Watt Brings Power, Punch

Senior left guard Chris Watt's between the whistles approach has impressed new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

Former Chicago Bears center and six-time NFL Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz attended Notre Dame's fifth practice of the spring last week. A former pupil of new Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand during the latter's time in Chicago (2005-09), Kreutz imparted both wisdom and real-world lessons to the position group.

"I worked a lot on my punch today and he was drilling on me a little bit," said junior guard/tackle and Inverness, Ill. resident Christian Lombard. "(Kreutz was) blowing me back. Even being out of the league, he's still a Bear (literally and figuratively). That was awesome. I've been following him my whole life being a Chicago guy.

"That's a coach Hiestand bonus with him being with the Bears. Also coach (Tony) Wise, he was up here this week too," Lombard said of the former Chicago offensive line coach from 1993-98. "These guys have been around and what they say is the truth.

Lombard is working on the still-fluid right side, mostly at guard but at tackle in every practice as well. Over on the more established left side, where the tandem of Zack Martin and Chris Watt bring 39 combined starts over the last two seasons, there's another bear packing punch.

"He's a tremendously determined young man and very, very physical player," Hiestand beamed of his left guard Watt. "He enjoys getting after people's butts, and he embraces that part of the game.

"He's a guy that loves football."

Watt became a fan favorite last season for his physical approach: a throwback interior lineman that brought power and attitude on every snap.

"You can do a lot with a guy that's that physical," Hiestand continued. "Oh yeah. That's a nice quality."

For Watt, spring 2012 is a far cry from the 2011 session during which he battled 5th-year senior Andrew Nuss for the line's final open starting spot. Watt won the competition, started 13 games, and graded as Irisheyes.com's 12th best player overall last fall.

This spring, he's a veteran, upperclassmen, and one of the unit's three leaders hoping to impart wisdom on an extensive group of younger challengers.

"Last year there was pressure wanting to succeed," Watt admitted, noting the competition for a starting spot. "Now I can give advice to people competing for positions. Last year if I messed up I'd hang my head, especially in competition. I try to let them know to move forward, get up, and get after that DL or LB."

Watt has been impressed with the progress of two redshirt-freshman battling at his position and with Lombard and 5th-year senior Mike Golic on the right side

"Conor (Hanratty), he and Nick Martin were both up with us (the varsity) last year. They're really able to focus on their technique more this year."

Firmly entrenched as a starter, Watt can turn his focus to relative weaknesses in his game.

"Like everyone, playing lower, hitting your target," Hiestand noted of Watt's areas for improvement. "The things you don't do in the off-season program because you're lifting and doing agility drills. Now we're doing football things. Learning to aim your pads under the pads consistently, and getting everything in line through your targets and lined up in your pass protection.

"It's a lot of fine-tuning but he has what's most important, which is an aggressive attitude at getting after people. Very prideful."

Watt offered to the media throng that he didn't mind a coach that would get in his ear for mistakes. Hiestand wasn't ready to agree he'd fulfilled Watt's wishes as of yet, but did note Watt's ability to be coached on a daily basis.

"I think it's important that he gets constant coaching and gets what it is that I want him to do. He doesn't need someone to scream at him to get him to play hard, he needs someone to instruct him and give coaching points for the things he's doing," Hiestand said. "I try to do that every day with all of our players.

"He has natural aggression."


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