Virginia Tech's Joe Rudolph to be Notre Dame's next offensive line coach

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune
Dec 30, 2020; Charlotte, NC, USA; Wisconsin Badgers associate head coach Joe Rudolph during first quarter action against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — Joe Rudolph’s impressive coaching resume screams “Midwest power football.”

So, it seems entirely fitting that Notre Dame, according to multiple reports and the Twitter account of Rudolph's former boss at Virginia Tech, is hiring the veteran offensive line coach after a one-year stint in Blacksburg, Va. Tom Loy of 247Sports was the first to report the hiring.

Rudolph, 50, was former Irish quarterback Jack Coan’s offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, where the 50-year-old from Western Pennsylvania (Belle Vernon) spent seven seasons (2015-21) as associate head coach and offensive line coach.

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That was Rudolph’s second tour in Madison, where he coached tight ends from 2008-11 before spending three seasons at Pittsburgh. Rudolph spent 10 combined seasons working for former Pitt and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, who was fired midway through last season.

Rudolph, a former Badgers offensive lineman who was part of Barry Alvarez’s first recruiting class, spent three seasons at Ohio State (2004-06) as a graduate assistant and strength coordinator.

Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman was in his first three seasons as a Buckeyes linebacker during that same time frame.

Rudolph, who appeared in 10 NFL games between 1995-97 with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, also has familiarity with Hokies grad transfer wide receiver Kaleb Smith, who enrolled at Notre Dame last month.

According to USA Today's assistant coach salary database, Rudolph earned $745,000 in base pay last season. Rudolph, who reportedly had two years left on his contract at Virginia Tech, was due to earn $820,200 at Wisconsin in 2020 before a mandatory pandemic salary reduction.

His salary was bumped down to $675,000 in 2021 after he gave up play-calling responsibilities to focus on the Badgers' offensive line and run game.

Harry Hiestand, 64, went back into retirement after coaching the 2022 Irish offensive line. Under Hiestand’s tutelage, sophomore left tackle Joe Alt earned first-team All-America recognition and senior Jarrett Patterson made a successful transition from center to left guard.

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Alt, who turned 20 on Tuesday and is projected as a first-round draft pick as soon as 2024, and redshirt sophomore right tackle Blake Fisher give Rudolph talented bookends to anchor the Irish line. Center Zeke Correll is a returning starter as well with Andrew Kristofic, a starter for seven games in 2021, the frontrunner at left guard.

Wisconsin product Billy Schrauth and Michigan product Rocco Spindler figure to push for time at both guard spots during spring practice, which starts March 22. The Blue-Gold Game is set for April 22 at 2 p.m.

Hiestand’s retirement was announced on Super Bowl Sunday. Fifteen days later, the Irish appear to have to found a worthy replacement.

New offensive coordinator Gerad Parker was promoted from tight ends coach on Feb. 18 to fill the void left by Tommy Rees’ departure on Feb. 3 to run Alabama’s offense.

Gino Guidugli, Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator last season, is expected to join Notre Dame’s staff as quarterbacks coach after a brief stay at Wisconsin.

Mason Lunsford set to visit

Another potential option at left guard is Maryland graduate transfer Mason Lunsford, a late entry into the portal on Feb. 18, who announced via social media his official visit this weekend to Notre Dame.

The 6-foot-7, 305-pound lineman made 23 combined starts at left guard over the past two seasons for the Terrapins and would have two years of eligibility remaining. A former three-star signee in 2019 out of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md., where he was a classmate of Notre Dame cornerback Cam Hart. Lunsford has self-reported offers from LSU, Arkansas, Louisville, Tulane and Houston, among others.

Maryland offensive lineman Mason Lunsford celebrates after running back Colby McDonald (not pictured) rushes for a touchdown in the first quarter of MSU's 27-13 loss on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in College Park, Maryland.

Good Counsel also produced current Notre Dame tight end Davis Sherwood and former Irish center Sam Mustipher, a three-year starter (2016-18) before heading to the NFL with the Chicago Bears.

Lunsford, who majored in criminology and criminal justice, missed time last season after suffering a concussion against Northwestern on Oct. 22. He sat out road losses against Wisconsin and Penn State despite having a bye week mixed into his recovery period but was able to return on Nov. 19 against Ohio State.

After allowing just four sacks in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus, the Iowa-born Lunsford allowed zero sacks, one hit and eight hurries last season.

Among FBS guards with at least 200 snaps last season, Lunsford was tied for 48th with a 79.8 pass blocking grade, according to PFF. As a run blocker, however, Lunsford was tied for 151st nationally with a 62.1 grade, dropping him into a tie for 123rd overall among FBS guards.

Florida State’s Dillan Gibbons, who started his career at Notre Dame before transferring, compiled nearly identical grades as Lunsford last season in the overall and run-blocking categories.

Patterson ranked 59th overall among FBS guards last season, according to, and sixth-year right guard Josh Lugg was tied for 44th with a 72.6 overall grade. Lugg played in 61 career games at Notre Dame, tied for second in program history.

Patterson and Lugg combined to make 79 career starts at multiple spots along the Irish line.

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.