Marcus Freeman / Notre Dame Head Coach

  • HOMETOWN: Dayton, Ohio
  • YEARS AT NOTRE DAME: 2021-present
  • ALMA MATER: Ohio State

Marcus Freeman is poised to begin his first full season as head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a formidable position that he’s been preparing for since his entry into the coaching profession. He was named the Irish’s 30th head coach last Dec. 3, a move that was met with enthusiasm by his players.

Despite being only 36 years of age, Freeman has quickly honed his coaching skills to the point that he’s now entrusted with the challenge of taking the Irish to the next level. He already has one game under his belt as head coach, with that contest ending in disappointment at last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

From 2004 to 2008, Freeman was a linebacker for the Ohio State Buckeyes and was drafted by the Chicago Bears. Medical issues eventually led to the Ohio native’s retirement as a player and kick-started his coaching career that began as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 2010.

In each of the next two seasons, Freeman served as the linebackers coach at Kent State University, making enough of an impact to lead to his appointment in that same role at Purdue in 2013. For three seasons with the Boilermakers, Freeman focused on the school’s linebacking corps before then also serving as co-defensive coordinator in 2016.

Freeman’s past connections from Ohio State played a role in his next job with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. New Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell had coached Freeman at Ohio State and hired him in January 2017 as the program’s new defensive coordinator.

Quickly showing that Fickell’s faith in him was justified, Freeman’s efforts played a key role in the Bearcats’ emergence as a quality team. In his last three seasons at the school, Cincinnati compiled a record of 31-6, with Freeman helping them make their mark among the upper echelon of defenses across the country.

Freeman’s input was especially noteworthy for the Bearcats in 2018 and 2020, when they finished among the top 10 teams in scoring defense. They also sparkled in other categories, such as total and rushing defense. Numbers such as that caught the eye of former Irish head coach Brian Kelly, who had arrived at Notre Dame after coaching at Cincinnati.

Clark Lea’s departure to become head coach at Vanderbilt opened the door for Freeman’s hiring in January of last year and the newcomer took full advantage of the opportunity. During the 2021 regular season, the Irish won 11 of their first 12 contests, closing out the regular season with a defensive flourish. That surge was highlighted by keeping teams out of the end zone for 14 straight quarters.

One of the chief reasons for that success was due to a much-more sustained pass rush, with the 41 sacks resulting in a tie of the team record established in 1996. Isaiah Foskey especially thrived in this department by bringing down 11 quarterbacks. Also, a ball-hawking unit ended the year with 15 interceptions and 21 different players made stops behind the line.

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