Center Zeke Correll sees physicality as strength for Notre Dame football
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Center Zeke Correll sees physicality as strength for Notre Dame football

May 04, 2024

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Water from the ice bath Charles Jagusah took following Monday’s Notre Dame football practice still dripped from his socks as the freshman offensive tackle met with local beat writers for the first time in his college career.

Other offensive linemen chose to walk around barefoot for their interviews. The media obligations didn’t prevent them from taking part in their post-practice routine. Recovery is key with the way the Irish have been practicing.

“This is the most physical team I’ve been a part of,” said fifth-year center Zeke Correll. “It’s been a blast this camp. Very competitive. Our Saturday night practice was probably the most physical, fun practice I’ve ever been a part of. Just guys flying around trying to finish blocks.

“It’s really competitive. Guys going at it. Just trying to win. Everyone wants to win on this team. We have elite competitors on this team. The competitive nature of this Notre Dame season, this team, it’s been through the roof. It’s great to be a part of. It’s great to see.

“When it’s fourth quarter and things are getting hard, that’s the team that’s going to come out on top.”


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Correll, entering his second season as Notre Dame’s full-time starter at center with 21 career starts on the Irish offensive line, needed some work in the offseason to prepare himself for that kind of physicality. The Cincinnati Anderson product has struggled to keep weight on throughout his time in South Bend. But through a lot of trial and error, he’s identified a successful routine that should allow him to stay about 300 pounds.

“I started snacking like crazy,” said the 6-foot-3, 306-pounder. “I’m always snacking now. Before I’d eat probably five meals a day. But now I’m just constantly smacking on something. That’s helped.

“Then also being a high-level athlete, you have to take care of your body. I’ve really taken a big step this offseason in taking care of myself, making sure I’m recovering, stuff like that. That’s helped me a lot.”

Cheez-Its have been the go-to snack for Correll so far this camp. Peanut butter is another staple of the snacking diet.

Correll still needed to do more than nail his weight maintenance this offseason. Of Notre Dame’s five starting offensive lineman last season, Correll had by far the worst run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. His 61.1 was nine points worse than any of the other offensive line starters and worse than most of Notre Dame’s wide receivers.

Notre Dame can’t afford to have Correll getting pushed around in the middle of the line.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” Correll said. “I’ve gotten more flexible for sure, gotten a little bigger. So I feel pretty stout in there.”

Pairing that physical improvement with technical focus can unlock a new level in Correll’s game.

“For me it’s been a little bit of initial quickness in my sets, making sure I’m getting out of my stance square, smooth,” Correll said. “Then in the run, making sure I’m in a good body position at all times.

“Really my first step has been key for me. Making sure I’m getting to my target. Making sure I’m getting enough width getting off the ball. That’s really what I’ve been focusing on. That’s helped a lot.”


The tweaks in Notre Dame’s offensive scheme under new coordinator Gerad Parker and new offensive line coach Joe Rudolph has meant more stretching the field horizontally with the running game. That includes an increased usage of outside zone and more opportunities for Correll to pull and get on the outside.

That’s brought Correll back to his days at Anderson when Rivals ranked him as the No. 6 offensive guard and No. 114 overall in the 2019 class.

“I love doing that,” Correll said. “That was high school football Zeke Correll. That’s all I did. I was a pulling guard about 80% of the run plays.

“It’s been great. It’s awesome for our offense to be able to run that more. We’ve been practicing it a lot. It feels good getting out in space, just getting loose out there.”

Correll doesn’t yet know who will be lining up next to him as the starting offensive guards for the season opener in Dublin, Ireland against Navy on Aug. 26. Graduate senior Andrew Kristofic and junior Rocco Spindler are battling for the right guard spot. Sophomore Billy Schrauth and junior Pat Coogan are the leading candidates for the left guard role.

Because any of them could be in the starting lineup, Correll needs to have individual chemistry with all of them.

“You have to get a feel with each and every guy,” Correll said. “The main thing for us is keep getting those reps together and making sure we’re playing the same way, especially on these run combinations just so it feels the same way every single time. That way when you hit it, we can knock them off the ball, get a lot of movement and get some big runs.”

The uncertainty doesn’t necessarily bother Correll. He’s confident the right guys will win out because of their commitment to upholding the standard of ND’s offensive line.

“Obviously you want a little bit of time to make sure the guy you’re next to you’re really comfortable next to,” Correll said. “Get a lot of reps with him. As of now, this competition’s been good for the unit. Whoever’s next to me, I trust them, and I know they can play football for Notre Dame.”



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