Reports: Notre Dame to hire Virginia Tech offensive line coach Joe Rudolph in same role
Marcus Freeman’s second staff at Notre Dame is complete, barring any unexpected departures in the next few weeks before spring practices commence on March 22. Per multiple Monday reports, the Irish will hire Joe Rudolph as their offensive line coach to replace Harry Hiestand who retired following Tommy Rees’s departure for Alabama.
Irish Illustrated first reported Rudolph’s imminent hire.
Rudolph spent the last season as the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at Virginia Tech, part of Brent Pry’s debut staff, a group of coaches intentionally picked by Pry with a long-term build in mind. When Pry put together that staff a year ago, he reportedly bypassed some flashier candidates to hire coaches who would grind in Blacksburg for the long haul. Freeman and Notre Dame pulling Rudolph out of that plan speaks to the allure of the Irish offensive line with a pair of tackles expected to someday be first-round draft picks in rising junior left tackle Joe Alt and rising junior right tackle Blake Fisher.
Before heading to Virginia Tech, Rudolph spent the previous seven seasons coaching Wisconsin’s offensive line and coordinating its offense. A former captain with the Badgers, that was Rudolph’s second stint as a coach in Madison, previously coaching the tight ends from 2008 to 2011.
Between those two gigs, he was the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh for three seasons, working under Paul Chryst, who Rudolph then followed back to Wisconsin.
To summarize that: Rudolph was Chryst’s offensive coordinator for a decade, coaching the offensive line for seven of those years. He also has experience at Nebraska and Pittsburgh.
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State from 2004 to 2006, the first few years of Freeman’s playing career with the Buckeyes.
The schools on Rudolph’s résumé should give a pretty quick and clear idea why Freeman and newly-promoted offensive coordinator Gerad Parker sought out Rudolph. Putting together offensive lines to produce seasons like Jonathan Taylor’s entire career at Wisconsin or Braelon Allen’s freshman season in 2021 may not have gotten the Badgers to the ultimate heights they wanted — hence Chryst hiring a new offensive coordinator in 2022 before being fired himself a month into the season — but they were effective in the particular ways Notre Dame wants.
Rudolph’s offenses and offensive lines were run-first powers. His Pittsburgh offenses launched James Conner’s career, rushing for 1,765 yards in 2014, the fourth-most in Panthers history, rather notable when remembering the history of running backs at Pittsburgh.
Rudolph was one of three candidates Notre Dame reportedly took a long look at, along with former Georgia offensive line coach Matt Luke and Minnesota offensive line coach Brian Callahan. Irish director of athletics Jack Swarbrick confirmed the number of candidacies during an in-house Q-and-A last week.
“I feel really good,” Swarbrick said. “Three sort of first-tier candidates have been identified and we’ll see how that process goes. But really encouraged by the quality of those candidates and that’s a process that I think will move fairly quickly.”
With Rudolph’s reported hiring, Notre Dame now has no coaching vacancies, though he and reported quarterbacks coach-hire Gino Guidugli may not be officially announced for a few more days yet.
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