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April 2, 2014

Elmer sees accelerated development

Steve Elmer will never forget his first snaps as a college offensive lineman. He also doesn’t remember much about them.

Last fall at Michigan, Elmer trotted out onto the field at left guard in place of senior Chris Watt, who exited the game for a couple snaps with a helmet issue. Elmer stepped into a sea of noise and a longtime rivalry, one the Michigan native knew well.

And yet Elmer recalls little of the details. Adrenaline made things hazy.

“I don’t think it was great,” Elmer laughed. “I don’t remember exactly. It was mostly a blur. It was a blur of blue and maize. Other than that I don’t really remember I think the first play was a play-action pass. I did OK on that one. The second one I think I took a bad first step and had a bad target on the guy. He didn’t make the tackle but it wasn’t a great block.”

Things began to slow for Elmer as the season progressed, thanks in part to a head start on life as a major college football player and the benefit of more game experience.

Elmer graduated from high school a semester early and enrolled at Notre Dame last spring. Once the season rolled around the 6-foot-5, 317-pound lineman was cemented in the two-deep. Recruited as a tackle, it turned out most of his time would come at guard.

Elmer spelled Watt at Michigan but later slid into the starting lineup at right guard for Christian Lombard, lost to a herniated disk in his back in mid-October.

“I was mentally prepared,” Elmer said. “You know, next man in. I was ready to go whenever anything happened. That wasn’t like really big. It was bad that Christian was injured but for me going into the game at that point, it was something I was already preparing for in my mind anyway just with the next man in philosophy.”

Leaning on those experiences has helped Elmer so far in his second set of spring practices.

So far the rising sophomore has run with the first team at left guard alongside Ronnie Stanley at tackle. Both make for a total rebuild of that side of the offensive line with the departure of Watt and left tackle Zack Martin, a potential first round pick next month.

“Working with Ronnie is great,” Elmer said. “I was with him on the right side for part of last season too so we’ve already got some chemistry, just improving it every day.”

Building a stronger rapport with Stanley has been one of several points Elmer is emphasizing this spring. He and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand are taking a wide view on development during this offseason.

One year worth of experience helps in that regard.

“Now I kinda know the drill,” Elmer said. “I’ve been through a spring and a fall and a summer with all these guys, so it’s a lot more familiar. Not routine, but now that I’m not worried about adjusting to everything I can focus on improving my technique and overall level of play.

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