SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The opening question to Christian Lombard, per protocol, was about which position he preferred playing, guard or tackle. The response, also per protocol, was that the redshirt senior is fine wherever his coaches choose to line him up.
But the biggest questions surrounding Notre Dame's fluid offensive line situation don't revolve around whether Lombard will be in the starting lineup. He will start, that much appears certain. And, if the first 30 minutes of the Fighting Irish's first spring practice are any indication, it might very well be at right guard for the second straight season.
A more pressing question comes on the left side, where Notre Dame replaces a pair of bedrocks in Zack Martin and Chris Watt, NFL-bound linemen who started 52 and 37 games, respectively. Ronnie Stanley and Steve Elmer took the first reps at left tackle and left guard, respectively, but filling the leadership void of the departed seniors is a task that will ultimately fall on Lombard.
"He was an example guy," Lombard said of Martin, a two-time captain. "He definitely talked, too, but he was the same guy in and out every single day. Consistency was his big deal. Guys would try and emulate what he would do, coming in with that professional attitude, like he's going to be at the next level. He was just a professional all the way around."
The soft-spoken Lombard sees a similar approach in himself, and it's one he'll have no choice but to take on given his seniority over Stanley (redshirt sophomore), Elmer (sophomore) and right tackle Mike McGlinchey (redshirt freshman).
Stanley occupied the spot next to Lombard last season before the latter missed the final six games after undergoing back surgery. Elmer was essentially all over the place in 2013, playing everything but center over the course of the season.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-7», 300-pound McGlinchey has impressed behind the scenes after redshirting during his first season on campus, with Lombard quipping that the tackle's stamina is so impressive that "he could practice for 48 hours straight."
"He's a tough, physical kid," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of McGlinchey. "Toughness, mental toughness, physical toughness. Long, athletic. He's got all the tools. He just needs experience and time, and he's fighting to get on the field. It's a very competitive situation. He's got all the tools necessary for him to be a starter for us.
"It's going to be time and place: When is that time, and when does he get that opportunity?"