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For Notre Dame There Can Only Be One Choice, Marcus Freeman

Notre Dame needs to move quickly and make Marcus Freeman its next head coach

The Notre Dame world was rocked yesterday when 12-year head coach Brian Kelly decided to move on and take the same position at LSU. Kelly spent 12 years building Notre Dame into a contender but instead of seeing it through he felt it was best for himself and his family to head to LSU.

Notre Dame must now make arguably its most important coaching hire in decades. Kelly did a great job building the Irish program up, and the next hire needs to be the person that does what Kelly couldn't do, take that final step and lead the Fighting Irish to a championship.

Make the right hire and Notre Dame does just that. Make the wrong hire and Notre Dame will stagnate, or regress. It's time for a bold move.

Every possible option comes with risk, so Notre Dame must hire the coach with the highest ceiling, and there is no doubt in my mind the coach that fits that mold is current defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman.

There are shallow, short-sighted reasons to promote Freeman. Keep him and Notre Dame's elite 2022 and 2023 classes largely stay intact and likely expand. Keep him and you have a great chance at keeping the current roster together.

Those are certainly points in his favor, but they aren't why I believe Freeman should be the new head coach at Notre Dame. You don't make this big of a hire to keep recruiting classes intact, you make this hire based on the potential a head coach brings to your program.

There are other options that possibly have a higher floor, but there isn't a coach with a higher ceiling than Freeman. I've talked to sources all season that rave about his intelligence, his work ethic, his ability to relate to players in a manner that commands respect, his ability to set a standard of excellence that he demands of himself, his coaches and his players.

Freeman is an excellent teacher, and the work he's done with the Irish defense this season has been outstanding. Being a great position coach or coordinator doesn't equal success, but there are skills and characteristics that Freeman does possess that make him a great coordinator that also lend to him having a very bright future as a head coach.

He's intelligent. He's thoughtful. He's a teacher. He cares about developing his players on and off the field. He understands the importance of strong fundamentals and toughness, and he certainly understands the need to recruit at an elite level. He's organized, he understands the need to make sure that the entire staff knows their role and that they feel their role is valuable.

Freeman also showed during his career that he is willing to make adjustments if it means doing what is best for the program, and to keep up with - or even get ahead of - what top programs are doing. We saw that this season, as Freeman continued to adapt his defense to what best fit his players.

People will talk about his charisma and engaging personality, and those don't hurt his cause either.

Some Notre Dame fans will be wary of Freeman because of his lack of head coaching experience. The reality is Bob Davie and Charlie Weis didn't fail because they didn't have previous head coaching experience, they failed because they didn't have the chops to thrive as a head coach.

Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Lincoln Riley (when he got the Oklahoma job) and Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State) are all examples of coaches who were never more than coordinators (Swinney was never even a coordinator) prior to getting big jobs .... and they were all successful.

Baylor head coach Dave Aranda was never a head coach and in just his second season with the Bears he has them playing this weekend for the Big 12 title.

There are things Notre Dame can do to help Freeman be prepared for certain aspects that will be new or different for him as a head coach. At the end of the day his talent, potential, character and fit at Notre Dame are just too strong.

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Of all the candidates I could list - including Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm or even former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops - Freeman certainly comes with the most risk, I won't deny that. That is because of his "lack of experience."

But champions aren't made by taking the easy route or being afraid to take a risk. Freeman is the bold move, he's the high upside hire, he's the risk you take knowing that if you end up being right you made the move that brings a championship to Notre Dame football.

In five years you don't want to be the athletic director or board of trustee member who passed on Marcus Freeman. 

This has to be the move for Notre Dame.

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