It's week one of the 2013 high school football season and our East team attended a handful of games…
Friend doesn't dismiss he'll have his hands full. But the chance to lock up with a consensus top-10 pick in next year's NFL draft is what the anchor of the Owls' offensive line has been preparing for.
"I'm ready for it," said Friend confidently. "It's something I've been working for all this offseason and all this summer. It's an opportunity and I can't wait to play them."
The Irish defense was seventh in the country last year, allowing just 305 yards per game, and they return seven starters – including Nix and defensive end Stephen Tuitt, who is also projected to go in the top half of the first round.
The Owls will answer with a unit that includes just two players who had spots reasonably secured heading into training camp – Friend and left tackle Cody Booth, who is making the transition from tight end.
Jeff Whittingham and Maryland transfer Pat White earned the guard spots in camp, while last year's starter at left tackle Zach Hooks moves to right tackle. Coach Matt Rhule said Dion Dawkins will also see some time, and sixth-year senior Sean Boyle continues to be bothered by shoulder soreness but could be in the mix as his health allows.
White, a 6-foot-4, 330-pounder might be a savior for a unit struggling for depth.
"He's doing a good job, just because he's a fifth-year senior, he's come from another program, he's smart and he knows a lot about the game," said Friend. "It wasn't too hard getting him adjusted to our calls. He's been through college football. He's had four years of it before. He's a pretty good football player."
If the Owls are going to be competitive against the Fighting Irish, their front five is going to have to give redshirt junior Connor Reilly – who has yet to throw a collegiate pass – some time. Otherwise, it could be a long day.
"I've watched Notre Dame's D-line and haven't seen an offensive line block them yet and that's not coach-speak," said Rhule. "They have two top-five picks. Our guys will be challenged and they're going to have to answer the challenge. That nose tackle is right there, that five-technique is right there. You can't run away from them, you have to block them.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity to face two guys who are going to be drafted in the first round and go compete."
Reilly said the line has earned his trust.
"I've been barely touched (in training camp) and (neither) has (backup) Juice (Granger)," said Reilly. "We haven't allowed as many sacks as we did in the spring. They've come a long way."
Friend admitted the line still has a way to go to reach its potential, but is still confident of getting the job done in South Bend on Saturday.
"We realize these guys are pretty good and we're just real excited to play against them and see how we can be," said Friend. "I think it is a good group. We've got a great offensive line coach in Allen Mogridge and he's doing his best to develop a good offensive line and I think he is. We're nowhere close to where we have to be, but it's going to be relentless and we're going to go hard."
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