Notre Dame and Marcus Freeman needed a win this off-season with how the OC coaching search played out earlier this month. They got one on Monday when news broke that the Irish are set to hire former Virginia Tech and Wisconsin OL coach Joe Rudolph to replace the recently retired Harry Hiestand.
Rudolph might not have been Notre Dame’s top choice – reports broke last week that the Irish nearly pulled former Ole Miss coach Matt Luke out of retirement to fill the role – but he’s a huge get for the Irish nonetheless.
Rudolph has been coaching for the last 18 years since starting as a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressell. Rudolph was the offensive coordinator for Pitt in 2012 when the Panthers came into South Bend and nearly knocked off the undefeated Irish in the controversial two numbers twos on the field at the same time game. From Pitt, he followed Paul Chryst to Wisconsin as the OL coach, offensive coordinator, and associate head coach before surprisingly leaving his alma mater last year to be the OL coach at Virginia Tech.
The reputation of Wisconsin offensive lines is well-known, and Rudolph continued that tradition during his time in Madison. From 2015-2021, the Badgers averaged 212.3 rushing yards a game. Only four teams averaged more per game during that time than Wisconsin – Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Oregon, and Oklahoma. He coached numerous All-Americans over that time as well, including:
- T Ryan Ramczyk – consensus All-America (2016)
- C Tyler Biadasz -consensus All-America (2019) and won the Rimington Trophy
- G Beau Benzschawel – first-team All- America honors (2017, 2018)
- T David Edwards – first-team All-America (2017)
- T Michael Deiter – second-team All-America (2017)
He also built a reputation for being a top-notch recruiter during his second stint with the Badgers. Wisconsin was long known for identifying the diamonds in the rough and developing them on the offensive line, but Rudolph started landing more elite players, such as 5-star Nolan Rucci, a few years back.
After losing out on both Colin Klein and Andy Ludwig – rather publicly – Notre Dame and Freeman needed to hit on this hire, and it looks like they did. They swing big for a coach like Luke, who is currently retired, but outside of someone like that, it’s hard to imagine Notre Dame, realistically, being able to do any better than Rudolph. He’s coached at an offensive line factory, recruited at a high level, and produced some big-time NFL prospects. He’s also another experienced coach that joins Freeman’s predominantly young staff. All in all, this feels like a great hire by Freeman.