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Marcus Freeman Tenure Will Include "Relentless" Recruiting

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman had some very interesting, and important comments to make about recruiting

We've all heard the excuses over the years, and the more and more we hear them the more that people start to believe them. Of course, I'm referring to the excuses as to why Notre Dame can't recruit at an elite level.

Notre Dame can't land elite players for .... insert excuse .... and that's ultimately what keeps the Irish program from competing with the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia.

I mean, remember what we were told, Notre Dame has to shop down a different aisle.

Marcus Freeman started to smash that myth the moment he arrived at Notre Dame last January when he was hired as the defensive coordinator. Over the next several months, Freeman and defensive coaches Mike Elston and Mike Mickens put together one of the best groups of 2022 defensive recruits in the country, and the 2023 haul is off to an even better start.

Freeman made it very clear in his opening press conference as the program's new head coach that excuses for not recruiting at an elite level will not be accepted, or provided. It starts at the top.

"I'd better be the number one recruiter. I'd better be the lead recruiter in every kid that we recruit, and I plan on doing it," Freeman said. "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. If I'm not the lead recruiter, then we're cheating"

That is quite the 180 from the previous head coach, whose unwillingness to engage on the recruiting trail in a manner needed for the lead man at Notre Dame. 

It won't just be Freeman. He made it perfectly clear that recruiting at a high level will be required of his assistants as well.

"You've got to be a relentless recruiter," explained Freeman when asked by Irish Breakdown's Vince DeDario about his philosophy for hiring coaches. "If you can't recruit, you probably aren't going to be the best for our university and our team."

This statement would make it seem that wide receivers coach Del Alexander is in a very precarious position on the staff beyond the bowl game.

Former coach Brian Kelly often made excuses for why Notre Dame often chose to pursue the nation's top recruits. He often referenced Notre Dame's need to "shop down a different aisle" due to the academic standards.

Freeman has no allusions about Notre Dame changing those standards.

"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," Freeman noted. "And you're not going to change the standards of Notre Dame."

In what was a very refreshing sentiment, Freeman made clear that the list of "Notre Dame Fits" will expand under his leadership.

"There are certain players out there that fit Notre Dame and they might not know (it)," continued Freeman. "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."

Quite a refreshing change. 

The reality is that recruiting at Notre Dame is harder, no one with any concept of how recruiting works at the school would argue that. The argument, however, is whether or not the difficulties are such that recruiting against, and beating the top programs for the top recruits is an impossible task, therefore forcing the staff to settle on being a "developmental program."

Notre Dame is and should always be a developmental program in the manner that Elston has mastered, which is finding players with incredibly high ceilings that just need to be developed in the Irish program. Think Isaiah Foskey, Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Julian Okwara. There are five-star recruits in each of their classes that I would not trade for any of these players.

The issue, however, is that you don't have to only recruit those types of players, and going after more and more of the nation's best players isn't only possible, it's a must.

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Freeman gets that, and he and the staff will have a plan for just that. It won't be easy, but it will be demanded. It will be demanded because Freeman believes what makes it harder at Notre Dame isn't a crutch, it's something to embrace.

"I think it's the ability to communicate with the best players in the country that this place is special, and that's what ... people keep saying what's the difference?," Freeman said. "What do you understand about this place now that you're here? It's just that whatever these, maybe at 16 or 17, when I was a recruit, I was looking for. 'Hey, where can I go win a National Championship?' If that's all you're looking for, you can look right here at Notre Dame because we've been in the playoffs two of the last three years."

In the past Kelly seemed to reject the notion of recruits having a "football first" mentality as high school recruits. Freeman isn't afraid to going after those types of players, but the plan isn't to lower the expectations once they arrive. No, it's to show these players that the issue isn't Notre Dame, the issue is them not realizing that Notre Dame's higher standards, the fact it is more challenging, is something they should embrace, not something they should fear.

"It's the ability to show these young people, get their minds to think past football," continued Freeman. "Get their minds to think whatever that point is, as these guys will tell you, whatever that point is when you're done playing, it could be after your senior year. It could be one year in the NFL. It could be ten years in the NFL. The minute you're done playing, that's to me where the value of Notre Dame really shows itself."

Only then will Freeman and his staff start to maximize the potential of Notre Dame's brand on the recruiting trail.

"That's what we've got to be able to do is to get these young people that are the best players in the country that fit Notre Dame to understand there is no better option for you."

Freeman's comments on recruiting could not be in more stark contrast to his predecessor, and that alone is reason for Irish fans to be very, very excited for the future at Notre Dame.

Be sure to check out the Irish Breakdown message board, the Champions Lounge

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