On Monday the Notre Dame Fighting Irish officially announced the hiring of Harry Hiestand as the new offensive line coach.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame bolstered its coaching staff as Dick Corbett Head Coach Marcus Freeman announced the hiring of renowned offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. This will be Hiestand’s second stint with the Irish, as he was the offensive line coach at Notre Dame from 2012-17. The hiring will be effective at the conclusion of the University’s standard employment process.
“Harry built the standard of excellence for the Notre Dame offensive line and we are excited to have him back in our program,” said Freeman. ”Our focus is on player development and pushing our players to reach their full potential and that is where Harry excels.”
Hiestand joins the Irish after spending two seasons with the Chicago Bears coaching the offensive line. In his second term with the Bears, his offensive line allowed just 33 sacks in 2018, which was the eighth-fewest in the league that season. Center Cody Whitehair and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. were named to their first Pro Bowl to become the first Bears offensive linemen teammates to make the all-star game since 2006. The Bears won their first division title since 2010 and amassed a 12-4 record, their best since 2006.
During his first stint with the Irish, Hiestand developed a number of offensive lineman into Top-3 round NFL Draft picks. In his six years in South Bend, he had six offensive linemen selected in the first three rounds (Quenton Nelson, first; Ronnie Stanley, first; Zack Martin, first; Mike McGlinchey, first; Nick Martin, second; and Chris Watt, third). Over the 11 NFL Drafts (2002-12) prior to Hiestand’s arrival, only two Irish offensive linemen were drafted in the first three rounds and not a single one since 2007.
Of the six lineman drafted, three of them were selected in the Top-10 picks of the draft (Nelson – 5th, 2018; McGlinchey – 9th, 2018 and Stanley – 6th, 2016). Nelson was the highest drafted Notre Dame player since Rick Mirer was selected second overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1993 draft.
In his last season with the Irish in 2017, Hiestand’s offensive line was tabbed as the Joe Moore Award winners for the Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit in college football. The Irish ranked seventh in the nation with 279.1 rushing yards per game. The offensive line was the first-ever in the history of the Football Writers Association of America to have two of its linemen (Nelson and McGlinchey) garner first-team All-American honors in the same season (the first FWAA All-American team was in 1944). The pair was also the first offensive linemen to receive first team All-American honors from the Associated Press in the same season since 1931.
The Irish averaged 207.6 rushing yards per game in 2015, including six games with 200+ yards (Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, UMass, USC and Stanford). Notre Dame’s average of 5.63 yards per carry set a modern (post-WWII) school record, which was later surpassed by the 2017 team.
Hiestand had four pupils chosen in the 2014 NFL Draft — Martin (first round) and Watt (third round) of Notre Dame and Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James (first) and Zach Fulton (sixth). In 2013, he mentored a unit that allowed just eight sacks, which ranked tied for second in the FBS in fewest sacks allowed.
In his first season with the Irish, Heistand guided an offensive line that nearly helped the Irish average over 200 yards per game in both rushing and passing, which had previously happened only twice in school history (1977 and 1970).
Prior to his first stint at Notre Dame, Hiestand coached at Tennessee for two years (2010-11) after working with the offensive line with the Chicago Bears from 2005-09. He coached the offensive line at Illinois from 1997-2004 and at Missouri from 1994-96.
In his first season at Tennessee, Hiestand took over an inexperienced offensive line with only one player having any starting experience. The Volunteers started three true freshmen on the 2010 offensive line and still helped running back Tauren Poole tie for the SEC lead with six 100-yard rushing games. Poole recorded just the 16th 1,000-yard rushing season in Tennessee history with 1,034 yards.
Freshman James Stone started eight games at center in 2010 and was named a Freshman All-American by both Sporting News and the Football Writers Association of America. Freshman Ja’Wuan James started every game in 2010 at right tackle and was named to the all-SEC freshman team by the SEC coaches. Freshman Zach Fulton started five games at guard for the Vols, and sophomore Dallas Thomas started all 13 games at left tackle.
Tennessee was one of only seven schools in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision that did not start a senior on the offensive line in any game in 2011. The Volunteers allowed only 18 sacks in the talented SEC–and only Alabama among conference schools allowed fewer sacks in 2011 than Tennessee.
Freshman Marcus Jackson started the last five games of the 2011 season and was named to Phil Steele’s Freshman All-America first team. The rest of Hiestand’s offensive line consisted of three sophomores who started 12 games, one sophomore who opened seven games and a junior who started 12 games.
Prior to his arrival in Knoxville, Hiestand spent five seasons coaching the offensive line of the Chicago Bears. The Bears were division champions in 2005 and 2006, advancing to Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season.
Hiestand’s offensive line helped Bears running backs eclipse 1,200 rushing yards three times in five seasons. Thomas Jones gained 1,335 rushing yards in 2005 and 1,210 yards in 2006, while Matt Forte totaled 1,238 yards on the ground in 2008. Jones and Forte joined an exclusive list of Bears running backs to ever gain at least 1,200 rushing yards in a season: Neal Anderson, Walter Payton and Gale Sayers.
Two of Hiestand’s players made the Pro Bowl while in Chicago. Center Olin Kreutz was selected in 2005 and 2006–and guard Ruben Brown earned the honor following the 2006 campaign. Kreutz was named first-team All-Pro in 2006 and became the first Bears offensive lineman to receive that honor in 17 years. In 2008, the Bears offense allowed only 29 sacks in 557 pass attempts, and Hiestand’s group permitted only 25 sacks in 539 pass attempts in 2006. The 2006 total was the fewest allowed by a Bears team in five seasons.
Hiestand worked with the offensive line at Illinois from 1997-2004 and held the title of assistant head coach for the final five seasons in Champaign. During his tenure at Illinois, Hiestand tutored 12 all-Big Ten selections on the offensive line, and every senior starting offensive lineman in his first seven years with the Illini signed with an NFL team. Hiestand had six offensive linemen drafted during his eight seasons at Illinois. Offensive tackle Marques Sullivan was named a third-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America in 2000–and center Luke Butkus was selected to the Associated Press All-America third team in 2001.
The Illini averaged 146.7 rushing yards per game with Hiestand as offensive line coach. Illinois averaged 173.5 rushing yards per game in 1999, 164.0 rushing yards in 2002 and 162.7 yards on the ground in 2000. Three of the seven best seasons for total offense and scoring occurred with Hiestand on the offensive staff at Illinois–and four of the top-10 seasons for fewest sacks allowed happened on Hiestand’s watch.
The Illini had a player rush for at least 100 yards in 34 games between 1997-2004, many by running backs Robert Holcombe and Antoineo Harris. Holcombe gained 1,253 rushing yards in 1997 that stood as the fourth-highest single-season total in school history. Harris gained a then-school record 1,330 yards on the ground in 2002.
Hiestand coached the offensive line at Missouri from 1994-96 and in his final season with the Tigers helped them average 250.7 rushing yards per game, the ninth-best rushing average in the NCAA in 1996. In his three seasons at Missouri, he helped the Tigers average 184.1 rushing yards per game, and four of his offensive linemen received all-Big 12 honors in 1996 (the first year of that conference’s existence.)
Running back Brock Olivo benefited from the blocking of Hiestand’s group as he set a then-school record of 3,026 career rushing yards as Missouri’s lead running back from 1994-97. In 1995, the Tigers offensive line helped Olivo rush for 222 yards against NE Louisiana and 201 yards vs. Iowa State, then the third and fourth-best single-game totals in school history.
From 1989-93 Hiestand coached the offensive line at Cincinnati. In 1992 he added the title of run-game coordinator and he added the duties of offensive coordinator in 1993.
Hiestand’s first coaching job at the FBS level occurred at Toledo where he worked with the tight ends from 1988-89. He worked with the offensive line as a graduate assistant at USC in 1987, after coaching the tight ends at Penn in 1986.
His first assistant coach role came at Hiestand’s alma mater, East Stroudsburg. Hiestand was offensive line coach from 1984-85 and assistant offensive line coach in 1983 at the NCAA Division II school after serving as a student assistant in 1982.
Hiestand began his college career as an offensive lineman at Springfield College (Mass.) before transferring to East Stroudsburg where injuries ended his playing career. He graduated from East Stroudsburg in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education.
Born Nov. 19, 1958, in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Hiestand and his wife Terri have four children–Michael, Matthew, Mark and Sarah.