Harry Hiestand has hot hand on recruiting trail for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Harry Hiestand always seems to be a step ahead on the recruiting trail.

While most of Notre Dame’s assistant coaches are working for strong finishes in the 2016 class, Hiestand has already moved on to setting the pace for the 2017 class.

Josh Lugg, a junior offensive tackle at Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny, became the latest linemen to give Hiestand a verbal commitment. He became the second offensive lineman to commit to the 2017 class. The Irish offensive line coach added three verbal commitments from 2016 recruits by early July.

In addition to quantity, Hiestand has been consistently adding quality. The Irish signed 11 offensive linemen in the last three recruiting cycles. Ten of them were given four or five-star ratings from either Rivals or 247Sports. That doesn’t include freshman standout Jerry Tillery, who was recruited by Hiestand as a four-star offensive lineman before switching to defensive tackle when enrolling at Notre Dame.

Four of the five current verbal commitments have at least a four-star rating from either Rivals or 247Sports. The future looks bright on the offensive line for plenty of years to come.

Starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey, a junior, understands why offensive linemen are lining up to play at Notre Dame. Hiestand is near the top of the list.

“I came to Notre Dame to play for coach Hiestand,” McGlinchey said. “That was one of the big reasons. He’s the best in the business. There’s no other guy like him. He’s very unique in his own way, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Coach is the best at what he does, and he has such a passion for the game. That’s where that personality comes out. He just wants it so bad, and that rubs off on us. We feel the things he’s feeling, because of the way he acts around us. We know the importance of every assignment and the way we act. That’s what he does.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was already committed to Notre Dame before Hiestand was hired to replace Ed Warriner following the 2011 season, but he realizes why the Irish offensive line coach recruits so well. Hiestand has developed Stanley into a projected first-round draft pick.

“I think it’s his genuineness and his ability to make kids better and explain to them that he wants the best for them no matter what happens,” Stanley said. “No matter how good they are, the kids he recruits, he wants to turn them into the best O-Lineman and person they can be.”

Stanley said he and his fellow offensive linemen don’t have to work hard to explain to recruits why they love playing for him. Hiestand seems to have tapped into the mindset of high school offensive linemen.

“He’s a real good people person,” Stanley said. “He understands people really well. It’s a gift he has.”

Center Nick Martin, a fifth-year senior, has seen the interaction of Hiestand with recruits many times. In Hiestand he sees the same person who coaches him on the field.

“He’s honest,” Martin said. “He’s not going to treat you differently because you’re a recruit. When you get here, he’s the same guy. When we have a recruit in the room, he’s never different. He’s the same guy in and out.”

Martin follows the same policy when recruits ask him about Hiestand. Many like what they hear.

“I’m always honest with recruits,” Martin said. “I tell them, ‘Some days are going to be hard. He’s going to get on you. But that’s part of football.’ What I tell them is, ‘It’s tough sometimes, but he cares. You know he cares so that makes it all worth it.’”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Head Coch Brian Kelly and coach Harry Hiestand speak Saturday, August 15, 2015, at the Notre Dame football practice at Labar Practice Complex. SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ

Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand continues to line up highly-rated recruits for the Irish.

2016 COMMITS

Tommy Kraemer: Five stars, 247Sports; Four stars, Rivals.

Liam Eichenberg: Four stars, 247Sports; Three stars, Rivals.

Parker Boudreaux: Four stars, 247Sports and Rivals.

2017 COMMITS

Dillan Gibbons: Three stars, 247Sports and Rivals.

Josh Lugg: Four stars, 247Sports and Rivals.