SAN ANTONIO - Harry Hiestand is not a typical recruiter for this day and age.
As a veteran offensive line coach, perhaps social media just doesn’t have an appeal. Hiestand has a Twitter account but follows a mere 15 others, the majority of which are recent recruiting targets. He’s never actually sent a tweet in more than three years on the medium.
Needless to say, Hiestand isn’t spending much time sliding into the direct messages of prospects across the country. It’s not his style.
“Coach Hiestand isn’t about that,” said Josh Lugg, a four-star offensive tackle and longtime Notre Dame commitment. “One of the first things I think he said to me is, ‘I’m not gonna be the kind of coach that’s going to (direct message) you every morning and tell you how great you are.’ He’s gonna tell me about things I need to improve on before that. That’s a big part of it.”
Hiestand has used that approach to deliver consistent returns at Notre Dame over the last few years.
Lugg is part of a four-man offensive line haul in the Class of 2017 with Robert Hainsey, Dillan Gibbons and Aaron Banks. All are rated in the four-star range. The Irish signed a couple four-star prospects last cycle in Liam Eichenberg and Tommy Kraemer, beating Ohio State for both. Parker Boudreaux was a three-star prospect.
How does Hiestand do it without picking up on recent recruiting trends? Reputation is part of it.
Up-and-coming linemen have seen Hiestand develop former Irish offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley (Baltimore) and Zack Martin (Dallas) into first round picks. His ability to teach at a technique-driven position is attention grabbing.
“I think it’s a huge deal,” said Foster Sarell, a five-star offensive tackle with Notre Dame on his short list. “You’ll learn what he’s teaching. If they make it too complicated or it doesn’t make sense, you’re not gonna do it. He does a pretty good job of keeping everything low key and on a straight-forward path. He does a great job at it.”
Sarell, who’s been dealing with Hiestand as a recruiter for over a year, saw the coaching part up close during a visit to campus last summer around the Irish Invasion camp. Lugg has experienced it too.
Lugg camped with Hiestand last summer and took some of the teaching points back to high school and, eventually, U.S. Army All-American Bowl practices this week.
“It’s great,” Lugg said. “Everything that he says is what he holds up to in practice. He doesn’t lie about any of it. He was very straight-forward with me. I’ve learned a lot from him already and I’ve only had two practices with him.”
Although Sarell appears to be leaning toward Stanford or Washington, Hiestand is probably the biggest reason Notre Dame has been in play so long.
Sarell and his family originally visited South Bend for the first time as a way to confirm the Irish weren’t a realistic option. Instead, they hung right in there with Stanford (the longtime favorite) and Washington (the hometown program) largely on the strength of Hiestand and his reputation as a developer of talent.
“He’s been great,” Sarell said. “He’s straight forward and has a good reputation with everybody throughout the NCAA. Everybody respects him and everything he does. He makes great offensive linemen.”
Hiestand also fosters a sense of brotherhood among his players that trickles down to recruits.
Sarell has acknowledged it in the past, noting that current players like Mike McGlinchey couldn’t have been more welcoming. Lugg experienced the same thing dating back to his first trips to campus.
McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson and others brought Lugg into the fold early. That relationship has only grown since Lugg committed.
“It was the second I stepped on the Notre Dame campus,” Lugg said. “Even before the guys knew me they would come up and say, ‘Hey, I’m Mike McGlinchey. I’m Quenton Nelson. I’m Sam Mustipher.’ Everybody. It was my first time visiting. I’d go to other colleges before I committed and they were just like, ‘What’s up.’ Nobody ever talked to me.”
As Lugg as seen the offensive line class grow, he credits the culture Hiestand has built for the success in landing top targets.
“Just the name,” Lugg said. “The name Harry Hiestand. Guys are like, ‘Yeah, I wanna play for him.’ There’s an excitement around that. And the group of guys he recruits, we all stick together. Every time I’m up at Notre Dame, every single one of them is talking to me. Everybody wants to be a part of that. It’s like a fraternity.”