ND line coach Harry Hiestand not worried about arm length: 'Just watch the guy play'

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Don’t get Harry Hiestand started on arm length.

While some might wonder how that factored into the pre-camp juggling of Notre Dame’s offensive line, the veteran line-play guru considers the whole topic somewhat pointless.

“That’s something that people like to talk about,” Hiestand said. “Just watch the guy play. Either he can block or he can’t block. Get your hands inside. If you have long arms and your hands are always outside …”

He shook his head. Arm length, he said, is “not a big issue.”

For proof, he cited Dallas Cowboys perennial All-Pro Zack Martin, one of Hiestand’s top proteges during his prior run in South Bend from 2012-17.

“A guy named Zack Martin, a future Hall of Fame player, that’s all everybody talked about was how short his arms were,” Hiestand said. “I thought it was a joke.”

Martin’s 32 7/8-inch arm length was considered a detriment when he entered the NFL as the 16th-overall pick in 2014. The average arm length for an NFL guard is 33 inches.

Notre Dame's Zack Martin celebrates the 14-10 win following the college football game between Notre Dame and USC on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN

For a tackle it’s 34 inches, while a center at the game’s top level averages 32 ½ inches in arm length.

For reference, Josh Lugg, moved back inside to right guard after starting 12 games last season at right tackle, said he has an arm length of 31 ¾ inches.

All-America candidate Jarrett Patterson, a three-year starter at center who has moved to left guard for his final season, said he wasn’t sure of his arm length.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Probably somewhere in the 32s?”

Notre Dame offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson (right) during Notre Dame Spring Practice on Saturday, April 02, 2022, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

Like Hiestand, Patterson doesn’t worry too much about that oft-cited measurable.

“As long as you have tight hands and (your) head back,” he said. “Guys in the NFL have played with short arms. If they can do it, anyone else can do it.”

That includes Martin, who Patterson called “one of the best.”

Zeke Correll, who lost the starting job at left guard after five games last season, thrived in his spring audition at center after filling in there for two games late in 2020. While his arm length isn’t known, the fact that his nickname is “Sawed-Off Zeke” should give you some indication.

“He attacks everybody,” Lugg said. “Low pad level, which is great at center when you have somebody that can gain ground and either displace the (defensive) lineman or get in a position where the guards can get in there and finish. It really helps.”

Notre Dame offensive lineman Zeke Correll (52) during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football game on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

New defensive coordinator Al Golden, who spent the past six seasons as an NFL assistant, alluded to arm length on Monday when discussing the Irish offensive line.

“Harry’s group, man, they’re physical,” Golden said. “Really long. I mean, it’s a long group. It’s hard to get off their blocks. It’s a challenge for us.”

'We wanted to be there'

Neither rain nor tornado warnings nor scheduling difficulties could keep the entire Notre Dame offensive line from delivering on its promise to the Plantz family.

Before heading to training camp, Notre Dame’s beef brigade made sure the July 23 “Believe in the Basics” youth fundamentals camp at New Lenox (Ill.) Providence Catholic High School was a success.

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“It’s kind of hard to get 17 offensive linemen in Chicago, but we figured it out,” sixth-year Irish lineman Josh Lugg said Thursday. “Everyone in that Plantz family represents Notre Dame well. Whatever we can do to help them, we want to be a part of that.”

First-year Providence Catholic coach Tyler Plantz, who progressed from Notre Dame walk-on to assistant director of football operations and a senior analyst for special teams and the offensive line, put the camp together. All proceeds from the inaugural line camp were pledged to the Zac Plantz Foundation and its mental health initiatives.

“Hopefully this becomes an annual thing,” Lugg said. “Mental health right now, we need to talk more about it.”

Notre Dame offensive lineman Josh Lugg (75) during a Notre Dame spring football practice on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in South Bend.

Zac Plantz, a Notre Dame graduate who played club rugby for the Irish, died in a car accident in November 2020.

About 250 kids registered, and even with foul weather more than 100 attended. The camp started at noon and ran for six hours, with the guests of honor staying the whole time.

“It didn’t have to be that long, but we were just having fun with the kids,” Lugg said. “We didn’t have anything better to do. We wanted to be there on a Saturday, coaching the basics with the kids that actually wanted to learn, and then at the very end we played Irish Ball.”

What’s that?

“Think razzle dazzle with linemen,” Lugg said. “So, it’s kind of hilarious.”

Prognosis for Michael Carmody

Sophomore offensive tackle Michael Carmody sat out again for Thursday’s practice, watching in workout gear as he took mental repetitions.

“He just got banged (up),” Hiestand said, agreeing with the suggestion that the setback wasn’t serious.

Notre Dame offensive lineman Michael Carmody (68) during a Notre Dame spring football practice on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in South Bend.

Carmody, who also sat out on Monday at the last five-period media viewing, worked as the backup right tackle at the start of camp. Younger brother of Irish basketball player Robby Carmody, the Mars, Pa., product appeared in 10 games last season, starting two at left tackle (Toledo and Cincinnati).

During spring camp, Carmody was the backup center.

“Mike’s a very good athlete,” Hiestand said. “He can make those adjustments pretty well. It was great experience for him to go in there and play that position (in the spring).”  

Redshirt freshman Pat Coogan, who missed the spring due to injury, is working as the second-team center.

Something for Joey (Tanona)

Hiestand was asked what advice he gave to freshman Joey Tanona after the four-star offensive tackle from Zionsville High School filed for medical retirement before the start of training camp.

Tanona, who suffered a concussion in late March in a serious car accident close to campus, will remain enrolled as he pursues his degree, coach Marcus Freeman said on Aug. 5.

“Just unfortunate,” Hiestand said. “It was just sad. What can you say? You just wish him luck. He’s a wonderful young man and (has) a great family. Now go on and try to achieve what you’re capable of achieving to the best of whatever you end up doing. He was always a (heck) of a kid.”

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.