Notre Dame Coaching Corner: Highlights from Marcus Freeman’s Wake Forest Presser

Marcus Freeman started his weekly Monday press conference by noting how the disparity in field position played a role in the loss to Clemson. Injury updates followed, including news that offensive lineman Rocco Spindler is done for the year after undergoing knee surgery. In addition, safety Luke Talich suffered a broken collarbone last week, ending his season as well. Center Zeke Correll remains in concussion protocol and is questionable for Saturday, while guard Andre Kristofic continues to rehab his high ankle sprain.

Sam Hartman’s willingness to shoulder the blame for the Clemson defeat led into an explanation on how to avoid a similar situation.

“We’ve gotta protect Sam Hartman better. We gotta be more precise in the route details we have. Sam’s gotta make better decisions, he’ll be the first to tell you, but it’s not just one thing.”

Freeman discussed Jayden Thomas’ struggles to get back on the field.

“He came back a few weeks ago and re-aggravated it a little bit and just wasn’t at a level for what we need him to. He’s coming back this week. We’ll see as we go through practice if he’s able to do all the things we need him to do at the wide receiver position.”

The desire to have fourth quarterbacks on scholarship was expressed by Freeman:

“We’ll look at when the portal opens, we’ll look at different ways to fill that fourth quarterback scholarship.”

Matt Salerno’s possible return to the field was clarified by Freeman.

“There’s a chance we can get him back in. I don’t know exactly when. He’s been doing a little bit more in practice, doing some individual drills. I think this week we’ll increase him a little bit more to truly get him game-ready.”

Freeman then explained how to fix the inconsistencies in getting all three phases (offense, defense, special teams) to succeed within a game.

“I think it’s looking at every phase and looking at where the lack of execution comes in each phase. That’s what you get when you talk about complementary football, all three phases are executing at a high level

Recent NCAA proposals concerning a ban on photoshoots during unofficial recruiting trips and the labor-intensive burden it puts on staffs was noted by Freeman.

“We want to make sure to maximize the experience when they visit our campus and for a lot of those guys, they love photoshoots … We also understand the labor and demands on your program and the people who work for you.”

The status of quarterbacks Steve Angeli and Kenny Minchey with regard to adding another signal caller during the offseason brought forth an endorsement from Freeman about their abilities.

“As I told Steve and Kenny, who’s done a really good job in practice, that we owe it to this program to try and put four quarterbacks on scholarship.”

Questions about redshort decisions is something that Freeman considers to be a work in progress.

“Nothing this week. We’ve made previous decisions on a few guys but nothing came up this week that was, “This is our fourth game, do we continue to play him or not?'”

Freeman explained the strategy behind transfer portal decisions that begins even before any announcements are even made.

“We’re always aware of the portal. We’re unique in terms of the guys we can truly get from the portal to Notre Dame. So you’re always aware of those guys who could be graduates or the guys who are first-year guys.”

The reason for Audric Estime’s inconsistent usage during the Clemson loss was discussed by Freeman.

“The biggest thing is we weren’t having success on first down and so if you’re not having success on first down, you’re in a position where you’ll probably have to thrown the ball on second down.

Freeman compared Wake Forest’s slow mesh offense to the triple option.

“You almost have to untrain your backers to be so aggressive downhill. Then, they have a system that has answers. If you do this, they do this. If you do this, they do that.”

Hartman’s recent struggles were attributed by Freeman to adapting to a new offensive system.

“It’s hard because he’s only going to have 12, 13 games in this new system. That’s not always going to be a reflection of how good of a player Sam Hartman is. There’s a reason why he had so much success at Wake Forest because you’re in that same system for five years.”

Freeman then closed by discussing how the possible return of some of the 31 seniors who will be recognized on Saturday might take place.

“We’ll just give them the facts. ‘Here’s what we’ve gotten from NFL grades. Here’s our vision if you do decide to come back, what we would do next year.'”

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