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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Center Zeke Correll Discusses Offensive Line Improvement, Retaining Weight

September 23, 2022

Center Zeke Correll’s senior season started off rocky. 

Against Ohio State, he led the offensive line in quarterback pressures allowed and struggled to generate much of a push in the run game. 

His play was so poor that some even wondered if Jarrett Patterson, who was named a preseason AP All-American at center, would move back to his former position and supplant Correll mid-season.

But since the season opener, Correll has steadily improved in each game. 

In Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over Cal, Correll put together his best performance of the young season, as did the offensive line as a whole. 

“If we just all play together like five guys as one, then we'll start playing like that consistently,” Correll said. “That's what we've been working towards, especially when you're really tired, dogged in practice.”

When the five offensive linemen play in unison, they’ve shown they can be the dominant unit everyone expects to see at the start of the season.

“There'd be flashes, bits and pieces of things felt like they're clicking and we'd run the ball and have a big play an explosive play,” Correll said, “but not often enough. I think we've definitely improved from the first game to Cal and now we're going to UNC and just focus on getting better and better. 

“We’re making sure we're all seeing things the same way so we block it the same way.”

Of course, there’s been an adjustment period since Patterson returned to the starting lineup after a right foot sprain he suffered during fall camp. 

It’s also his first time playing guard, but he’s shown flashes of excellent play and Correll is excited to line up next to him.

“Jarrett's our captain. He's a very smart football player,” Correll said. “He's an awesome guy. I love him to death. He's a great ballplayer so it's, it's great to play next to him.”

Despite his poor play early in the season, Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has kept his cool. 

Well-known for his willingness to verbally pick apart players on the practice field, he knows he could hem and haw regarding missed assignments and past mistakes, but his major focus has been to correct issues and move forward. 

“He's really just made us focus on how we can improve, not dwelling on past games because there’s nothing we can do about it now. But he does want us to understand what we can improve upon, and then taking that and really working at it, like getting extra time and doing everything possible, more film. 

“Everything you can to improve and prepare the best that you can for the following game to help the O-line do well.”

It’s a good sign for Notre Dame that Correll’s play has improved enough though his weight has decreased over the last several weeks.  At 6-foot-3, he stepped on the scale at 308 pounds at the start of fall camp.

Even after gorging himself on a regular basis, he says he’s dropped eight pounds or so since. He drinks high-caloric shakes and snacks between meals, often on his way to and from class. 

Other linemen carry 300-plus pounds easily.

For various reasons, Correll is the type of lineman who struggles to put on weight.

“I'm a big sweater,” Correll said. “There's been a few times where I've had to get IVs, stuff like that. It never stops. It's all day long.”

In high school, Correll even resorted to waking up at 2:30 a.m. night to drink a shake and go back to bed, but he said the process made him want to throw up. 

This isn’t uncommon and even if he struggles to stay at 300 pounds, the former top-100 high school prospect can still become an elite center. It just means it could be a career-long battle for him. 

Former All-Pro center Jeff Saturday carved out a 15-year NLF career at 6-foot-2 and 295. He reportedly ate 8,000 calories a day to keep on the weight. Less than a year after he retired in 2012, he quickly shed down to a lean 230 pounds. 

“I know some other guys, they don't have to eat too much and they can be massive,” Correll said, “but that's not how I was built.”

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