all the time. ”
And now, Elmer’s hoping he can be at a stable position so he can better focus on helping his Irish teammates the best he can.