SOUTH BEND — Kurt Hinish in June tried to tell 24-year-old incoming transfer offensive guard Cain Madden how his world was about to change.
Hinish’s other captain and Madden’s new Notre Dame teammate, defensive end Myron Tagoavailoa-Amosa, echoed those sentiments. Many times. Madden — a sixth-grade senior with All-America credentials at his old school, Marshall — rolled his eyes.
“I was hard-headed,” Madden said after practice earlier this week. “I was like, ‘No way. I’ve been through this before. I should have listened.
As one of four new entrants to Notre Dame’s ultra-scrutinized, ninth-ranked offensive line, the process of growing individually and collectively at his new school has never reached the point of being easy.
The Irish (4-0) head into Saturday’s Notre Dame Stadium game with No. 7 Cincinnati (3-0) 128th out of 130 FBS teams in sacks allowed (5.25 per game) and 122nd in rushing offense (80 yards per game).
But compared to his first few weeks this summer in the weight room with Notre Dame football performance director Matt Balis?
“Coming in with Coach Balis, he’s a different animal now,” said the 6-foot-3, 310-pound product from South Webster, Ohio. “Coach Balis is a great guy. Him and his staff – oh my. Nothing but good words about all these guys in this room.
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“It was tough, but it was fun. Going around the team and seeing them working and how hard they worked opened my eyes and realized that I had made a good decision.
He continues to try to show Notre Dame and his fanbase that the Irish made the right decision by moving him away from Florida State, among other things, during the transfer process using the same patience and same process he used to go from a zero star perspective. coming out of high school to start playing Marshall.
“I think the most important thing is consistency,” Madden said. “I don’t want to be up and down. I learned this from a former offensive line coach: “If you’re going to be 100% one day and 60% one day, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
“I think that was the most important thing – just being consistent. Be there for them and not be hard-headed. Just learning new things and listening.
“I think the biggest challenge is (is) like a different mindset. I was rooted with a few practice points, and now those practice points are a bit different. So now I I just need to change my mindset a bit, learn some new skills and play some football.
The QB intrigue continues
Chances are Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will face two quarterbacks on Saturday against Cincinnati as the Irish look to extend the second-longest active home winning streak in the country to 27 games.
But which two? And who will be the first to take a picture on Saturday? Kelly kind of danced around all those details Thursday during her Zoom session with the media.
“On our two-minute exercise yesterday, we had (Jack) Coan in there,” Kelly said. “I think he did a good job. He’s ahead of what I thought he would be on Wednesday. And obviously he has today and tomorrow.
“Drew (Pyne) and Jack kind of split the first-team reps and then we continued to work on Tyler’s (Buchner) package that he’s traditionally had for the past few weeks. So we’re preparing all three of them right now.”
Coan started all four games this season after being transferred from Wisconsin in February, but he left Notre Dame’s 41-13 victory over his former team on Saturday in Chicago midway through the third quarter with a leg injury.
Sophomore Pyne saw his first action of the season in relief from Coan and flourished against the nation’s No. 2 team in total defense. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Buchner, a freshman, has played Games 2 and 3 this season, against Toledo and Purdue. In just 27 collective snaps in those games, he is ND’s second-best running back this season with 92 yards on 10 carries and a team-leading 9.2 yards average. He’s 3 of 4 passing for 78 yards and a touchdown.
He left the Purdue game with a tight hamstring and didn’t play against Wisconsin for the same reason.
“Buchner is back to where he was going where he had a really good feel for the game against Toledo and Purdue,” Kelly said. “I think we’re back to that level and hope to increase it as we move forward next week.
“We wanted to make sure he felt good physically. He’s looking great this week, so I think he’s back to that level. And then we’ll start building more inventory back into what we’re doing offensively with him.”
The initial prognosis for freshman offensive tackle Blake Fisher’s return after a torn meniscus suffered in ND’s home opener Sept. 5 at Florida State was eight weeks.
“That injury is usually something that gets you through most of the season, if not the whole season,” Kelly said Thursday. “So we’re not in a position where we think about him every week.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Go through your process and make sure you don’t miss any rehab.’ And if (coach) Rob Hunt comes to me in Week 10 and says, “Hey, we’re way ahead of schedule,” then we’ll have hope.
“But it’s something that’s not even part of something that we think about day to day that Blake is going to be back with us during the season.”
Fisher, only the second freshman offensive lineman in the last 50 seasons to start an opener for Notre Dame, had surgery Sept. 9. Since then, three other players have seen action at the left tackle point – another freshman and basically two freshmen in redshirts. .
• Michael Carmody was the first to replace Fisher, coming on as a substitute in the FSU game and starting on September 11 against Toledo, but suffered an ankle injury in the 32-29 win over the Rockets and hasn’t played since .
Tosh Baker and Joe Alt replaced Carmoday, with Alt also playing a tight fullback/H-back.
“Carmody had a lot of work at left tackle,” Kelly said Thursday. “He too is improving every week, so we think we’re in the right position for him to play on the left tackle on Saturday.”
• Senior graduates nose guard Kurt Hinish on Saturday will miss his second game in a row in what was originally diagnosed as a concussion, but Kelly said he expects the Ireland captain to return for a road test at Virginia Tech (3-1) on Oct. 9. .
“Kurt went to see a specialist,” Kelly said. “He was cleared of any kind of head injury. It was something different, so he’s excited, but he won’t be playing this weekend.
Hinish has five tackles with a bag this season.
Junior Howard Cross III made his first college start last Saturday against Wisconsin in place of Hinish. He has five tackles this season, with one tackle for loss and a team-high four quarterbacks rushing.
“He’s got extreme first-step quickness,” Kelly said of Cross. “He is off the ball – very, very difficult to get a hold of him. It starts there. He weighs about 280 pounds, but he is very, very strong. The strongest hands we have for an inside lineman.
“You saw how quickly (Jacob) Lacey is off the ball. Both of these guys are as fast as we have that hover in that 275-280 range. But Howard’s hands are so heavy and his first step quickness is as good as we’ve had here at Notre Dame.”
Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI