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O-line sounds off on Coach Hiestand

Harry Hiestand has whipped even prima donnas into shape during his time in the National Football League. So a bunch of college kids are no match for the first-year Notre Dame offensive line coach/running game coordinator. What makes things exponentially easier for the fiery 29-year veteran is the willingness to learn even from his experienced pupils.

First-year Irish offensive line coach/running game coordinator Harry Hiestand is an efficient instructor according to his pupils

From the limited time media have been allowed to watch Hiestand work on the practice field, it’s abundantly clear he’s a no-nonsense instructor with little patience for anything falling short of full effort. The big boys up front, which have noticeably improved since head coach Brian Kelly arrived in 2010, are responding.

In Charlie Weis’ five hears at the helm, the Fighting Irish averaged 117.20 rushing yards per game. In Kelly’s first two seasons, the team is averaging 132.77 yards. In Weis’ final three years (2007-09), Notre Dame watched its quarterbacks hit the deck an astounding 113 times (37.7 per season). Under Kelly and former O-line coach Ed Warinner, who left during the offseason for a similar position at Ohio State, the Irish have surrendered 18 sacks per season.

Hiestand is looking for even more improvement.

“He’s a really intense, really intense coach, which is great for us,” senior left guard Chris Watt said. “He gets after us. He really has high expectations for all of us and wants us to be the best players we can be. That’s really important to us.”

It’s all in the details, Watt added.

“Last year, you could kind of see on film we were holding back with our hands a little bit,” he said. “This year, one of Coach Hiestand’s big points of emphasis is getting our hands on the guy as quickly as possible. Not only is he doing it with that, but doing it with a punch, not just putting your hands on the guy. We’ve been working on a lot of that during camp. When you punch the defender and kind of stone him, he’s not going to be able to get to the quarterback. He’ll go through all the film and will point out good and bad things at each play at each position. That’s really good for us.”

Starting left tackle Zack Martin explained how complacency isn’t an option under his new position coach.

“Intensity. He’s intense at all times,” Martin added. “Whenever we’re in this building he’s all business. He keeps us on track. I think that’s what we needed. He’s intense at all times.

“We go real hard during 11-on-11 period and we’re all tired. We come back and we think we’re going to take a little time off, but we doing blocking drills for 10 yards down the field and he’s just pushing us to condition us for the game.”

Fifth-year center Braxston Cave, like his teammates, respects Hiestand’s extensive resume. Hiestand joined Notre Dame after two years in the same capacity at Tennessee. Before that, he guided the Chicago Bears offensive line from 2005-09.

“A lot of experience,” Cave said. “He’s changed up the running game a little bit and our technique. He’s an offensive line guy. That’s all he cares about. His attitude that he’s brought I think is really going to have a great impact on this line. He’s intense, very intense. He doesn’t like wasted reps. His big thing is just giving everything you’ve got each play and each rep you get, because you don’t get it back.

“I’d say we got after it a little bit more than in the past. This team is capable of taking on that kind of task.”

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