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Notre Dame Football

Instant Reaction | ND Hires Marcus Freeman as DC

January 8, 2021

Notre Dame fans have gotten used to disappointment over the last few decades. Victory seems to be snatched away right when it’s within their grasp.

Not tonight.

Tonight Notre Dame got their man landing their top target at defensive coordinator in former Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. It’s the most significant coordinator hire that Brian Kelly has made since taking over the program at the end of 2009.

Freeman was the hottest DC candidate on the market for a reason. He’s had outstanding defenses with the Bearcats. They’ve finished three straight years in the top-17 according to FEI and were third in 2020.

His defenses have also been great at consistently causing havoc finishing in the top-20 in Havoc Rate each of the last three seasons (16th in 2020). They are just great at causing negative plays either. They were fantastic at not allowing explosive plays. They averaged only one explosive play (gains of 20-yards or more) every 20.3 snaps.

Freeman’s group did that while playing three of the best big play offenses in the country. They held SMU, Memphis, and UCF to an even better rate than Cincinnati’s average (every 23.3 snaps).

Even when they gave up the big play, they were stingy in the red zone finishing sixth in red zone touchdown percentage the last two seasons (29th in 2018).

He has the track record. The man can certainly coach defense.

As exciting as that is for Notre Dame fans, it should be equally exciting that he has proven to be adaptable with his personnel and against opponents. Freeman coached a primarily four down defense and then switched to more three down because it fit best going against the offenses in the AAC.

The Bearcats were primarily a 3-3-5 team, but they still ran a 40 front and would mix things up a lot. I would expect much of the same with Notre Dame regardless of the base front.

He has a reputation as someone who relates very well with recruits and that’s obviously critical as well at a place like Notre Dame. But most importantly, he has been part of significant player development at Cincinnati. All three levels of the defense were strong and he’s a huge reason for that.

This is a massive development for Notre Dame. They lost the best defensive coordinator in decades when Clark Lea took the head job at Vanderbilt. They replaced him with coach who should help them not miss a beat.

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