Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman Nail OL Coach Hire with Joe Rudolph

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.

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  1. The coaching carousel shitshow at Notre Dame continues. Freeman will leave soon as well. ND will never win another Championship in football. The game has passed them by.

  2. And shoes keep dropping.
    Mason gone. The only surprise is it isn’t to a southern college program, for a big raise.

  3. Clearly a good hire that will pan out if the new OL Line coach is allowed to do his job.

    BGC 77 82

  4. I think Notre Dame will be just fine.Sometimes the people you think you want may not really turn out on the field as expected, meaning coaches and yes players too.Be patient with the process,I really believe MF is going to be a GREAT coach and ND will be elite again.All I’m asking is that we support the coaches and our team,yes there will be some growing pains but that’s what makes you better.GO IRISH.

  5. This is a good hire. You’re pretty much downgrading from HH no matter who you get, but this guy has coached some really good offensive lines

    1. IMO, this is not a “good hire” as much as it is stopping the bleeding after getting a deep cut.

      The timing of Hiestand’s “retirement” seems almost certain to be a response to a chaotic eruption going on inside a program, that finally looked like it had a real shot at a very solid season.

    1. Even Saban didn’t get his first choices, and fans see ND’s not an elite football coach’s dream job, and probably seldom was. One candidate chooses to stay in retirement and not move his family from georgia to South Bend is understandable. He’s won a natty; family is a bigger priority. Understood!
      Rudolph also has the rep and experience, if they finalize. At ND, little is certain, and even less is transparent. The OC process was truly a train wreck, although in-house promotions have worked. No plan B here for me. I’m staying. “I like to watch!” (Being There)

      1. Right on cue.
        Saban just picked up Charlie Strong. As an analyst.
        Yup, Saban sure is in a tough spot for talent.

    2. “Even Saban didn’t get his first choices”.

      Do you recall any example of someone turning down a job they interviewed for, and got offered, with Saban?
      I don’t, offhand. There sure can’t be many.

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