There has been a lot of news surrounding Notre Dame Football since the Gator Bowl victory. Several top recruits decommitted at the last moment and coaches left the program. Since then, Coach Freeman has been able to add new coaches and transfer players such as Sam Hartman, Notre Dame’s first Heisman caliber quarterback since Brady Quinn. College Football changes more year to year now than it ever has before. Marcus Freeman’s ability to roll with the changes and adapt will be pivotal for the Fighting Irish getting back to the playoffs.
Tommy Rees ironically told the entire team that he was not going anywhere and proceeded to leave the program a little over a year later. It is hard to blame him when the last three offensive coordinators at Alabama were Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss HC), Steve Sarkisian (Texas HC), and Bill O’Brien (New England Patriots OC).
Regardless of how long Tommy Rees had been in South Bend, it still hurts when the former Notre Dame quarterback leaves his alma mater to go to Tuscaloosa. In addition to Rees, the Fighting Irish lost Harry Heistand (retirement), James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), and Brian Mason (Colts).
Irish Return and Add Key Coaches
It is a good sign when the program has success and talented coaches move on to other opportunities such as the NFL. But when coaches move on to other college football programs it is not an ideal scenario, but a situation Marcus Freeman wants to turn around. Notre Dame was able to retain Al Golden, Al Washington, Chansi Stuckey, Chris O’Leary, Deland McCullough, Gerad Parker via OC promotion, and Matt Balis.
The Fighting Irish were able to add quarterbacks Coach Gino Guidugli (Wisconsin), offensive line coach Joe Rudolph (Virginia Tech), and former Ole Miss special teams coach Marty Biagi (per Matt Fortuna).
Offensive Coordinator Hiring Debacle
It appeared that Notre Dame was closing the deal with Utah’s Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig as he was spotted with Marcus Freeman at the hockey game. The Irish fanbase was ecstatic with the potential hire of Andy Ludwig after the Utes had been in back-to-back Rose Bowl games and knocked off USC twice last season.
However, according to Coach Freeman and Athletic Director Swarbrick, Coach Ludwig wanted to stay in Utah. Supposedly buying out his contract was not an issue. Perhaps from another point of view, Notre Dame did not offer him enough money to leave. Undoubtedly, LSU did not have a problem offering Brian Kelly a blank check to head to Baton Rouge.
Believe in Marcus Freeman
Even with all the NIL deals going out, Coach Freeman was able to secure a top-10 recruiting class in his first recruiting cycle. The Irish were heavily involved in the recruitment of Dante Moore, Keon Keeley, and Peyton Bowen, to name a few 5-Star players. Moore almost committed, Keeley was committed until Alabama got heavily involved, and Bowen was a hard commitment until NIL likely got him to flip to Oregon then Oklahoma.
Coach Freeman is an elite recruiter, passionate, a player’s coach and has become a Notre Dame man. The video of the players reaction to him becoming the head coach in December of 2021 is all you need to know. Certainly there were highs and lows last fall, but he has the coaching, leadership, and recruiting abilities that are required to win a national title.
I am convinced that Marcus Freeman never sleeps. He oversees Notre Dame Football (one of biggest sports brands in America), is a family man, and seems to be at multiple places at once. For instance, Coach Freeman was at three Notre Dame games in the span of four days. A men’s basketball game and hockey game in South Bend, then a women’s basketball game in Greensboro. Something one would never see Brian Kelly doing.
The University of Notre Dame and Jack Swarbrick must have Marcus Freeman’s back. I do not care the reasoning behind Andy Ludwig not coming to South Bend, but Ludwig should have not left without signing a contract. Lately, this scenario reminds me of how the Tampa Bay Rays in baseball hire the next guy up because their budget does not allow them to sign top free agents.
The Irish have been managing the football program like they have a Tampa Bay Rays budget when they are more like the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.
Notre Dame nation was instrumental in the hiring of Marcus Freeman. The support they showed for him on social media was outstanding. Although fans are justifiably upset with the offensive coordinator hiring process, that had nothing to do with Marcus Freeman and Gerad Parker. Both coaches have my full support moving forward and I believe the players will go to battle for anyone on this coaching staff.
Yes, there were some growing pains last year, but I believe that Coach Freeman has the capabilities and perseverance to lead the Fighting Irish to a national title with the full support of the University and fanbase.