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Irish A-to-Z: Matt Hegarty

Jul 11, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

BYU v Notre Dame Getty Images

Seeing Matt Hegarty in the starting lineup against Stanford may have been one of the moments of the season. The junior lineman was almost out of football completely, a year after suffering a stroke during a November practice that had him worrying about his life far before his football career.

But Hegarty returned from the scary situation that stemmed from two undetected holes in his heart that were surgically repaired after the stroke. And after slowly returning from rehabilitation and surgery, Hegarty played his way into the two-deep and found himself as the team’s starting center once Nick Martin went down with a knee injury against BYU.

The former blue-chip recruit enters his senior season still behind Martin, but very much in the plans along the offensive line.

Let’s take a closer look at the senior from New Mexico.


6’4.5″ 300 lbs.
Senior, No. 77



Hegarty was among the top offensive linemen in the country, a Top 75 player by every measure and a finalist for the Anthony Munoz lineman of the year award at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Hegarty had offers from some elite places out of New Mexico, choosing Notre Dame over Texas, USC, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma and more.

While recruiting analysts projected a left tackle with highly intriguing athleticism, Hegarty started his career on the interior of the offensive line, with Brian Kelly talking about his tremendous agility and ability to move in space on Signing Day.

“We saw him move and felt like he was our target right away at the offensive line position,” Kelly said back in February 2011. “And you’ll be able to see that with his athleticism. He’s a left tackle here. See him pull. As you know, we like to move our linemen. The film that sold us is his ability to move in space and then arrive physically, square up, with good body position and finish off. He will finish his blocks, periods. He finishes things off.”



Freshman Season (2011): Did not see game action.

Sophomore Season (2012): Saw playing time in the season’s first nine games, primarily on special teams. Transitioned to center and played behind Braxston Cave after moving to the position during spring practice.

Junior Season (2013): Saw action in 12 games, starting against both Stanford and Rutgers. Held his own against BYU after replacing Martin, when the Irish offense line ran for a season-high 235 yards and didn’t allow a sack in 28 passing attempts, even with fellow newcomers Conor Hanratty and Steve Elmer playing key roles.



At this point, it’s hard to imagine Hegarty playing to his recruiting ranking, when he was considered among the elite players in the country. But this is also a prime example of why star-ratings should be taken with a huge grain of salt, particularly along the offensive and defensive line.

That being said, Hegarty has a lot of football left, and that he’s even playing football right now — and doing so at a high level — is really amazing. He spent spring in the starting lineup at center while Nick Martin recovered from his knee injury. That kept us from seeing if Hegarty has what it takes to be a reserve guard as well, but he very likely could be the next man in at three positions, competing with Conor Hanratty for the job behind Christian Lombard and Steve Elmer.



I’m of the mind that Hegarty is too good of a football player not to see significant action. While it’s difficult to rotate centers, getting Hegarty a few series at guard wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, especially if it helps keep Elmer and Lombard fresh. And I think his athleticism will make him the first in at all three interior positions, edging out fellow senior Hanratty for that job.

With two seasons of eligibility remaining, Hegarty is another candidate for a fifth year, and another litmus test for the coaching staff to see what they value — veteran experience or another young prospect in recruiting. The Irish could go either way: Push a youngster like Hunter Bivin up and let Hegarty walk, or keep Hegarty and potentially start him at guard.

In many ways, Hegarty is another victim of the Irish’s success up front with Harry Hiestand, a player who would’ve likely been a multi-year starter early in Brian Kelly’s regime, but who now finds himself an important part of the Irish’s excellent depth on the offensive line.




The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes


  1. cbusdomer - Jul 11, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    The more I read and see of the Irish up front the more I’m getting excited about this season. As a fan for over 30 + years I’ve never seen this much depth in South Bend. If they stay healthy the sky is the limit for this team. Go Irish!!

    • wisner74 - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:45 PM

      I think that’s certainly true on the offensive side of the ball if Golson picks up where he left off at the end of 2012, but there are significant questions on the other side of the ball (why-oh-why couldn’t Nix and Tuitt have stuck around for one more year?!? — that was rhetorical. . . we all know why, and who can blame them?)

      I think we should brace ourselves for some high-scoring games this fall.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 13, 2014 at 3:41 AM

      we are becoming a quality big ten team. it’s about time….. urg……

  2. irishdog80 - Jul 11, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Alabama, with all of its top tier talent, struggled at times last year primarily due to troubles on their offensive line. AJ McCarron developed his inflated sense of self while running the offense behind a truly dominant offensive line. In 2013, he was still a decent QB but his weaknesses were more apparent with an offensive line that wasn’t opening up gaping holes for his RBs and he had less time to deliver a ball to his talented receivers.

    Kelly understands that a superior and athletic offensive line is what makes the difference for an offense. Just check out recent NFL drafts and see the value put on RBs and even QBs to a lesser degree. Uncoverable WRs and lock down DBs are the other precious commodity. With a secondary that might be lock down, a host of talented WRs and an offensive line that will give the QB time to operate, we should be in for a year that will surprise many of the pundits that are predicting a 7-5 year for ND.

    Go Irish! Beat Rice!

    • wisner74 - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:58 PM

      I’ve got to say that, although I have nothing against AJ McCarron, it did my heart good to see him drop in the draft this Spring. I work with a couple of bigtime ‘bama fans, and did I ever hear about the NC game, even before it was played. Manti Teo’s pretend girlfriend was a favorite topic for these guys back then. Have you seen the photo-shopped picture of Teo sitting on a couch with a plastic blow-up doll of a naked woman? I did. Several times.

      As McCarron dropped, I was really tempted to send both these guys an e-mail and inquire whether McCarron would be interested in trading his model girlfriend for Teo’s position in the ’13 draft. But I think ultimately that would have been what you could call “leading with your chin.” The last thing I need to do is re-ignite a college football conversation with those guys. Discretion is the better part of valor.

      • 1historian - Jul 12, 2014 at 8:08 AM

        Ask them about the ND students who came to Tuscaloosa to help after the hurricane in 2011.

  3. oldschoollyons - Jul 11, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    If we take Kelly at his word, then in August he and Hiestand will be deciding whether Hegarty (or Hanratty or Nelson) at left guard — moving Elmer to right tackle — gives us a better offensive line than having Elmer at left guard and introducing McGlinchey at right tackle. Although it is a slight oversimplification, it roughly comes down to whether Hegarty or McGlinchey is the better player.

    Because of his size and the years of eligibility he has remaining, McGlinchey would seem to have an advantage. Then both he and Elmer would be on the field at the same time as well. It is hard not to think that Hegarty at this point is the better player though. Unless there are no injuries during the season, it seems likely in any case that Hegarty will see plenty of action.

    Without having seen his play this season, it might be hard to know whether to give Hegarty a fifth season. On the other hand, the guy is good. I don’t think you send a good offensive lineman on his way when you have the ability to keep him.

    • wisner74 - Jul 11, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      I agree with most of your post, but do you really think that Nelson will be in the conversation this fall? I know the kid is very highly thought of, but why would BK play a true freshman so early with all of the more mature talent that is already there? Are people really thinking, or are there actually signs from the staff, that Nelson will get on the field this fall?

      Short of at least a couple of injuries, that would seem to me to be a big surprise. But maybe the kid is just that good?!?

  4. nudeman - Jul 11, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Haven’t been able to find anything on Lebron today – any news?

    • wisner74 - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      Yeah, it’s frustrating isn’t it? I can never get enough about LBJ, and there’s nothing new today. I think I heard somewhere that he’s retiring from basketball and going to play baseball with the Toledo Mud Hens, where the smart money says he’ll hit about .220.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Jul 12, 2014 at 7:15 AM

        He still has his college eligibility left, maybe bk could convince him to come play DE or TE. He and koyack would be beasts in doublle tight sets and imagine the matchup problems of covering him downfield.

      • nudeman - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        In all seriousness I have come a long way on this guy. I couldn’t stand the NBA’s hyping of him during his early years and was really disappointed in the who Heat move. But as much as he’s grown as a player, he’s grown up even more as a man. Did you read the full text of his statement? I thought it was beautiful.

        I’m still a big Bulls fan but love LBJ.

    • wisner74 - Jul 12, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      Nude – I agree with your general sentiment about LBJ — he has come a long way as a man and it is nice to see. Can’t say I love the guy, though.

      Since I have a pretty strong Cleveland connection, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Cavs next season and rooting for their success, except against the Bulls. I think if LeBron helps bring a championship to Cleveland it will be a much bigger accomplishment than winning the two in Miami — a new coach, a young, promising roster with some guys with lots of potential but not a lot of accomplishments yet. He’ll have to play a much broader leadership role with this group. It will be interesting to see if he’s up to it. I hope so.

      On the other hand, over the years my interest in the NBA has diminished over the years. I think it some ways it’s just an entertaining parody of real basketball. Overall, I’ll take the college game over the pro game any day of the week .

  5. yaketyyacc - Jul 12, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    one thing is becoming apparent, there is good talent deep at almost every position. Kelly can’t make a mistake no matter who he sends in or starts. maybe there is five stars shining over Alabama, but they can’t match the 85 stars shining over Notre Dame. is talk cheap? in my egotistical and biased opinion, the quote will be heard again: what has Notre Dame wrought? last used when Rockne introduced the Four Horsemen and his shift. Oh Yes, Irish!

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