Hiestand, Kelly Count on Quenton Nelson

There are at least two handfuls of positional question marks facing Notre Dame’s coaching staff this off-season. Left guard is not among them.

It was an answer for Irish fans to embrace and one old school fans of the game will doubtless celebrate.

Asked what he likes best about playing guard, Notre Dame junior Quenton Nelson, all six-foot-four, 330 pounds of him, offered both the technical and primal requirements of the position.

“I like pulling a lot. I like re-pulls where I have to lock a man, or kick him out,” Nelson said. “Pass sets, the defender is right in front of you so I can get my hands on him and start the fight. Run blocking, coming off low and hitting the D-tackle and nose – your force vs. his force, your will vs. his will.”

Nelson’s will is unlikely to come in second in many one-on-one situations next fall. Nor is his use of sheer force.

Brutish, brawling force.

“Quenton is in the best physical shape that he’s been in,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “He moves extremely well for 346 pounds. He’s a rare, rare, rare football player. Moves well, physically strong, and knows his assignments.”

Kelly’s utterance in triplicate of the descriptor “rare” is more telling than his exaggeration of Nelson’s actual weight, a number joked about around the Gug since.

“He looks like 340. He looks like 350,” said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand with a chuckle. “He’s (actually) between 330 and 335, that’s kind of where he fluctuates. His size and strength and toughness are exceptional. What I like best is how important it is to him to be successful. His attitude and his pride in getting his job done is really a super important quality that manifests.

“Man, he is so hungry to get it done and wants to be such a great teammate. When you combine that with his size, you have those kind of feelings about a guy because you know you can count on him every day that he’s going to lay it on the line for this football team. He’s that kind of person.”

Nelson’s single-minded focus is certain to benefit Hiestand’s offensive front next fall. At present, it’s at worst convenient for the competitor himself, because it keeps the demanding Hiestand’s instructional wrath instead among the company of others.

“I think I take it very well,” said Nelson of Hiestand’s hardline coaching style. “I do my best not to do whatever makes him coach you hard. Make as few mistakes as possible, not repeat them. Just do what he says, and it works out for me. I block my man; get my job done.”

Entering Year Three of at least four between the two – but perhaps not five, as the NFL will beckon – the Hiestand/Nelson marriage is one worthy of Irish offensive line heaven.

“It’s amazing playing for coach Hiestand,” said Nelson. “He’s the best offensive line coach in the country. His attention to detail in the meeting room, on the field, is second to none. He helps me be the best player I can be every day and he brings 100 percent every day. It motivates you to bring what he brings to the table.”

As for the infamous tongue-lashings Hiestand is known to provide his linemen, Nelson offered, “I don’t think I ever had a coach like that before. I got used to it real quick. I love it. I enjoy it so much.”

There’s a lot to love about Notre Dame’s prospects at left guard this fall, too. Maybe not 346 pounds worth, but plenty nonetheless.

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