Michael Mayer Talks Big Difference in Brain Kelly/Marcus Freeman Coaching Styles

Will Compton had Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer on his podcast, Bussin’ With the Boys, this week, along with NFL star tight end Greg Kittle. Compton talked to Mayer, Notre Dame’s All-American tight end, about several topics. Still, one that is sure to grab Notre Dame fans’ attention is the big difference in coaching styles that Mayer discussed between former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and Marcus Freeman.

Mayer’s comments shouldn’t surprise anyone since it’s a lot of what we’ve heard since Freeman was announced as the 30th head coach in Notre Dame football history in December. We heard that Freeman’s style was much more hands-on and “in it with the boys,” as Compton put it, even when Freeman was the defensive coordinator last year. That approach is why the players mobbed him in the locker room as they did and threw all of their support behind him when he got the job after Kelly’s abrupt departure.

Look, no one ever expected Kelly to be on runs or lifts we the team – we know he preferred yoga. Kelly was in his 50s for most of his time at Notre Dame, versus Freeman being a late 30s former NFL linebacker. The difference that stood out to me was Mayer saying Kelly wouldn’t be around at all in the summer because, during Kelly’s reboot following the 2016 disaster, he said his players told him they wanted him around more, and he was going to make that happen. It sounds like even with that effort, Kelly wasn’t around much during the summertime.

Freeman being around all the time and “in it with the boys” all while putting together the best recruiting class Notre Dame’s had in nearly 20 years, is just all the more impressive and speaks to the style of coach Freeman wants to be. Will that equate to more wins or better performances in big games? No one knows yet. And it’s not to say that Freeman’s approach is vastly superior to Kelly’s because for all the shade we now throw on Bayou Brian, he won many games at Notre Dame and rebuilt a program that was in dissary.

Freeman is a first-time head coach and will make mistakes – it’s unavoidable – so leaning in on his strengths makes perfect sense and seems to resonate with the players. That should be the big takeaway here. While Freeman learns the ins and outs of being the head coach at a place like Notre Dame, he’s got to leverage his personal capital with the players as much as he can. Maybe that will result in a team ready to run through a wall at the start of a big game because for all of the positives from Brian Kelly, Notre Dame’s lack of execution in big games against teams with more talent is well documented.

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6 Comments

  1. I have to disagree….when we played Clemson in Dallas who eventually won it all that year…I think it come more to development. We had the team that could of compete. Take away Julian Love getting injured in the second quarter and the outcome could of been different. While he was in, they only scored 6 points. When he got injured they scored 3 touchdown really quick. Star ranking don’t really mean nothing if you are not develop right.

  2. Sounds like a lot of bad blood being spilled because of Kelly’s abrupt departure. But come on how many teams have beaten Alabama in the playoffs and it wasn’t because of coaching, playcalling or lack of execution . It was because of depth and Notre dame could match up first team but got beat in the second half because of that.

    1. Depth is built through hard-working recruiting and risking falling short but still pursuing elite athletes. And it wasn’t just losing to Alabama, but going 3-18 vs. top ten teams.
      “Just the facts, M’am.” Joe Friday, Dragnet.

    2. I disagree with your point . At least in the first playoff game with Alabama ,ND got blown out almost from the beginning . ND first team in no way matched up with Alabama, additionally they had no depth . I believe the second playoff game was much the same . IT is impossible for ND with few to none 5 star players to match up with Alabama who generally has 4-5 in each class . Hopefully this will change with Coach Freeman’s upgrade in recruiting

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