For new Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman, it was an emotional day.
Freeman and his family, which included his wife Joanna, and his six children, Vinny, Siena, Gino, Nico, Capri and Rocco, walked through the Notre Dame marching band in the Irish Athletic Center to their seats upon his introduction as the head coach. The band was playing the “Victory March.”
During his opening remarks on Monday in his first press conference on campus, Freeman welled up several times when talking about his family and the opportunity Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick and President Father John Jenkins gave him
When he looked up at the crowd seated in front of him before speaking, he said: “There’s a lot of people here.”
It was genuine, it was real, it was what we’ve come to expect from Freeman.
Emotion aside, if there was one thing Freeman was adamant about with his coaching staff, it’s that everybody must recruit at a high level.
Freeman was vague about how he’d handle many issues relating to his staff but he was clear about how there would be no compromising the school’s ability to get great players.
Freeman was generally viewed as an instant upgrade to the staff in recruiting terms. Notre Dame is currently ranked fifth in the team rankings for 2022, according to 247Sports. In 2023, the Irish already have six commitments and the Fighting Irish are ranked second to Georgia.
In contrast, recruiting was viewed as one of the weakest parts of former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s skills. Notre Dame finished 18th in the 2020 rankings and 15th in the 2019 rankings.
When asked about his philosophy for hiring assistants, Freeman said: “Number one, you have to be a leader of young men. You have to treat these guys the way I believe you have to treat young people. Number two, 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 team.”
Whereas other coaches might view Notre Dame’s higher academic requirements as a detriment, Freeman uses it as a selling point.
His ability to translate the power of obtaining a degree and playing football at Notre Dame has elevated the talent level.
There are many unanswered questions about how Freeman will transition from an assistant to a head coach in areas like game management, delegating authority, and hiring coaches for the staff but recruiting is not one of them.
To make sure everyone knew how important recruiting was to him, Freeman brought it up or it was brought up five times in his 16 plus minutes of answering questions.
Asked a question about how he was going to put his stamp on the program, Freeman said: “I think it starts with, we are going to recruit at the highest level, and we’re going to recruit the best football players in the country that fit Notre Dame. 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 it. Our job as a coaching staff is to be able to communicate with these young people what Notre Dame can do with your life. And that’s what I plan on doing.”
Freeman also said he doesn’t plan to delegate the job, something that Kelly did.
“I plan on being the number one recruiter. I’d better be the lead recruiter in every kid we recruit,” he said. “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 why we are recruiting every individual. If I’m not the lead recruiter, then we are cheating.”
Aside from recruiting, there was clarity on another issue.
He doesn’t plan to make changes to the offense, which will be run by Tommy Rees. Freeman plans on staying out of the way.
“It’s what you see on the field,” Freeman. “It’s what you’ve seen Tommy do. When I talked to Jack Swarbrick, the opportunity to keep Tommy Rees was without question. What you’ve seen from the offensive side of the ball, from the beginning of the season until now, is they’ve just played better and better and better. I’m not looking for a certain scheme. I’m looking for a group that is productive and that does the job necessary to win.”
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