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Marcus Freeman: The Portal King? How Notre Dame is Revamping using the Transfer Portal

By Liam Farrell|Senior Staff Writer|Twitter/X: @LiamFarrell_IT

Via The Irish Tribune


Two weeks ago, the Notre Dame football team ended the season on a very high note with their regular season finale resulting in a beatdown of Stanford at the Farm. Less than a week later, the Irish had 4 wide receivers enter the transfer portal, along with a tight end and multiple pieces on the defensive side of the ball. The Irish fans were crushed to see young talent, especially through the likes of Rico Flores, Holden Staes, and Tobias Merriweather enter the transfer portal. However, the Irish have responded this week by hosting many notable players in the portal, along with grabbing two commitments already in Jordan Clark (ASU) and Kris Mitchell (FIU). This does not mark the conclusion of the Irish recruiting efforts in the portal, either. Currently on campus for Notre Dame is Clemson WR Beaux Collins, Washington State WR Joshua Kelly, and the biggest name linked to Notre Dame, Duke QB Riley Leonard. Duke EDGE rusher RJ Oben has also locked in a visit to South Bend, as well.



Trust in Head Coach Marcus Freeman


In year three of Marcus Freeman's tenure at Notre Dame, he knew he needed to be aggressive and show better results on the field. Brian Kelly left the Notre Dame football program in a championship or bust, mentality for deeming a season successful or not. With a couple hiccups in his first two seasons ever coaching, year three is the deciding year that determines the trajectory of Freeman's career in South Bend.


Knowing this, Marcus Freeman continues to tap into his greatest asset: recruiting. The firing of Chansi Stuckey was needed for a position group that simply did not get it done in the 2023 season. Wide Receivers lacked any sort of separation and they faded away in big games. While losing four receivers to the transfer portal certainly stings, Freeman knew he had to be aggressive at the depleted position. That is why locking in the commitment of Kris Mitchell was so necessary through these troubling times. Mitchell is coming off a 1000 yard+ season at FIU, and got snubbed from a First Team All Conference bid. The 6'1" receiver out of Jacksonville, Florida, is a Will Fuller type deep threat with blazing 4.4 40 speed.


The two other receivers on campus right now, Collins and Kelly, are surely being intrigued about potentially connecting up with Riley Leonard for the Fighting Irish in 2024. Leonard, who hasn't committed yet to the Fighting Irish, sure is helping Freeman in terms of recruiting. His recent Instagram activity shows him following many Notre Dame players, as well as targets in the transfer portal. He followed both Mitchell and Clark early last week, along with Collins and Kelly. Leonard also recently followed South Carolina Kicker Mitch Jeter, who is supposed to visit the Notre Dame campus, as well.



Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Measures


The Wild Wild West nature of college football is truly extreme. NIL and the transfer portal have completely made college football a free agency playground where players can bail at any moment possible. This left Notre Dame, one of the top educational Universities in the world, in somewhat of a predicament. In the past, with such rigorous academic requirements, the thought of a transfer coming into Notre Dame was unheard of. Only special occasions such as Amir Carlisle or Alohi Gilman, who both transferred from high academic institutions (USC and Navy) were permissible. Nonetheless, as the rules behind college football have changed, so has Notre Dame. Welcoming multiple graduate transfers still bolsters this Fighting Irish roster that needs some significant firepower.


The trend of targeting key transfers under Freeman has worked in the past. Javontae Jean-Baptiste was the best asset the Notre Dame defensive line had all year. Sam Hartman, while may not living up to all of the hype, was certainly a great answer, or a better answer than now Notre Dame lacrosse player, Tyler Buchner. Even players such as Brandon Joseph or Cain Madden have been suitable plug-and-place figures on the field.



What to Expect Now?


While Notre Dame has made a splash in the portal, Irish fans should not think it is close to being over yet. Expect the Irish to secure a Leonard commitment any time soon, along with one or two wide receiver commits as well. I'm not as confident as the wide receivers committing soon, as I am with Leonard, but Freeman will look to add at least two more key figures within the wide receiver room.


On the defensive side of the ball, the addition of Jordan Clark was key in replacing Thomas Harper, who was excellent in his one year with the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame will also look to bolster the defensive line, as they did with JJB last season. Look for Duke EDGE rusher RJ Oben to follow his QB to South Bend or Jahfari Harvey from Miami. The Irish will also almost certainly look to add one more safety to the back end of the defense to potentially team up with Xavier Watts if he doesn't declare for the NFL draft.


From a Special Teams point of view, I mentioned Mitch Jeter, who came from a version of Beamer ball down at South Carolina. The Irish have targeted a Kicker in the transfer portal the past three years in Grupe, Schrader, and now Jeter.


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De Nolf's Barbershop in South Bend has arrived at Vested Interest, Notre Dame fans! If you live in the South Bend area, be sure to stop by one of the most unique and artistically inspired barbershop locations in all of America, which has recently moved to Vested Interest: a 139 year-old factory that is home to dozens of local artists and entrepreneurs. De Nolf's has provided top of the line service from expert barbers in South Bend for years, and will continue to do so at their newest location: 240 E. Tutt Street, South Bend. Be sure to stop by De Nolf's open house on December 9th to see all the hard work they've been doing to get their new location up and running. You can also check out their social media accounts linked below, as they have documented this incredible construction and move-in process for all to see!






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