A day after securing what seemed to be some coaching staff stability, Notre Dame may lose its most-established assistant coach to the NFL. The Chicago Tribune reports Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand will join the Chicago Bears and their new head coach, Matt Nagy. NBC Sports Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz confirmed the report.
Hiestand has been with Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly since 2012, following a two-year stop at Tennessee. Before that, Hiestand spent five seasons with the Bears in the exact role he is expected to reprise.
While with the Irish, Hiestand’s offensive lines were consistently the best units on the roster. His tutelage led to multiple first-round NFL Draft picks — Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley — and established a number of others for NFL careers, such as Nick Martin and Chris Watt. Zack Martin and Stanley will likely be joined in that listing of first-round picks by Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey this spring.
Nelson’s and McGlinchey’s departures underscore the timing of Hiestand’s return to the NFL. Pro Football Focus graded Nelson as the country’s best guard this season and McGlinchey as its best tackle. The offensive line as a whole received the Joe Moore Award, recognizing it as the best offensive line in the nation.
Next year, Hiestand would have had to replace Nelson and McGlinchey, an unenviable task no matter how many worthwhile options there are on the roster. Those options are headlined by current starting right tackle sophomore Tommy Kraemer, backup left tackle sophomore Liam Eichenberg and freshman Josh Lugg.
Kelly has one in-house option he can turn to if wanting to keep as much consistency as he can.
Whomever Kelly turns to, he will have Kraemer, co-starting right tackle freshman Robert Hainsey, senior center Sam Mustipher and senior right guard Alex Bars returning.