Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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6 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED D on't act like you don't remember. Put yourself back in Septem- ber and early October of last year. What's the one Notre Dame po- sition group and, subsequently, Irish position coach that were talked about the most then? The offensive line and its leader, Jeff Quinn. There's only one time of year when position coaches should be a hot topic of conversation: Decem- ber through February. That's when they're up for promotions elsewhere. Or demotions. Also known in some instances as firings. Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman dealt with a bit of both this winter, and Quinn was on the wrong side of those proceedings. He was let go from Freeman's staff after the Fiesta Bowl. The coach Freeman re- placed him with will end up being the biggest hire Freeman made through the end of January (before he landed on a defensive coordinator). Harry Hiestand is back for a second stint in South Bend, and there couldn't be better news for Notre Dame as it re- lates to the Irish offensive line. When things go poorly with a team's of- fensive line, the sky is falling. We saw that in the first half of the 2021 Notre Dame season. When things are going well, it's cloud nine. We saw that in the second half. If the former of those emotions is elim- inated, imagine the type of season Notre Dame could have offensively in 2022. If so, former Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan might be wishing Hiestand was around for his lone year in South Bend. The Irish offense would have been so much better had Coan, a not-so-mobile signal-caller, been afforded more time to dissect defenses from the pocket. Hindsight is 20/20. What's done is done. Time to look to 2022. But first, one more look even further back in time. Don't worry, it's relevant and encourag- ing context if you root for the Irish. Hiestand is largely responsible for the reputation Notre Dame has as one of the best offensive line factories in the country. Six of the offensive linemen he coached during his first stint in South Bend (2012-17) were selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. You know the names; Nelson, Stanley, Martin (Zach and Nick), McGlinchey and Watt. Just by virtue of timing he's going to pump another into the league when graduate student center Jarrett Patter- son turns pro this time next year. Fellow graduate student Josh Lugg has a chance to make it, too. He probably will with the help of Hiestand, who recruited Lugg at the end of his first round at Notre Dame. Could we really say the same for Lugg after a somewhat shaky 2021 campaign? Probably not. In large part, that's why he's back for a sixth season. Hiestand is the right guy at the right time to groom two sophomore super- stars in the making in Joe Alt and Blake Fisher, too. They seem like three-and- done talents after watching them play for one year. In Fisher's case, one and a half games. Notre Dame just signed five offensive linemen in the class of 2022 as well, so it can't be understated how instrumental Hiestand and his three decades of coaching experience will be in the early stages of those players' development. He has already made an impact on two of them. Early enrollees Billy Schrauth and Joey Tanona have only known Hiestand for a month or so, but they both feel like they've already learned so much from him. "He's a master motivator from what I've seen so far," Schrauth said. "I love that. I want to be pushed to limits that I don't know I'm capable of, and I think he's the guy that's go- ing to get me and the group where we have to be." Tanona has had a few film ses- sions with Hiestand already. The best word he'd use to describe those sit- downs? Technical. Nothing goes un- noticed, even the smallest of details Tanona wouldn't have seen if he was watching film on his own. "I can certainly appreciate that," Tanona said. "He's very detail-oriented. He doesn't let anything slide. He wants us to be the best we can be." Hiestand has also brought one of his former Notre Dame offensive line stand- outs, Chris Watt, onto the Irish staff in an analyst type of position. If younger guys like Schrauth and Tanona don't learn enough from Hiestand himself, Patterson and Lugg, they can pick up pointers from someone who excelled in college, was se- lected in the third round of the NFL Draft and has spent the last three years trying to break into college coaching. "He's someone you can lean on and ask questions of because he's been through it before," Tanona said of Watt. "It's been great to have his wisdom." Hiestand's presence was already enough. His coupled with Watt's? Now that's a double-whammy — in the best way. ✦ GOLDEN GAMUT TYLER HORKA Hiestand is back for his second stint at Notre Dame, having previously coached the Irish offensive line from 2012-17. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA Harry Hiestand Is Marcus Freeman's Best Assistant Coaching Hire Tyler Horka has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2021. He can be reached at

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