Wednesday, March 08, 2023

New offensive line coach Joe Rudolph officially hired at Notre Dame



Courtesy Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame has made official its hire of Virginia Tech offensive line coach Joe Rudolph for the same role in South Bend. Rudolph also has experience as an offensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Pittsburgh under former Badgers head coach Paul Chyrst. The Tuesday morning announcement comes after Rudolph’s hire was first reported on Feb. 27.

“We are excited to add offensive line coach Joe Rudolph to our staff,” Irish head coach Marcus Freeman said in a statement. “He has a proven track record of developing elite college football players, many of whom have gone on to also experience great success in the NFL. We look forward to Joe having a similar impact in our program.”

Rudolph replaces Harry Hiestand at Notre Dame after Hiestand retired following Tommy Rees’s departure for Alabama. He has a lengthy history of being prominently involved in run-first offenses, as Chryst’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at both of his head-coaching stops.

As Irish head coach Marcus Freeman and newly-promoted offensive coordinator Gerad Parker looked for their offensive line coach, they emphasized remaining a run-first offense.

“The thing we know we are built on, we want to be o-line driven,” Parker said when in his introductory press conference on Feb. 20. “We want to be built from inside-out. With what we have returning up front and with our running backs and tight ends, to be able to control a box, that’s where it always has to start.”

With three proven running backs in rising juniors Audric Estimé and Logan Diggs, and rising senior Chris Tyree, along with two possible preseason All-Americans at tackle in rising juniors Joe Alt (left tackle) and Blake Fisher (right tackle), Rudolph should have a clear foundation to establish such a run game up front. Add in three-year starter Zeke Correll at center, and Rudolph’s offensive line is left with only two questions: Who will start at left guard and right guard?

There is talent at the interior position, just little proven with Josh Lugg and Jarrett Patterson matriculating. Expect fifth-year Andrew Kristofic, rising junior Rocco Spindler and rising sophomore Billy Schrauth to get the first cracks at earning a starting spot this spring, with practices beginning March 22.

While coaching the Badgers, Rudolph played a part in developing six offensive linemen into NFL draft picks, notably 2017 first-round tackle Ryan Ramczyk and 2020 fourth-round center Tyler Biadasz, a 2022 Pro Bowler.

At both Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, Rudolph’s offenses developed into run-first offenses, quite distinct improvements over the years when looking at his first two seasons at each. Disregard Rudolph’s first two (out of three) years with the Panthers and his first two (out of seven) years with the Badgers and six of the remaining seven offenses (the exception being the 2020 Wisconsin rendition) finished in the top 25 in the country in at least two of the three primary rushing stats: rushing yards per game, rushing attempts per game and yards per carry.

Notre Dame may not have the same long-standing ethos of run-first offenses as Wisconsin does — just like a band needing a fiddle if it wants to play in Texas, an offense needs a bellcow of a running back if it wants to play in Camp Randall — but Freeman has preached the running game since the moment he was hired as the Irish head coach. Adding an offensive line coach with a decade of coordinating run-first offenses on his résumé underscores that.

2012 — No. 94 in rushing yards per game, No. 64 in rushing attempts per game, No. 104 in yards per carry
2013 — No. 103, No. 104, No. 101
2014 — No. 16, No. 12, No. 18

2015 — No. 95 in rushing yards per game, No. 59 in rushing attempts per game, No. 104 in yards per carry
2016 — No. 39, No. 11, No. 71
2017 — No. 23, No. 17, No. 30
2018 — No. 6, No. 17, No. 4
2019 — No. 15, No. 18, No. 12
2020 — No. 62, No. 30, No. 83
2021 — No. 22, No. 17, No. 35

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