Notre Dame freshman Joey Tanona learning standard of Irish O-line from Harry Hiestand

Justin Frommer
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Over the past few weeks, freshman Joey Tanona has met often with Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to examine film from practices long ago.

Hiestand began with last year's line, dissecting the hand technique and footwork of Tanona's new Irish teammates.

Then Hiestand, who joined head coach Marcus Freeman's staff last month, cued up film from his previous coaching stint in South Bend (2012-17). The Ronnie Stanleys. The Quenton Nelsons. The Mike McGlincheys. All NFL All-Pros

Hiestand was showing Tanona what caliber of player he can become by the end of his Notre Dame career. 

Zionsville's Joey Tanona looks at the scoreboard during the state final game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tanona is now an early enrollee freshman at Notre Dame learning the offensive line ropes from OL coach Harry Hiestand.

During the film sessions Tanona was sometimes perplexed how Hiestand picked up on such minute details.

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"He is very detailed oriented and that is something we appreciate as an offensive line," said the early enrollee from Zionsville, Ind. "(Hiestand) doesn't let anything slide. He wants us to be the best we can be."

Hiestand's film breakdown process is the same for all Notre Dame offensive linemen, and a key tool for early development that leads to future success.

Sixth-year senior Josh Lugg went through it as a freshman under Hiestand in 2017, and so has Billy Schrauth, the other early enrollee freshman offensive linemen on campus.

The purpose is to achieve a yearly standard for the position group. 

Joey Tanona

"It doesn't matter how old you are, all of them have the same standard," Tanona said. "Nothing really changes. Everyone acts the same and it has been great."

At Zionsville High School just outside of Indianapolis, the 6-5, 284-pound Tanona was used to being amongst the biggest and strongest. 

One of 12 early enrollees, Tanona is learning that is no longer the case — not just on the team, but in his own position group. 

"That's what I knew coming in here," Tanona said. "Everyone knows that coming here, the offensive line room here is outstanding. You aren't going to come in here, show up and then just go on the field. Everyone here is just so good, that it is minor things that will set you apart."

For Notre Dame offensive lineman, there is a process to becoming "the guy." For Tanona, that started his first day on campus building his brand with his new teammates and coach.

That is where Hiestand stepped in.

Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, left, is shown in this 2015 file photo. Hiestand has returned to Notre Dame after several years of coaching in the NFL. (Tribune Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)

A collective goal inside Notre Dame's offensive line room is to dominate the trenches every play of every game. Even when Hiestand was gone coaching the NFL's Chicago Bears, that was still the expectation.

Tanona said Hiestand's return has emphasized it again. 

"I love the intensity he brings," Tanona said, "He is someone when he gets talking, you will run through a brick wall for."

Tanona has ample experience around him to learn from as the Irish are replacing only one full-time starter from last season in Cain Madden.

There are an abundance of starting combinations Hiestand, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and first-year head coach Freeman will have to decide on before the 2022 season opener at Ohio State on Sept. 3. 

Tanona knows he has plenty of work to do if he is to figure into those plans.

In the weight room Tanona has been by the side of junior Tosh Baker, his main lift partner, learning how to properly prepare his body for the season. 

Zionsville's Joey Tanona (79) blocks Cathedral's Kendrick Gilbert (99) Nov. 26, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tanona is now an early enrollee freshman at Notre Dame learning the offensive line ropes from OL coach Harry Hiestand.

That culture has been passed down from each Notre Dame offensive line over the years. 

"You can just tell when you walk in that room and meet all these guys, it is like nowhere else in the country," Tanona said. "It just feels different when you come here."

Tanona is finding out what it's like to go on the field and have to earn everything again. It's a process he expected to go through when he signed with the Irish, and he believes he's in the right situation to do that. 

"As soon as you step in that (offensive line room), it is all the same mindset, same common goal," Tanona said. "We are all working toward the same thing. It is different being in a room where everyone thinks the exact same, so it makes everything go a lot easier."