For new coach Freeman, Notre Dame success begins in the trenches

SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) — Before his first spring practice as Notre Dame head coach, Marcus Freeman didn’t mince his words for his Fighting Irish.

“I told him at the team meeting, I have a vision and the identity I want for my team,” Freeman recalled. “And this is a team that can run the ball and prevent runs. I believe our O-line and D-line are the foundation of our team.”

To accomplish this, Freeman, 36, has turned to some familiar faces to prepare the offensive and defensive lines for the season opener Sept. 3 at Ohio State, Freeman’s alma mater.

Back as offensive line coach, a position he held under Freeman’s predecessor, 63-year-old Harry Heistand. Freeman hired former Ohio State defensive line coach Al Washington to replace Mike Alston, who left for Michigan, his alma mater.

After the eighth spring practice, Freeman praised both coaches.

“I’m really, really pleased with both sides,” Freeman said. “They’ve been physical, tough. They’re making each other better. I don’t even think it’s technology or planning, as much as the mindset that I can get that guy away from me. And I think those Both people (Hystand and Washington) brought it here.

The highstand was an easy hire for Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. In his first stint with the Irish under Brian Kelly from 2012–17, Hiestand included future NFL first-round draft choices Jack Martin (Dallas 2014), Ronnie Stanley (Baltimore 2016), Quenton Nelson (Indianapolis 2018) and Mike McGlinchy (San Francisco). 2018). As the team’s quarterback in 2012 and 2013, Rees was guarded by the Heroes of Heistand.

During 2017, his final season with Notre Dame before rejoining the Chicago Bears as offensive line coach for a second time, Haystand’s relegation led by All-Americans Nelson and McGlinchy produced 269.3 in the country Joe Moore as the top rower won the award. A game of running yards.

Martin and Nelson have been among the visitors who have returned this spring to help Hiestand put their current charges through their momentum.

“They want to be part of the coach that’s trying to instill in Heystand Hum,” said 6-foot-6, 305-pound right guard Josh Lug, who has returned for a sixth season and with right tackle. moves forward. For Blake Fisher.

Another true sophomore, Joe Alt, returns as a starter in the left tackle, Senior Andrew Kristoffic returns to left guard and Senior Zeke Correll is in center, while Jarrett Patterson, a graduate student, returns to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Improves with surgery. Junior tackle Tosh Baker and sophomore guard Rocco Spindler also impressed Heistand.

“The message of what they (former players) learned when they were here and the importance of the details of how we block is very important to our success,” Haystand said. “His visits are very valuable.”

Washington, 37, spent the last three seasons as Ohio State’s defensive line coach, but worked under Freeman when the two were in Cincinnati in 2017.

“We have a lot of experience in the (defensive line) room,” Washington said. “What I appreciate is how well they recognize that there’s another level and that’s what we’re looking to achieve.”

Isaiah Fosky, 6-foot-5, at the end of 260-pound, NFL to lead Fighting Irish with 11 quarterback sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss and return for his senior season in 2021 with six forced fumbles turned down the opportunity.

“My main focus is just to be a defensive player,” Fosky said. “Everybody knows I can get past the crowd. I want to be able to stop the runs. I like (Washington’s) coaching style. He focuses on pass rushing and run stopping. So I come back. Went.”

Foskey is one of eight linemen with extensive game time from the previous season. Washington has been particularly impressed with the work in and out of junior lineman Riley Mills and senior tackle Jacob Lacey and Howard Cross III. Sophomore tackle Gabriel Rubio impresses with his size (6-foot-5″, 290 pounds) and dexterity.

“There’s a bunch of old guys out there who have become leaders by grabbing the bull by the horns,” Washington said. “We have to keep building. Greatness is found in the details. That’s our mindset.”

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