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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM PRESEASON 2022 29 that they need any from anyone else. Pyne is staring "career backup" status in the face after losing the starting job to Buchner. Rees said he has never played better in a Notre Dame uniform than he has now, and he'll still be standing on the sidelines on Saturdays. Perhaps that says more about Buchner's poten- tial than it does about a lack thereof for Pyne. Buchner beat out a motivated man to earn the job. That motivated man isn't going any- where, though. He'll be ready to play. Given Buchner's history and the physi- cal nature of the sport in general, it just might get to that point. "Those guys both can give us a chance to win," Freeman said. "Both of them." With an assertion like that from his boss, why would Rees ever lack assured- ness? Freeman and Rees are adamant they made the right decision in declaring Buchner the starter. But they're also ada- mant Pyne can lead the Irish to victories if it comes to that. If both are true, then the Notre Dame offense is in a secure spot. PUSHING UP FRONT Going to work every day is a lot easier when you enjoy whom you work around. Ask Buchner and Pyne if they enjoy working around Notre Dame offensive linemen. It's difficult to imagine a world in which they say no. Notre Dame might have one of the best offensive lines in the country this fall, and the mastermind who put po- tential future pro football Hall of Famers like Quenton Nelson and Zack Martin in the NFL is back to lead the unit. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand operates on a no-nonsense policy. His group's individual drill sessions are often the loudest and most intense of any taking place simultaneously across three fields at the Irish Athletic Cen- ter. They're also monotonous. He puts players through the same stressors, day after day, with the intention of making them so immune to challenges that they won't flinch when the same agitations arise on game days. Motivational and meticulous, with a healthy heaping of energy that comes off as brash if you don't know him but oddly sincere if you do, Hiestand is one of a kind. His offensive lines reflect that in comparison to others across the country. "It doesn't matter if it's a 1-yard run or a 99-yard touchdown; if something is not right technique-wise you're go- ing to know about it," graduate student Jarrett Patterson said. "That's what it's all about. These other guys are under- standing as we go that it's all about fun- damentals and technique. "That's what wins football games. Not worrying about the scoreboard or how many yards we get each play. If we have the proper technique and funda- mentals, that's where you're going to have success and see it on the field." Notre Dame offensive linemen spent most of fall camp working on combo blocks. Senior center Zeke Correll worked closely with Patterson in some drills and graduate student right guard Josh Lugg in others. Sophomore left tackle Joe Alt and Patterson have built up quite a rapport, as have Lugg and sopho- more right tackle Blake Fisher. Chemis- try and camaraderie isn't short among Irish offensive linemen. Those qualities are necessary to band together and get through Hiestand-led practices. They're also essential on Saturdays in the fall. Lugg said Correll, who at this time last year was the starting left guard be- fore losing that job midway through the season, has taken it upon himself to fa- cilitate the tight-knit nature of the line. "You have to be vocal," Lugg said of Correll. "You have to be willing to tell guys to the right and left of you, 'Hey, you're wrong.' His leadership in a vocal way has really increased, and it has helped the whole offensive line. If Joe Alt makes a call, Zeke is going to echo it to get to Blake. Same, vice versa, Blake to Joe. He's the

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