Dec 18, 2012, 7:58 PM EST
You won’t confuse Harry Hiestand for a man looking for greener pastures. The veteran offensive line coach, in his first season in South Bend, has no qualms being a position coach, a job that might seem like old hat for a respected assistant who has coached in a Super Bowl and spent the last three decades working in the trenches.
“As I’ve gone on in the years, I’ve found that what we do with the offensive line is what excites me,” Hiestand said. “It’s what brings me to work every day with a good attitude. An opportunity to work with those guys. It’s not to be a play caller or a head coach. That’s not really what motivates me everyday. What motivates me is seeing a group of guys, taking a group and trying to help them be the best that they can be as individuals and then put an offensive line together that can go out on the field and function and go out and win.”
Hiestand’s approach was music to the ears of the Irish offensive line, a group that rebuilt the right side and came together to be one of the most balanced offensive attacks in college football, averaging over 200 yards of offense on the ground and through the air this season.
While getting Mike Golic Jr. and Christian Lombard up to speed, and developing a second string with virtually no experience, Hiestand found one of his strongest supporters in his best player. Zack Martin, who decided to return for a fifth season after winning three straight lineman of the year awards for the Irish, paid Hiestand the ultimate compliment by returning for another year of tutelage.
“He’s everything I’ve ever wanted in an offensive line coach,” Martin said. “He pushes you on the field. He’s a technician. He’s taught us what it means to work, but off the field he’s somebody you can sit down and talk to and go have dinner with. The pride that he’s kind of instilled back in the offensive line here at Notre Dame, which hasn’t been here for a while, we started it and I want to finish it out next year.”
The return of Martin as the team’s left tackle means three veterans will anchor the line, with Martin, Chris Watt and Christian Lombard all returning. While finding Braxston Cave’s replacement at center will be imperative, having one of the nation’s top left tackles certainly cushions the blow quite nicely.
Hiestand was effusive in his praise of Martin, one of the most underrated linemen in college football according to the line coach.
“I’m not really sure who makes those decisions,” Hiestand said of All-American honors. “I watch an awful lot of film, so does our coaching staff. We don’t see anybody out there better than him. He’ll get it next year, I guess.
“He does everything: power plays, runs inside zone, outside zone. He’s a physical presence on the left side in the running game and he’s an excellent pass protector. I’d love to see the guy that somebody thinks is better than him, because I haven’t seen him.”
To his credit, Martin wasn’t too worried about the snubs, though he did earn second team All-American honors from the Walter Camp team.
“I’d much rather be on an undefeated team playing for the national title,” Martin said. “It didn’t bother me at all.”
After spending the past two years with Ed Warinner, there’s been no secret that the entire line has gelled under Hiestand’s supervision, a key hire for Kelly after Warinner left to join Urban Meyer’s staff as offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator. And while the Irish ground game had taken steps forward in the first two years of Kelly’s tenure, Martin talked about the benefits of Hiestand’s hands-on philosophy, and how the communal play has helped the Irish succeed.
“So many people think that the offensive line is going out there and making one-on-one blocks,” Martin said. “But I’ve got to know what the right guard is doing. The ability to know what everyone is doing and playing together is a big thing we’ve been working on all year. We’ve gotten better, and we know that we haven’t played a complete game together.”
That opportunity to play a complete game is just less than three weeks away, against one of the most talented defenses in the country. But thanks to Hiestand, Martin and company are relishing the opportunity.
“The offensive line at Notre Dame the last how many years has been kind of the whipping boy of the team, so it’s time to change that,” Martin said. “I don’t think we could have gotten a better guy.”
Mar 4, 2015, 2:25 PM EST
As the focus begins to turn to spring football, it appears one very big roster move is taking place along the offensive line. Matt Fortuna of ESPN reports that starting center Matt Hegarty will be leaving Notre Dame and playing his fifth year elsewhere.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:49 AM EST
With Notre Dame just one season into Mike Denbrock’s tenure as offensive coordinator, Brian Kelly didn’t look like he was in the market for a new offensive coordinator. But in Mike Sanford, Kelly (and Denbrock) found a coach worth making room for.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:32 AM EST
In hiring defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, Brian Kelly decided to bring back to the program one of the most talented players of the Lou Holtz era. While his resume may be short as a coach, one listen to Lyght reveals a man whose DNA is football, with coaching taking root after a world-class career.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:49 AM EST
Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher is now in charge of coaching the position. Autry Denson’s return to South Bend comes at the perfect time, with Brian Kelly looking to find the right coach and personality to replace Tony Alford on the coaching staff.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:20 AM EST
Notre Dame’s new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore was introduced yesterday, a reunion for Gilmore with former boss Brian Kelly and former college teammates Brian VanGorder and Paul Longo.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:52 AM EST
After weeks of speculation, Brian Kelly has announced his coaching staff for the 2015 season. The result is four new assistants, a few new assignments and the homecoming of a handful of former Irish stars.
Mar 1, 2015, 7:47 PM EST
Before Brian Kelly introduces us to his new coaching staff tomorrow, let’s finish the mailbag. More here on what to expect from Mike Sanford, “committing” to the run, and stopping the option.
Feb 28, 2015, 2:48 PM EST
Well crew, I’ve gotta say… I’m a little underwhelmed by the mailbag question. And in the 150+ comments of people screaming at each other about mostly stupid stuff, I think I speak for everybody when I say:
Feb 27, 2015, 12:40 PM EST
Former Notre Dame president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., died Thursday night on campus. Father Ted was 97. He said his final mass on Thursday, the day he passed away.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:24 PM EST
Gone are Cody Riggs and Austin Collinsworth. Returning is a safety position that’s struggled, another transfer, a young cornerback on the rise, and (hopefully) an exiled potential star.
Welcome to the Notre Dame secondary. New coaching, same scheme, different players, and one of 2015’s great unknowns.
Feb 25, 2015, 2:34 PM EST
As we get a few extra weeks to prep for spring practice, let’s open the mailbag.
Feb 24, 2015, 6:56 PM EST
A position that looked like a huge question mark entering the 2014 season ended the year with an embarrassment of riches. After watching Will Fuller emerge with a record-setting sophomore season, the loss of DaVaris Daniels and departure of TJ Jones didn’t do anything to slow the Irish passing game down.
Feb 24, 2015, 1:34 PM EST
None of Notre Dame’s coaching changes are official yet. But more arrows point to North Carolina defensive line coach Keith Gilmore joining the Irish staff in the same role.
Feb 23, 2015, 12:43 AM EST
There might not be a deeper unit on the roster than the offensive line. After a lack of depth made it nearly impossible to practice at full speed heading into the 2012 BCS title game, Notre Dame enters the 2015 season with a two-deep most teams would pay for.
Feb 20, 2015, 10:48 AM EST
Whether it’s the Siberian Express rolling through most of the country (sorry, guys) or the grand reshuffling taking place on Brian Kelly’s coaching staff, Notre Dame announced a delay in the kickoff of spring practice.
Feb 19, 2015, 11:44 AM EST
After an incredibly impressive run at the position, Notre Dame enters spring practice with nothing but question marks at tight end. After Brian Kelly watched Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas and now Ben Koyack churn through his program, he’ll spend spring trying to figure out what exactly he has at the position.
Feb 18, 2015, 11:47 AM EST
On Tuesday, a flurry of reports had Brian Kelly focusing in on the final pieces of his reshuffled coaching staff. They include two likely additions, one transition, and a position shift.
Feb 18, 2015, 11:18 AM EST
A few days after safety Avery Sebastian announced his intentions, Notre Dame made the commitment and graduate transfer of the former Cal safety official. Sebastian will enroll in graduate school and join the team in June.
Feb 17, 2015, 4:12 PM EST
After missing out on a running back in the 2014 recruiting cycle, a once crowded depth chart now only features Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. Two backs that once worried about having to find snaps will now have all the work they could ever want, with the majority of spring spent doing everything they can to stay healthy.
Feb 16, 2015, 2:20 PM EST
One of the most impressive statistical seasons in school history was flushed down the toilet when Everett Golson could not stop turning the football over. With fumbles, poor decision-making and some plain bad luck plaguing Golson’s otherwise exceptional season, Brian Kelly chose Malik Zaire to be his starter for the Music City Bowl.