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senior day 2023

Anchoring the Irish O-line, Correll applies lessons learned from the best

| Friday, November 17, 2023

Max Petrosky | The Observer
Fans celebrate with offensive lineman Zeke Correll (52) after the game between Notre Dame and Clemson at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Credit: Max Petrosky/The Observer

Few players on the gridiron process more information than the center. The offensive line’s anchor studies and calls out aspects of the defense, identifies protection schemes and, on a basic level, uses everything seen and heard on the field to decide when to start the play. Not to mention that, once the play begins, the center deals with blocking only the largest defensive players.

It all requires precise attention and discipline, traits which Notre Dame graduate student Zeke Correll has refined across a five-year, 31-start career. Now, as his time in South Bend draws toward a close, he’s passing them on.

“It’s a cycle. When you get here, you look up to older guys, have them try and light the way and you follow. You learn what to do and learn how to do it well,” he said. “And then, once you get better and better as the years go by, you become the leader. Guys look up to you and guys count on you because they know that, no matter what, you’re gonna get the job done.”

Correll, a four-star offensive lineman out of Anderson High School in Cincinnati, arrived on campus in 2019 with quite the group to learn from. All five starters on his freshman year line went on to play in the NFL. For Correll, relationships with those players and other people around campus make Notre Dame special.

“Going through my recruiting process, every place has their selling point,” Correll recalled. “All the places have their nice equipment and all that. But the people are different here. They care, and they truly do care, and they want to see you succeed, so I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people.”

For the better part of a year and a half, Correll did his best to pick the brains of older linemen. He saw the field four times as a freshman before stepping into a major role late in the 2020 season. With a foot injury to former starting center Jarrett Patterson, he started his first two games, which included the College Football Playoff Semifinal against Alabama. The next season, the offensive line, in its last year under Jeff Quinn, saw Correll slide back to left guard as Patterson returned. However, the Irish struggled to run the football through six games, replacing Correll with Andrew Kristofic.

Since then, Correll has settled back in nicely as the centerpiece up front. He has started all 23 Notre Dame football games since the end of 2021, adding size and physicality as his career has progressed. During 2022, Correll made his favorite collegiate memory, helping Notre Dame to a 35-14 upset of No. 4 Clemson at home. In that game, the Irish line dominated at the line of scrimmage, springing 100-yard rushing performances from two different running backs.

“That feeling — you can’t buy it, and especially when your guys do such a good job and put in all that work,” Correll reflected. “The feeling after that game especially was really awesome.”

Under his third offensive line coach in as many years, Correll has again started every game for the Irish this season. While Harry Hiestand optimized his preparation last year, first-year man Joe Rudolph has further developed his cerebral and technical capabilities in 2023. Working under the tutelage of so many different individuals can pose a career challenge with the disappearance of continuity. But even as coaches change, Correll understands that the important things always stay the same.

“Each coach has their own coaching philosophy, coaching style. But one thing that will never change is Notre Dame,” Correll said. “You commit to a school not for a coach. You commit to a school for the place and the people that surround it, and it’s been nothing but a blessing for me. Just being able to work with all these great people and all these awesome football minds, it’s been an honor.”

The former Knott Hall resident hopes to follow his Notre Dame career by playing in the NFL for as long as he can. After that, he eyes coaching or going into the gaming-specific marketing field with his economics degree.

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About Tyler Reidy

Tyler is a sophomore who serves as an Associate Sports Editor at The Observer. Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, and Keough Hall, he enjoys road trips, all things collegiate athletics and Kansas City barbecue. Reach out here or @TylerJReidy on Twitter!

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