Notre Dame OL coach Harry Hiestand continues recruiting surge

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

There has to be a secret.

Take a long, hard look at Harry Hiestand, and the magic behind his recruiting wizardry isn’t immediately clear. In the age of social media, Notre Dame’s offensive line coach follows a whopping 15 people on Twitter and has never published a tweet.

He has never been a head coach, either, and he can’t walk into a prospect’s living room and flash a handful of Super Bowl rings.

And yet, he keeps recruiting.

With seven months remaining in the 2016 recruiting cycle, Notre Dame has already landed verbal commitments from three highly touted offensive linemen — offensive tackles Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, and offensive guard Parker Boudreaux, who pledged to the Irish on Thursday.

Moreover, in Notre Dame’s last four classes (counting 2016), 13 of the team’s 14 offensive line signees have been ranked as at least a four-star prospect by either Rivals or 247Sports, and two of those players — Kraemer and 2014 offensive tackle Quenton Nelson — earned five-star marks.

So, what’s Hiestand’s secret?

“It’s weird, everyone asks us that,” Kraemer said with a chuckle. “It’s hard to give an answer, but he’s so much different than any other coach. He’s not into Twitter or any of the modern recruiting. He’s just old school. He loves football. He loves coaching, and he wants to be an offensive line coach.

“It’s great to have a guy who’s passionate about what he does and really knows how to get people to do their best. That’s really why he’s such a good recruiter and good coach. We’re all looking forward to learning from him.”

Maybe, the secret is simplicity. Hiestand is an offensive line coach, pure and simple, a proven commodity with a well-defined role. He played and coached on the offensive line at East Stroudsburg College, and has since coached the offensive line for 26 consecutive seasons at five different schools, plus the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Or, perhaps his secret is that he cares, and it shows.

“He’s just like the best guy I’ve ever met,” Boudreaux said. “He’s really good with his players. I got a chance to hang out with him for a full day, and he’s just an awesome dude. He won’t lie to you. He’s really straight up. He’ll do anything for his players.”

And once they arrive on campus, Hiestand’s players return the favor.

“He has guys like Zack Martin and Chris Watt, some of the guys who have gone on to the NFL, come back and work with the players at camps,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “Also, I’ve noticed that he brings all of his committed players in to be at the camps with him. Last year, all five of his commits were there to recruit Jerry Tillery.

“It’s a smart way to recruit. Obviously, he has to have a coach-player relationship, which is good. But he gets the other players involved and creates a camaraderie.”

Hiestand’s greatest strength may be the realization that he doesn’t need to do it all on his own.

“It’s definitely a culture thing,” Kraemer said. “When you visit, especially the offensive linemen, and you meet the other linemen, they treat you like one of their own. It’s not like you’re a recruit or you’re visiting. They treat you like you’re on the team. They accept you.

“So that’s definitely a great feeling, when you walk in the meeting room and they know your name, they shake your hand. That was why I felt so comfortable there.”

Kraemer isn’t the only one. Thus far in the 2016 cycle, Notre Dame has 11 verbal commits, but its three offensive linemen may be the most decorated. Together, Kraemer, Eichenberg and Boudreaux form a three-headed monster comparable to any nationwide.

“Their three are as good as anybody else’s top three in the country,” Lemming said. “There will be other schools that will bring in four, five or six offensive linemen. I think Notre Dame may be finished with their offensive line, because they have built great depth over the past three years. Nobody has recruited better than Harry Hiestand.”

Maybe, when it comes to Hiestand, there are no secrets. No tricks. Just a genuine recruiter, and a line of eager recruits.

“I’m very excited (about the recruiting class),” Kraemer said. “Parker and Liam, they’re two great players. It’s going to be a lot of fun knocking people around for the next couple years.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand speaks to players before practice Saturday, March 28, 2015, during practice at Loftus Sports Center in South Bend. (SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)

Since 2013, 13 of Notre Dame's 14 offensive line signees have earned a four or five-star ranking from either Rivals or 247Sports.

2013

Hunter Bivin: 4 (Rivals, 247Sports)

Steve Elmer: 4 (Rivals, 247Sports)

Mike McGlinchey: 4 (Rivals, 247Sports)

Colin McGovern: 3 (Rivals), 4 (247Sports)

John Montelus: 4 (Rivals, 247Sports)

2014

Alex Bars: 4 (Rivals, 247Sports)

Jimmy Byrne: 4 (Rivals), 3 (247Sports)

Sam Mustipher: 4 (Rivals), 3 (247Sports)

Quenton Nelson: 5 (Rivals), 4 (247Sports)

2015

Tristen Hoge: 4 (Rivals, 247Sports)

Trevor Ruhland: 3 (Rivals, 247Sports)

2016

Parker Boudreaux: 4 (Rivals, 247Sports)

Liam Eichenberg: 3 (Rivals), 4 (247Sports)

Tommy Kraemer: 4 (Rivals), 5 (247Sports)