Marcus Freeman Makes Clear Statement: New Attitude to Recruiting Coming to Notre Dame

Upgrades in recruiting and turning the head coach into the lead recruiter are some of the changes we learned are coming to Notre Dame from Marcus Freeman on Monday.

Marcus Freeman didn’t take too much about X’s and O’s on Monday at his introductory press conference, but he did make it clear that he has a vision for how the Irish will attract the Jimmys and Joes. Recruiting was referenced early and often by Freeman once questions started and his answer was heard loud and clear. There’s a new attitude to recruiting coming to Notre Dame.

From day one at Notre Dame last January, Marcus Freeman immediately impacted defensive recruiting. That impact is now about to be felt throughout the team. One of the first questions posed to Freeman on Monday was about what adjustments he’d make to put his stamp on the program. Recruiting was the first thing Freeman mentioned.

“I think it starts with, we’re going to recruit at the highest level, and we’re going to recruit the best football players in the country that fit Notre Dame,” he said. “You’re not going to change the standards of Notre Dame, but there are certain players out there that fit Notre Dame and they might not know. So our job as a coaching staff is to be able to communicate with these young people what Notre Dame can do for your life, and that’s what I plan on doing.” 

He plans on doing that by being front and center of Notre Dame’s recruiting machine, not working behind the scenes, and waiting until an in-home visit or a recruit’s on-campus visit to be involved.

“I’d better be the number one recruiter,” Freeman explained. “I’d better be the lead recruiter in every kid that we recruit, and I plan on doing it. We obviously have to depend on our staff, and I will depend on our staff to make sure we know who and what and why we’re recruiting every individual.”

This is a stark contrast to the recruiting philosophy of his predecessor. Brian Kelly was much more the delegating, CEO-style recruiting head coach who’d come in for the close but wouldn’t necessarily be involved in many recruitments early on. When he was, it was usually noteworthy in those specific recruitments. Kelly isn’t the only coach who does that, but it’s also not the style of a Dabo Swinney at Clemson or Nick Saban at Alabama.

Tom Lemming mentioned last week that unlike Saban and other coaches at big-time programs, Kelly was more hands-off at Notre Dame. He did say that once Kelly was in someone’s living room, he was great, but that he didn’t do enough work before then for the Irish to have top 5 classes instead of top 15 classes with regularity.

Of course, I’m sure the Merriweather family might disagree that Kelly was great once in someone’s living room after reports over the weekend surfaced of Kelly’s last in-home visit as the Notre Dame head coach. For those unaware, Kelly was in their home as the news was breaking but still helped himself to quite a bit of homemade BBQ from Mr. Merriweather and never let on that he was leaving Notre Dame. He even sent a response through his staff that the reports of his leaving for LSU were “BS.” But I digress.

The stories of Kelly not being a relentless recruiter at Notre Dame weren’t new, though. When Kelly said that he wanted Notre Dame to start landing top-5 classes, the general consensus that the biggest thing needed out of Notre Dame that to happen was more work on the trail from its head coach. It sounds like that will not be a problem as long as Marcus Freeman is the head coach at Notre Dame.

Assistant coaches won’t get passes on Freeman’s staff either. When asked about what you need to be an assistant on his staff, the second thing Freeman mentioned was recruiting. “You’ve got to be a relentless recruiter. If you can’t recruit, you probably aren’t going to be the best for our university and our team,” he said.

Again, there were numerous examples over the years of the Kelly Era where specific position coaches either weren’t great recruiters or just didn’t put in the work. Part of the whole post-2016 reboot was about just that – revamping recruiting. We don’t need to name specific assistants to relitigate the past but suffice to say, it sounds as though that won’t be a problem moving forward.

Freeman also talked about recruiting while on ESPN’s bowl selection show as well stating that the biggest challenge with recruiting at Notre Dame is really just the perception.

We’ve heard big talk about recruiting before from Notre Dame head coaches. Heck, Kelly kept saying that he wanted Notre Dame to have top-5 classes. We haven’t seen a whole lot of action from the head coach to make it happen in the past, though. But, if Marcus Freeman’s past eleven months have taught us anything about him as a coach, it’s that he won’t be outworked, and he won’t take the easy way out on the recruiting trail.

Freeman arrived at Notre Dame eleven months ago with the mindset of targeting the best players in the country and aggressively recruiting them even if they might not have been from traditional Notre Dame backgrounds but were still fits for the University. Lou Holtz did this with regularity in the 80s, and he won the University’s last national title.

Only time will tell if Marcus Freeman can deliver the 12th national championship that has been eluding Notre Dame for more than 30 years. One thing is for sure, though. If he isn’t, it won’t be because he and his staff haven’t recruited as hard as possible. Freeman made it abundantly clear on Monday that that would not be the case.

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37 Comments

      1. Here we go again!

        How about coming up with something new at least, “Burgy”?

        Also, how about all of us forgo insults, whether long-winded or terse altogether and just talk football. I know that for some, like “Burgy,” that’s out of his normal comfort zone. But just give it a try, why don’t you.

  1. Sorry for the confusion david. Damian had made a reference to you slobbering over the “single source of the highest calibre entertainment in college football” SEC and I was pointing to that. I apologize, I often fail to remember that some have problems following more than one point at a time. Also routinely forget the old adage of not feeding trolls.

    If you find your greatest entertainment watching a league that is essentially Alabama and the equivalent of the pac 12 by all means to each their own.

      1. Irishlass…come on, you can do better than that.

        And you already suggested Damuan was drunk. You just replaying your greatest “hits”?

        Figures, even the current troll we have to endure is past his prime. Let me show you how it’s done.

        Hey little d,avid, saw where you found fault in MF saying he was gonna talk to his wife about the job. Maybe you need some context. See men with families often ask their wives opinions on matters that impact the family. Now a “wife” is someone that loves you, agrees to stay with you forever and is your partner in life. Kinda like you and your mom. But different. I will let you one day learn the difference.

      2. Rhonda is starting to look positively insightful in comparison.
        I think I miss her.

        And try brevity. Those who read your future posts will appreciate it.

    1. “Irishman” and “david”:

      First, welcome aboard “Irishman”!

      Sirs, I know I can give as good as I take, but it seems we were beginning to make progress on here. We even got “Burgundy” to actually talk football, for Christ’s sake! I give “david” much of the credit for that, albeit he may not want it.

      Both of you make very good football-related points. We may not necessarily see eye-to-eye but should be able to appreciate football talk. It seems we can go downhill when we start the name-calling and “internet tough-guy” BS. I know that’s what sets me off and I then lose track of the main point we should all be here for, namely, our love for ND football.

      Can I suggest we take a step back from the keyboard for a second. Actually read what the others write. Then, rather than give way to ad hominem attacks, we instead just make our case and leave it at that.

      Again, I recognize I haven’t always practiced what I am preaching. But I’m sure that in every case I never started the fight. Our resident archivist “Burgy” can look it up!

      Blessed Advent to you all!

      1. Excellent points Steelfan. And I will add I have been a longterm lurker and have read your past comments often.

        Yours and other fans comments are one if the reasons I visit this site.

        Forgive my transgressions. I even apologize to david. I should know better. Some days it’s just easier to ignore than others.

        Blessed Advent back to you Steelfan. And as always, Go Irish.

      2. “Irishman,”
        There’s no need to apologize to me and I’m sure I speak for “david” on that matter as well. Both of us are salty dogs so we don’t ask for quarters or give it. We can take as well as we give, “Irishman”!

        My point is that if our first instinct is to go low, then that sets the trend of the thread. “david” and I didn’t get off at first but have found much common ground and have abandoned the whole snickering thing to talk serious ND football. “david” has a lot to share, even if it’s painful to hear at times. But we still need to hear it!

        Welcome, “Irishman,” and please share at will. If things get a bit snarky, so be it. You can always decide to be the better man and ignore. Sadly, I know myself and like a good, low down, dirty dog fight too much.

        Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

        GO IRISH! Beat OK St.!

      3. SFR, and Irisman,

        Here’s the issue I run into with ‘david’–and the reason I usually ignore his posts, though recently I’ve been breaking my own rule I know.

        Most of us here want ND to win games and NC’s, regardless who the HC is. I know I’ve been more critical of ND the last few years, SFR longer than that, though I also know we both still want ND to win. It always seems to me he wants ND to lose just so he can run around here and tell everyone ‘I told you so…’

        And then how many times he’ll post here about some other game going on, usually an SEC game, and about how entertaining that is and how we should all be watching that instead of the ND game that day. Um, sorry, I’m a ND fan. Not an Alabama fan or a Georgia fan or whomever the pick of the week is. And honestly unless it affects ND standing in some way, I really don’t care a whole lot about what other teams are doing.

        It seems to me ‘david’ believes ND can do nothing right anymore, everything they do is wrong and he seems to be hoping it blows up in their faces, while he cites the virtues of other elite schools. So it makes me wonder why he’s a fan of ND at all? But that’s just my take. It’s a free country, he wants to post here about how everything ND does is a mistake and telling us how we are such fools for wasting our time following them, then so be it. I’ll go back to ignoring his posts. Each time I engage with him I find it’s just not worth it.

      4. Damian,

        Look, it would be highly hypocritical of me to attack “david” for saying much the same I’ve been saying on here for years, as you acknowledge. Like “david,” I have taken my share of crap from the pie-in-the-sky bunch , most of whom (i.e., faux “Duranko”) have seemingly disappeared, thankfully. Sadly, we’ve also seem to have lost some solid old-timers, like “JC”. Believe it or not, I think “Burgy” and yours truly are among the oldest old-timers on here now!

        Damian, I won’t speak for “david,” but unless Putin gets hired as ND coach, I will root for ND come hell or high water. And even if the latter-day Vlad “the Impaler” were the Irish head coach, I’d still have to cheer on ND at least against Miami, Michigan, and USC!

        GO IRISH–Beat OK St.!

      5. David is a hardcore ND fan like most of us on this site. He just has never been a fan of Brian Kelly. And I agree with his opinions on Kelly. Fraud!

    1. I”ll never, ever forget….In his intro presser, Kelly couldn’t decide how to pronounce “Notre Dame”….so he used two versions.
      “Sincerity” was not the general takeawy.

  2. Scheme and style very important no doubt. Recruiting is obviously key. (It is sort of chicken vs egg situation with the great teams and recruiting though. Do they get the best recruits because they are winners, or are they winners because they get the best recruits? At some point it becomes almost self-sustaining.)

    While Freeman’s scheme and recruiting ability are important…let’s not forget the new battlefield and just how much the game will change.

    It was reported yesterday that a group of UT Longhorns boosters got together and formed a non-profit charity (hearts and Horns, IIRC). This charitable enterprise then immediately announced they would be doing NIL deals with all the linemen at UT. In exchange for some public appearances, each UT lineman will be paid $50k a year. I presume they limited it to linemen as many skill players already have NIL deals. So, the writing on the wall is clear. If you are an elite OT, if you sign with UT you are guaranteed to get at least $50k a year income.

    THAT IS HUGE. And its a harbinger of things to come. Why would any elite prospect decide to go to the local non-power 5 school and take a NIL deal with the local pizza shop, when they can go to UT, get paid $50k the minute they are on the roster and have the advertising value in Texas of playing for the state flagship.

    As a fan, it saddens me that college ball is heading to a place where, like the pros, student-athletes choose their school based on how much they can make going there. Combined with the transfer portal and no waiting period eligibility, it will ultimately lead to a separation where the big, broad appeal schools get all or almost all the top talent and the days of a=even pretending to be academically based sportsmanship are over. Don’t get me wrong, i don’t begrudge the athletes. With all the $ flying around its always been wrong for them to be left out, but the way it has unfolded will undoubtedly lead to a 15 to 20 school super league and everyone else should just split now and form an amateur body to award their own “national championship.”

    As an ND fan…I just want us to be part of the top tier. With it’s nationwide fanbase and position in the sport, an ND player can not just get the local pizza joint…they can get Pizza Hut. yet, with few exceptions about free pasta, a charity endeavor and some local advertising I haven’t seen much on this from ND sources.

    Bryce Young at Bama is already a millionaire based on NIL deals alone. What’s happening with ND? Freeman can be a recruiting phenom but its hard to convince a kid that ND’s classic 40 year decision pitch is better than one from USC that includes millions they can bank right now.

    1. It’s a shame what’s happening to CFB. We may be seeing the beginning of the end of amateur college athletics at least when it comes to big name schools. It’ll probably affect basketball as well.

      On the one hand, I understand the inherent unfairness of it all. Coaches, schools and the powers that be at the schools are making millions on the backs of students who are the ones putting in the work and the putting their future health on the line who at most get a full scholarship. Not worthless, but obviously it doesn’t compare to the millions someone like Nick Saban rake in year after year.

      But you’re right. Eventually the top recruits are going to pick schools based on two things. Which one gives them the best chance to get into the NFL and which one makes them the most money.

      You may very well end up with 2 tiers of college sports. A league of superschools that is basiscally an NFL development league, and everyone else where college sports is secondary to the education, kids, who maybe are good but not good enough to be elite. Honestly I don’t see ND ever allowing their athletes to go that route. They may consider a stipend or fair compensation of some sort, though not sure how you determine what fair is. But while I can see Alabama, Texas, Georgia and so on allowing their athletes to make thousands or even millions, ND will not.

  3. Sorry to thorw a wrench into the schoolgirl crush fest, but …..

    From several interview answers he’s given, Freeman was on his way to accepting an offer form Kelly to go LSU.
    He just “had to discuss it with his wife”.

    But we know that Swarbrick was already swooping (Swarping?) in, and got him into the process to name him head coach. Had that not happened, it’s virtually certain he wouldn’t be ND’s coordinator under anyone.
    And clearly knowing that he would ONLY remain at ND if he was head coach, that had to have pressured ND into offering him the job under some duress.
    The “he’s the very best candidate for the job” pitch falls flat when you hire the only guy you talked to.

    So as much as he’s now professing his undying admiration for ND, Mr. Freeman’s ND legacy came just as close to being another Mike Elko as it did Head Coach.

    1. This NDFB fan since 1986 was going to post about that today. Since Freeman was going to openly join Kelly at LSU shows a lack of character. Freeman accepted the head coaching position at ND because of the title of being the head coach. He has love for his profession and what comes with it, which is important, but he is young and he lacks character. Sadly, now its too late to hire Mike Elston as head coach and so it goes with the last five HC hires at ND.

    2. Kelly’s motivation is money and Freeman’s motivation is the title of head coach. His love is for Ohio State not Notre Dame.

      1. I am certainly reserving judgement on how successful MF will be till I see some games. But, if I understand you correctly, you think he had “low character” because he considered taking the DC job at LSU offered by BK?

        You do realize coaching is his job, right? How he earns his money. You also realize that the way it works is usually a HC leaves and all his assistants go to…either by joining them or being fired by new head coach? And somehow MF considering taking the highest paid DC job out there when he had every reason to suspect he woukd be unemployed soon shows low character?

        And somehow this relates to him not loving ND, because he went to Ohio State? So schools should only hire alums? Or at least coaches who “love” the school before ever being there? Hm…interesting. Urban Meyer has routinely professed his love, yet never taken the gig. Charlie Weis loved him some ND….so much so he F’d them to oblivion.

    3. A little perspective though. Had ND hired another coach, chances are they would have hired their own staff. If Freeman was not named HC then I’m not sure I would have blamed him for accepting a job offer elsewhere, even at LSU because there would be a very good chance he’d be out of the job under a new HC anyway.

      So while you are correct, I think it’s important to remember that.

      The important thing to remember is Freeman is saying all the right things right now as HC. He’s not making excuses for how hard it is to recruit at ND. He’s accepted the challenge and now that he is the coach he is all in.

      Now will that translate into NC’s and ND being an elite school again. Only time will tell. But he appears to be off to a good start, he’s got the wind at his back, recruits appear to be excited as is the fan base and the PTB’s at the school, and even the media. Now it’s up to Freeman.

      1. Dammit, don’t know why that keeps happening. My name shows up under ‘name’ yet I’m having the same issue with it deleting everything after D—but that is my comment above. Ugh.

      2. “Saying all the right things” happens a lot.
        In fact, I don’t rmember the last time ANY new brand coach anywhere said anything but.

        So maybe peolpe should remember that too.

      3. You know what, whatever. I choose to be an optimist and hope for the best. Maybe he’ll succeed, maybe he won’t. But since he’s a new coach I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

        You seem to like to find the cloud in the silver lining I guess. I almost believe you want him to fail just so you can tell everybody you were right and we were all wrong and then tell us how great SEC schools are.

      4. As a resident of an SEC state and hometown of one of its schools….its truly ridiculous. The entire conference consists of Alabama (which is admittedly the cream of the NCAA crop) 3 to sometimes 4 “good teams” and then a bunch of Bama coattail grabbers. Wanna die laughing? Go watch a Vandy game and hear them chant S>>>E>>>C! over and over.

        They are all over themselves over adding Texas and Oklahoma…meanwhile the purportedly dead Big 12 just had two teams in the championship game (Baylor and OK St) and 2 more future members in the AAC Champ game (Cincy and Houston).

        Let’s see what they are so proud of.

        SCAR is awful.
        Vandy is the Northwestern with a drawl and less skill with ball.
        Tenn is a dumpster fire.
        KY is walking tall with best year in like forever and they still didnt sniff a conference Championship.
        Florida is mediocre and needed to beat FSU for even bowl eligibility.
        Mizzou…apparently has a football “team”
        UGA…well, they appear to be the SEC version of a Kelley coached ND. Can be good to great but never finish the deal in the big game.

        Alabama is of course great.
        Auburn has the occasional decent year, about year 2 of each of their last several coaches tenures, Then blow the rest of the time.
        Miss State sucks so bad they blew their bank on Mike Leach
        Ole Miss just had their first 10 win season ever…which they got from selling soul to Lane Kiffen…and their reward is a third place SEC finish and the Sugar Bowl.
        Arkansas…well, its better than your Kansas, but hasnt been “relevant” since it left the old SWC.
        LSU…I hear they have yet another new coach. They cant fix their leaking library roof but they will pay millions to, i think 3 coaches right now. @ are paid not to coach LSU and one, well, his accent needs work.
        Texas AM will probably pay Jimbo an extra couple Mil a year cause he lucked up and beat Bama this year. They are getting so Weissed.

        So…in the SEC it just means more…more cheering for a conference cause your own team sucks. But…their final member is a big deal. The Battling BullSh!tters of ESPN will keep us all enthralled with Bama and the 13 ugly sisters.

      5. Irishman….notwithstanding that the SEC is the single source of the highest calibre entertainment in college football……were you replying to some other thread?

      6. About the first line in your first paragraph: Yes, that is what usually happens. Having said that, WE or at least I don’t know if assistant coach’s contracts at ND are guaranteed and if they are, are they guaranteed when the head coach resigns to take a different HC job at another school or in the NFL and the next HC that comes to ND decides not to retain the assistant coaches that have remained at ND, do they receive a buyout if their contract included one in this case…? Do you know?

      7. Silicone V: Freeman had a job offer from Kelly to go to LSU before he was approached by Swarbrick. And was consdering it when he then approached by Swarbrick.

        He said it, unasked and unprompted, in multiple interviews.

  4. It does start with recruiting. Frank mentioned that our style of recruiting wasn’t unusual in the past, but that it wasn’t the style of Swinney or Saban. You look at what elite teams do that you don’t do and you find a way to adopt that, which is what Freeman seems to want to do on the recruiting front. Better, he seems to feed off that, actually enjoy recruiting. If you like what you do it makes it a lot easier to sell. And I like that Freeman isn’t doing the woe is me track. Yes, it is harder to recruit kids to ND because of their standards. That just means you have to tirelessly recruit those 5 star players that DO fit the standards, they are out there. I still think the university can do a bit more to help that along without lowering the academic standards, but I digress for now.

    He’s proven an ability to recruit, though he’ll now also have to do that on the offensive side of the ball as well. But I suspect he’ll be up to that challenge. The main thing we won’t know is how he will be as a HC on the field on game day. The Fiesta Bowl will give us a small sample. And it’s good ND will have an actual HC and not an ‘interim’ coach with uncertainty going into the bowl game. And we should enjoy the temporary good will from a larger chunk of the country that is rooting for ND this one time due to the way things transpired. It won’t last but I’ll take it while it lasts.

    1. I agree Damian with everything you said. The unknown will be his gameday coaching adjustments, utilization of talent. I always wondered why under Kelly minus the Vangorder years Notredames defenses have been good to very good. Under Polian the special teams have been pretty good. Yet his offenses have always averaged between 28 to 35 points a game no matter who the offensive coaches were or what players Notredame had. Contrast that with the schools in the playoffs every year and the national champions. All those teams Alabama, Ohio State LSU, Clemson average 45 to 50 points a game. I believe it’s because Kelly let Freeman, Lee, Diaco have full control same with Polian with special teams. I believe he had too much say and control with the offense.It had to be his scheme, structure, philosophy. I think FreemanIs going to let Tommy have full control and also hire better assistants.

  5. This is why I am more optimistic about Notredames chances of becoming an elite program again. Freeman will not be outworked and he will hire and demand his assistants recruit relentlessly. I would like to see Quinn and Alexander go and Freeman bring in 2 great oline and receivers coaches. Guys that are both great recruiters and great coaches, that can develop talent.

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