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Take 5: Marcus Freeman, 2022 Schedule

The latest five focuses on the hiring of Marcus Freeman as the next head football coach at Notre Dame

My take five focuses on the hiring of Marcus Freeman as the next head football coach at Notre Dame

1. How quickly before the honeymoon ends for Marcus Freeman? Will it ever end? Can he be demanding? Can he embrace being unpopular with his assistants and players at times in order to get results? These are all the questions that Notre Dame fans need to start considering as the Freeman era begins. We know he can recruit but every other facet of his head coaching at the collegiate level is a mystery. It’s exactly why it’s not a good idea to elevate an assistant with no head coaching experience at Notre Dame. It’s the most demanding, complicated college job in America. 

The academic standards are high, and the expectations for winning can be insane. Freeman’s first press conference was heartfelt, but now the clock is ticking. This story will likely end one of two ways. Freeman will get fired, and he’ll be another former assistant with no head coaching experience that got chewed up by the Notre Dame machine or he’ll be wildly successful. My point is that he’ll be scrutinized indiscriminately going forward on his performance on the field, and he’s following the winningest coach in Notre Dame history. It won’t be easy. Notre Dame is banking on Freeman being the exception, not the rule.

2. I like that Notre Dame’s schedule appears to be fairly brutal next year. The Fighting Irish open at Ohio State, they play Clemson at home and North Carolina and USC on the road. Boston College will come with former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who is expected to be one of the top college quarterbacks in 2022. Games against California and Stanford won’t be easy, neither will the game in Las Vegas against BYU. A worst-case scenario could see Notre Dame finishing 6-6. Why is a tough schedule good for his first season? Because if Freeman has a bad season, he’ll get it out of the way early and there’ll be more time to recover on the back end of his contract. If he gets through that gauntlet 10-2 or 9-3, it’ll be a great sign.

3. Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly faked a southern accent at an LSU basketball game to impress his fanbase and, according to the Vancouver Columbian, he told the father of Notre Dame recruit Tobias Merriweather that it was “bull ——“ that he was leaving for LSU after it leaked out on Twitter. Those are all reasons to be done with Kelly. When the smoke settles though, Kelly could have done the program a huge favor by gifting it Freeman. Kelly immediately amped up the pressure on Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick to hire Freeman after making him an offer to be the LSU defensive coordinator. Kelly is the great disruptor, and he’ll be successful at LSU. He just needs to forget the southern accent, and we all need a long break from him. Maybe forever for some people.

4. The fact that Freeman admitted publicly that Kelly offered him the defensive coordinator position at LSU was surprising, and refreshing. It’s not something that a hyper-paranoid college football coach (that’s most coaches) would do. They’d offer some sort of word salad answer or refuse to address the issue. I suspect Freeman will be prone to periodic outbursts of honesty over the next few years. I look forward to it. It'll be different.

5. This small act of honesty contrasts with the twisted truth that Swarbrick tried to make us swallow when he said that members of the football team did not select Freeman. Swarbrick tried to make it sound like his meeting with the Notre Dame captains was about figuring out what qualities they wanted in a head coach, not who the head coach should be. That wasn’t true. Kurt Hinish, who met with Swarbrick, said the group specified that Freeman should be the coach. End of story. More on that topic coming later in “Irish Breakdown.”

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