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Preseason Practice Update - August 10

Aug. 11, 2016

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By Michael Bertsch and Leigh Torbin

Harry Hiestand is one of the country’s most renowned offensive line coaches whose recent pupils alone include four Notre Dame players taken in the first three rounds of the NFL draft since 2014.

Assisting Hiestand daily at practice is graduate assistant Donovan Raiola, a three-year starter at Wisconsin who spent time on several NFL rosters.

As the Irish underwent their first fully-padded practice of the 2016 preseason on Wednesday at Culver Academies, the team went through the “rodeo” drill, an exercise comparable to the classic “Oklahoma” drill but with less contact as to be safer for the student-athletes.

Split up over four stations, offensive linemen held their ground against defensive players as a running back tried to get past. After each rep, a voice was counseling the offensive linemen, encouraging them to get lower, bend their knees, don’t lunge and such. That voice, however did not belong to either Hiestand or Raiola. Senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey assessed and mentored each of his peers at each of the four stations on every rep inbetween his own turns.

“It’s vital,” McGlinchey said of the communication between him and his peers. “You can’t be a good leader without good communication with your teammates. The most important thing is being able to communicate with each and every guy and help bring each guy along. That’s how we get success.”

While the senior from Philadelphia may be providing leadership to his position group on and off of the field, the attitude runs downhill from their positional father figure. Building upon the tone Brian Kelly has set for the entire program, Hiestand has established perhaps the stringest positive subculuture within his unit of any position group. The offensive linemen spend an inordinate amount of time together both on and off of the field, bonds that help all of them immensely now at Notre Dame and assuredly throughout their lives to come.

“Coach Hiestand is very dedicated to what he does,” McGlinchey explains. “He’s learned from a lot of great people. They’ve showed him the way to coach and handle his players. He’s very detail oriented and has never left a stone unturned. He wants to be the best coach just like we want to be the best players. That’s how he’s gotten to be where he is and it’s a testament to his character.”

This has manifested itself in some of the linemen on recent Notre Dame teams that have paved the way for strong ground and passing games. The 2014 NFL Draft saw Zack Martin taken 16th overall by Dallas and Chris Watt go in the third round to San Diego. In 2014, Martin became the first rookie offensive lineman since 1947 to be named to the NFL’s all-pro team. The 2016 NFL Draft saw Ronnie Stanley go with the sixth overall pick to Baltimore and Nick Martin go in the second round to Houston. A recently published feature on Nick Martin (Zack’s brother) in the Houston Chronicle quipped that the next center the Texans will have to draft after the rookie Martin is currently in middle school.

It is a strong legacy to uphold but one which has crafted an environment where McGlinchey and his 2016 Irish peers can also continue to build on their great successes in the trenches. The senior certainly has no shortage of influences to draw from in leading the unit. “All four of them have showed a great deal of leadership over my years here,” McGlinchey said. “They’re great guys and great players. They set the standard. They showed me the way on how to do a lot of things as a leader and as a player. I can’t thank those guys enough for what they’ve done for me and the program. The idea is just to keep the ball rolling from where they left off.”

Wednesday, Hiestand and Raiola could mostly sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor while McGlinchey pushed the physical Notre Dame offensive line through one of the season’s inaugural periods of heavy contact. The potential to continue the legacy of the past few seasons is in good hands.

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Michael Bertsch, director of football media relations at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2006. An Akron, Ohio, native, he graduated from Walsh University (Ohio) in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and also received his master’s degree in health and physical education with an emphasis in sports administration from Marshall University in 2001.

Leigh Torbin, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013. He serves as the football publicity team’s top lieutenant and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s lacrosse teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.