Harry Hiestand is back in familar surroundings as Notre Dame officially announced the return of veteran offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to Marcus Freeman’s first coaching staff. Hiestand is back on staff after having served as offensive line coach under Brian Kelly from 2012-2017. In 2018 Hiestand left ND, ironically for another job that he had once held before, with the Chicago Bears.
Hiestand’s last offensive line unit at ND in 2017 included Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchy and won the Joe Moore Award that recognizes the most outstanding offensive line in College football. Both Nelson and McGlinchy were top 10 picks in the 2018 NFL draft, and were named first team AP All-Americans, the first time in history that two offensive lineman from the same team earned the honor in the same season. Other high NFL picks Hiestand produced while in South Bend included, Ronnie Stanley (1st), Zack Martin (1st), Nick Martin (2nd), and Chris Watt (3rd).
After the ND stint, he spent two mostly successful years in Chicago but was fired after the 2019 season when Bears head coach Matt Nagy shook up his staff after a disappointing 8-8 season. Hiestand, who has taken the last two years off from coaching has maintained a home in South Bend. Even while still with the Bears he frequently was sighted on Friday nights at his son’s South Bend St. Joseph’s football games.
It has been confirmed that during the 2020 season, Hiestand was sought out by and met with Notre Dame offensive linemen.
At age 63, Hiestand brings 40 years of coaching experience mostly all, coaching the offensive line. From 1989-1993 while at the University of Cincinnati, he also held the title of offensive coordinator and from 2000-2004 while at Illinois he held the title of assistant head coach a long with coaching the offensive line.
Hiestand’s age makes him the senior member on a youthful staff. Next up in age would be tight ends coach John McNulty at age 53. The rest of Freeman’s staff is in their 30’s or 20’s.
Hiestand’s former players are loyal and frequently effusive in their praise for their former coach.
One of his prized pupils, Quenton Nelson who has gone on to earn All-Pro honors with the Indianapolis Colts is among those players. In 2019, Nelson told Chicagobears.com, “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. When I got to Notre Dame….I wasn’t very good and he just helped me improve every single day….In the meeting rooms he was very intense, with an attention to detail.”
In 2016, former Irish offensive lineman and current ESPN personality Mike Golic Jr. said, “I think he’s, far and away, the best offensive line coach in the country, I’ll put him up with anyone around the country. He’s so genuine.”
Hiestand will have a promising and young but experienced group to work with in 2022. Eight game starter Joe Alt and phenom Blake Fisher who was a first game starter but suffered an injury before returning for the Fiesta Bowl will be sophomores and should man the tackle positions for the next two years. Center Jarrett Patterson and tackle Josh Lugg (likely to move to right guard) bring 54 games of starting experience. Junior Andrew Kristofic was a six game starter last season at left guard. The Irish line prospects also boast 2021 top 100 recruit Rocco Spindler and five top prospects from the 2022 class.
ND Staff positions at defensive coordinator and running backs coach remain vacant. Speculation of late has centered around Cincinnati Bengals Linebackers coach Al Golden to take over the DC job. Other rumored candidates are three current college coordinators and include Joe Rossi (Minnesota), Tem Lakubu (Boston College) and Doug Belk (Houston).