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Analyzing the Marcus Freeman Hire

Written By Liam Gaudet, Senior Editor


As ecstatic as I was for the announcement of Marcus Freeman as head coach, I find it hard to be optimistic as a fan of the Notre Dame program. One of the mainstays of Notre Dame football seems to be disappointment, as hard as that may be to admit. Still, there hasn’t been too much to complain about under Freeman this far, and besides a few bumps in the road, it’s been fairly smooth sailing. I could not allow myself to be truly content, however, without taking a deeper look at this hire and its possible outcomes. So let’s have a look at both ends of the spectrum, as well a median approach to keep things somewhat fair.


Photo by ON3


Firstly, allow me to play devil’s advocate. Marcus Freeman has no head coaching experience, and this is concerning for a program looking to continue a five year streak of 10-plus win seasons. We also can’t ignore the tremendous pressure on Jack Swarbrick to promote Freeman to head coach in hopes of simply retaining him on the staff. All the hype surrounding Freeman after the initial hire aside, nobody can deny this is a high risk, high reward move from the athletic department. Additionally, the recent de-commitment of a program changing player in the 2023 class has shown that Freeman isn’t impenetrable on the recruiting trail either. To be fair, some recruiting losses are outside the control of the staff, but I figured it might be worth mentioning. The absolute lowest end of the spectrum would be an accumulation of all of these factors, resulting in a complete 2016 level failure. Is this my belief? Not at all. But some of these factors may come into play this season, resulting in shakier play on the field. The majority of Freeman skeptics who believe he is nothing more than a snake oil salesman cite these reasons as to why he will not succeed at Notre Dame, and although I completely disagree, I will humor this argument for the sake of parity.

Enough pessimism, we have enough of that as is. Let’s take a look at some aspects of this hire that make me truly excited for the years to come. A defense led by Freeman last season produced one of the highest turnover margins in the Brian Kelly era. Even with injuries to key components of the defense, Freeman was able to game plan in order to get the most of what was available. Freeman’s defense also allowed for defenders to have much more freedom in coverage, which at first led to some blown coverages, but in time was proven to sharpen the instincts of almost every defender on the field. Even though Freeman is no longer leading the defense, it should be comforting to know that he was capable of doing so to a high degree. Now arguably the greatest asset Marcus Freeman has brought to the table has been his ability to recruit high level talent to Notre Dame extremely consistently. Taking a look at the first defensive class (2022) in which Freeman was the primary recruiter, we see an instant rise in blue chip ratio, as well as overall average ranking than in previous years. The same goes for the 2023 class which currently ranks third in the 247 composite rankings. Simply put, Marcus Freeman has ended the myth that Notre Dame “shops down a different aisle” when it comes to recruiting, as his voracious appetite for talent has made the program a hotspot for high-caliber prospects. Piecing this together, we see a young coach, who is extremely knowledgeable and is sensational in connecting with recruits and brings consistently high level talent into the program. A leader like this is one that most certainly has the chance to bring multiple national championships to a program that has been starved for success since 1988.

Now let’s talk about some realistic expectations for Marcus Freeman’s tenure at Notre Dame. Obviously, I think most people including myself expect the first couple seasons to fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes I have laid out. The question is, what end of the spectrum will Freeman’s team lead towards in the coming seasons? The answer is not cut and paste, but personally, I believe Freeman has equipped himself with one of the best coaching staffs in the country to be pushing the boundary for a minimum of 10 wins for the foreseeable future. Of course, questions surrounding the continuity of the staff may arise, but hopefully by the time that issue comes to light, Freeman will have already straightened out the learning curve and made the necessary additions for continued success. With that being said, I believe Marcus Freeman’s potential at Notre Dame is the highest we have seen in a very long time. As long as he continues to recruit at the heights and standards we have seen thus far, and the majority of talent can be translated, there is no reason to believe that he will not be competing for national championships. Until I see a shadow of reasonable doubt on the field, I will continue to drink the Freeman Factor Kool-Aid.


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