With the class of 2021 officially in the books for every program in the nation, Rivals released their yearly list of the top recruiters in the country. One Notre Dame assistant found himself on the list – offensive line coach Jeff Quinn. A couple of years ago, Quinn was one of the most maligned coaches on the Notre Dame football staff. A lot has changed for Quinn in the last couple of years, however.
Here’s what Rivals had to say about Quinn.
Notre Dame has had great success producing offensive linemen in recent years, and that undoubtedly helps the Irish recruit the position. When you look at the collection of talent that offensive line coach Jeff Quinn is bringing to South Bend, though, it certainly deserves recognition.
Quinn slammed the door shut on the competition early with five-star in-state offensive tackle Blake Fisher. Quinn and other members of the Notre Dame offensive staff then went to battle and landed Rivals100 offensive guard Rocco Spindler and Florida four-star Caleb Johnson. Versatile Chicagoland lineman Pat Coogan and Joe Alt, who has NFL bloodlines, were also part of Quinn’s haul in 2021.
Note, Rivals didn’t rank the assistants other than their top-ranked recruiter – Charles Huff. The former Alabama Crimson Tide coach landed four top 38 recruits on his own before getting a head coaching job of his own at Marshall. Alabama had a ridiculous three assistants in the top 25. Clemson, like Notre Dame, had just one assistant make the list – defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Considering where Notre Dame offensive line recruiting stood in March, it’s remarkable that Quinn made this list. Notre Dame had its eyes on a historic offensive line class before the pandemic shutting down all visits and forcing recruiting to go virtual. In addition to Blake Fisher, they hoped to land top 100 talents Landon Tengwall, Nolan Rucci, and Rocco Spindler. Of these three, Notre Dame ended up with just one after the monster recruiting weekend in the spring was canceled, with Tengwall and Rucci never making it back on campus.
For a while, it looked like Spindler was anything but a sure bet for Notre Dame as well. By early April, Notre Dame had just one offensive line commitment – Rivals 5-star offensive tackle, Blake Fisher. That’s when Quinn had to get to work.
Notre Dame and Quinn zeroed in Pat Coogan and Joe Alt as more developmental recruits with significant upside after the big-name targets committed elsewhere. At the same time, the Fighting Irish were left wondering if they’d ever be able to get to use their biggest recruiting tool – Notre Dame’s campus – again this cycle. As we all know, they weren’t with official visits officially canceled for the remainder of the 2021 cycle.
Even still, Quinn and Notre Dame eventually won over top-50 guard Rocco Spindler and then continued to work on offensive tackle Caleb Johnson, an Auburn commitment, for the last few months of 2020, leading to an 11th-hour commitment for the Irish in December.
All things considered, this was perhaps Quinn’s best recruiting effort at Notre Dame. And this is a coach who just two recruiting cycles ago landed four 4-star offensive linemen in a single haul.
Quinn’s recruiting prowess is already carrying over into the 2022 cycle with two 4-star linemen already committed – Joey Tanona and Ty Chan – and several other big-time prospects still looking closely at Notre Dame.
Just a few years ago, Jeff Quinn drew the ire of many a Notre Dame football fan simply because he wasn’t Harry Hiestand. The legendary offensive line coach left some massive shoes to fill that took Quinn some time to grow into. That was partly because Hiestand left after his best offensive line at Notre Dame sent two players to the top 10 of the NFL Draft and had to be rebuilt and in part due to some of the blocking schemes former offensive coordinator Chip Long favored.
This past season, Quinn’s offensive line flourished in a run-first attack under Tommy Rees’ guidance. Had Jarrett Patterson not be hurt at the end of the season, perhaps the Fighting Irish would have won another Joe Moore Award.
Quinn’s most significant challenge as a Notre Dame assistant coach lies ahead of him in 2021, not on the recruiting trail but on the field. He has to completely rebuild the Notre Dame offensive line after four 2020 opening day starters – Robert Hainsey, Tommy Kraemer, Aaron Banks, Liam Eichenberg – are all off to the NFL.
Jeff Quinn has been up to the task on the recruiting trail recently, as evidenced by recognition like this from Rivals. We’ll soon know enough if his past recruiting success will lead to as seamless of a transition as one can expect from the turnover the line faces this fall.