The ESPN College Football Gameday crew interviewed Marcus Freeman for the second time in two days on Sunday after the Irish’s Fiesta Bowl berth against Oklahoma State was announced. Freeman appeared on GameDay Saturday morning as well. On Sunday, Freeman talked about several different topics, but his take on recruiting should have Notre Dame fans excited.
Jesse Palmer asked Marcus Freeman about the challenges of recruiting at Notre Dame after saying that Brian Kelly was a great recruiter at Notre Dame, which isn’t quite reality – more on that in a minute though. “The challenges might be some of the perception,” Freeman said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to change since I’ve been here.”
Freeman mentioning that he’s been trying to change the perception that it’s hard to recruit at Notre Dame since he got here is significant because he’s only been at Notre Dame for 11 months. In that time, Freeman has, without a doubt, elevated Notre Dame’s recruiting on the defensive side of the ball. If he can do the same on the offensive side of the ball, Notre Dame will have as much talent as pretty much anyone else in the country.
“This place is a gold mine,” Freeman noted. “This place will change your life for the better. If you are able to communicate that with these young people and make them understand that if you want to win a national championship, come to Notre Dame. If you want a chance to set yourself up for the rest of your life, come to Notre Dame.”
Right off the bat, Freeman mentions winning a national championship and changing the perception of recruiting to Notre Dame. Those two things will win over any remaining skeptics – are there any at this point? – of the hire.
“There’s so many different things that this University and this football program will do for your future,” Freeman told ESPN. “It’s my job and our job as a coaching staff to continue to communicate that to these young athletes.
Freeman’s recruiting chops have never been in doubt, but it’s exciting to hear him speak about what makes Notre Dame great with passion already. He also is not making excuses for it being hard to recruit to Notre Dame. That is something that his predecessor regularly did early on in his tenure at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly routinely talked about having to shop down different aisles than other programs. Freeman isn’t making excuses but is rather trying to elevate Notre Dame’s recruiting.
Speaking of Kelly’s recruiting, Jesse Palmer referenced Kelly as being a “great recruiter” in the interview. Technically, that might be true. When he recruited, Kelly was very good. For years there were rumblings though that Kelly didn’t put in the same time and effort as other coaches at top-tier programs. But then, following his departure from Notre Dame, Tom Lemming said on the Chris Zorich podcast that Kelly liked to golf more than he liked to recruit, and that is what held Notre Dame back on the recruiting trail.
Recruiting wasn’t bad under Brian Kelly. Notre Dame brought in a lot of talent during his tenure. The Irish have not had a top 5 recruiting class since 2014, though. A few years ago, he stated his goal was for Notre Dame to stop having top 10-15 classes and to have top 5 classes, but the best they finished since he said that (according to 247) is 9th.
Time will tell if Freeman turns out to be a great head coach – and he is getting thrown right into the fire in the Fiesta Bowl against a top 10 opponent – but one thing that we know the man can do is recruit. From the day he stepped foot on campus, we changed on Notre Dame recruited on offense. If we see the same change on offense, he’ll accomplish what Kelly set out to do a few years ago and wasn’t able to.