Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 21 of 55

22 AUGUST 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY ASHTON POLLARD N otre Dame has several options on the interior offensive line, but there are questions about where to place everyone. Graduate stu- dent Jarrett Patterson has proven to be one of the nation's top offensive linemen, but senior Zeke Correll is lurking after a notable spring and could notch a spot, moving Patterson elsewhere on the line. Sound familiar? That's because you may have read something along these lines heading into Notre Dame's 2021 season. An eerily similar situation has arisen once again, with Correll making a push toward a spot in the starting five. This time, the possibility seems much more real. Correll, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound line- man out of the Cincinnati area, is about to enter his fourth year of college foot- ball with eight starts under his belt. Six of those came in 2021 at guard, while a pair were in the center spot in 2020. The latter experiences went far better for Correll than the former. Over 362 offensive snaps last sea- son, 344 of which came in during the six starts, Correll posted a Pro Football Focus offensive grade of 58.2, which was seventh of seven among Notre Dame of- fensive linemen with at least 100 snaps. Pass blocking was his strength, but run blocking left a lot to be desired. Changes were made, and the switch to guard was deemed unsuccessful. But Correll didn't go anywhere, al- though he easily could have with the onset of the one-time transfer rule. His patience paid off. For the second consecutive year, Cor- rell became the spring's No. 1 center fol- lowing a Jarrett Patterson pectoral in- jury. But Patterson would be back for fall camp. He has never played guard, and he has never surrendered a sack in four sea- sons of college football. It seemed like a no-brainer to have Correll play center this spring before Patterson assumed his rightful position; it would have been easy for Correll to just go through the motions knowing he was a placeholder destined to be relegated come fall camp. Correll isn't at Notre Dame to take the easy way out. He's there to start on the offensive line for the blue and gold. PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS For the first time in his Notre Dame career, Correll entered the spring with- out former offensive line coach Jeff Quinn at the helm. With the exception of Josh Lugg, a sixth-year senior who was a freshman during Harry Hiestand's final year of his first stint, all of the line- men were in that same boat with Cor- rell. But the rising senior had something else many of his fellow linemen don't: a history starting at multiple positions up front. "Zeke's got experience [at center], so that's been helpful," Hiestand said. "Older guy, strong. He's doing a good job keeping the offense moving. It's nice to have an experienced guy when some- thing like [Patterson's injury] happens so that you don't have to just go to a freshman or really young guy that's just figuring it out. "He's been in the battles before, so that's been positive." It isn't just Hiestand who noticed the elevation in Correll's game. "You hate to lose a guy like Jarrett for spring ball for the second year in a row, but Zeke took over a leadership spot that was much needed," Lugg said. "He's re- ally stepped up, and he's brought others along." Just as Correll imparts wisdom on his peers, so does Hiestand, a 33-year veteran of all levels of football who coached four first-round NFL Draft se- lections during his first tenure (2012- 17) in South Bend. The responses to Hiestand-related questions from the offensive linemen during spring me- dia availabilities mirrored each other, a surefire sign the lessons from one of the best to do it were already sticking in the brains of the 18- to 23-year-old players. That consistency tends to translate to the field. It must this season if the Irish want to return to the College Football Playoff for the third time in five years. "He's definitely raised [cohesion] a lot," Correll said this spring. "He empha- sizes it every single day. When we break, we say, 'Together, on two.' Everything we do, we want to be together. When we say it, we have to mean it. When we say together, we better do things together." The unity extends beyond the field as well — to the dining halls, to the film BREAKING IN Senior Zeke Correll's spring surge could shake up a previously all-but-set offensive line

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - August 2022