Hiestand left the Irish after the 2017 season to take over as the offensive line coach with the Chicago Bears, where he had previously coached from 2005 to 2009. He had been with Notre Dame for six seasons, producing first-round draft picks like Zack Martin (No. 16 overall in 2014), Ronnie Stanley (No. 6 in 2016), Quenton Nelson (No. 6 in 2018) and Mike McGlinchey (No. 9 in 2018), as well as recruiting and beginning the coaching of last year’s offensive line that yielded three draft picks in Liam Eichenberg (No. 42 overall), Aaron Banks (No. 48) and Robert Hainsey (No. 95).
Led by Nelson and McGlinchey, Notre Dame won the Joe Moore Award in Hiestand’s last season in South Bend, given annually to the best offensive line in college football.
Any criticism of Hiestand stemmed from his lack of passionate recruiting, but his results were so undeniably impressive that they usually served as enough of a recruiting pitch all on their own. He replaces Jeff Quinn, who may have struggled to get the Irish offensive line up to par at the start of each of the last two seasons, though both units improved impressively throughout the seasons, but never struggled on the recruiting trail.
Notre Dame signed five offensive linemen in December in the class of 2022, including a quartet of four-stars, all within the top-200 players of rivals.com’s rankings. Combining them with the current freshman class, which featured two starters at tackle for the first time in Notre Dame history, should give Hiestand plenty of talent to work with for the coming seasons.
Hiestand’s previous stint with the Irish overlapped with the last two years of current offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ playing career, as well as Rees’ first year back at Notre Dame as the quarterbacks coach. In retaining Rees during the turmoil following Brian Kelly’s departure for LSU, Freeman and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick gave Rees more autonomy over the offensive staff than may usually be expected from a 29-year-old coordinator.
Who will be recognized as the top Offensive Line unit in College Football this season? 👀 pic.twitter.com/n4PCw68r0k
— Joe Moore Award (@JoeMooreAward) December 16, 2021
With Hiestand’s return and the reports earlier in the week of the hiring of special teams coordinator Brian Mason from Cincinnati, the Irish now need to hire two more assistant coaches to fill vacancies at receivers coach and defensive coordinator.