Throughout the winter and spring you heard two words being mentioned by Notre Dame players over and over .... national championship. You heard it from players that chose to return for the 2022 season, and from veterans during the spring. The Irish players haven't been at all shy about saying that goals and objectives in 2022 ultimately lead to one thing .... a national championship.
Sitting down with Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman you immediately find out where this notion comes from. First-year head coach isn't backing down at all from the standard that comes with being the head coach at Notre Dame.
"I believe wholeheartedly we can win national championships here," Freeman told Irish Breakdown. "When is that going to be? That’s to be determined. But I believe this place really can attract the best players in the country."
Freeman is certainly showing the latter part, as the Irish currently have the No. 2 recruiting class in 2023 and the No. 1 class in 2024. With four top targets in the 2023 class set to announce their decisions over the next week, Notre Dame's time at No. 2 could be short lived.
The 36-year old head coach has fully embraced what makes Notre Dame unique. You don't hear him making excuses about how hard it is to win at Notre Dame. Quite the contrary, Freeman believes what makes Notre Dame a championship caliber program are the things that are different.
"I believe (Notre Dame) almost offers something that nowhere else in the country can in terms of the football excellence, truly combined with the academic success," Freeman explained. "When you combine those, I don’t think there’s another place in the country that can offer young people that highest level of both of them.
"It starts with players, and it starts with getting the best players in the country that fit this place – I always say it – but, in order to win a national championship, you have to continue to get the best players in the country," Freeman continued. "Then, you have to continue to develop a culture that I believe truly helps young people play above their God-given ability. To have an emotional aspect to it, and I think you can do all that right here at Notre Dame, and that’s going to give you a chance to win national championships and I think we can do it here."
Freeman was quick to point out that getting the best players in the country wasn't just a future goal, it's about promoting the current roster. There is no, "Well wait until I get my players" with Marcus Freeman, it's about setting that standard right now, with the 2022 team.
"We have a standard and we have a goal and it is to be national champions," said the Irish head coach. ".... How do we go about doing that? That’s developing this current roster to get as close to its maximum potential ability that we can. Then we go play your 12 guaranteed opportunities, you go play and hopefully you’re as close to that maximum level as you can, and it’s good enough to win.
"If it’s not good enough to win, then so be it, but you have to look at how you develop this roster, get it to play as close as it can on those 12 guaranteed opportunities, and let the results speak for themselves," continued Freeman. "Then you evaluate it. Go back and evaluate, 'Okay, is there a better process to making sure we’re ready for this next guaranteed opportunity?' Then you go play, then you go evaluate it.
".... That’s our mindset – develop, develop, develop. Go play that first game. Reevaluate. Develop, develop, develop, go play. So that’s our process and our thought process."
The confidence level that Freeman and his staff have instilled in the current team are obvious. They are staring in the face of a schedule that has three opponents ranked in the top five by at least one preseason prognosticator, but this is a team that believes it can go toe to toe with anyone .... and it starts at the top.
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