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Notre Dame Football

Marcus Freeman: 'Let's outwork everybody in the country'

April 21, 2021

"We're going to continue to be the most aggressive and hardest working recruiting staff in the country." 

It might sound like coach speak to hear those words said, but when Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman says them, it carries weight. 

Since Freeman's hiring in January, Notre Dame has raised its own bar in recruiting. There is an aggression, but there is also consistency in how the program approaches recruiting. 

Is it all Freeman? No. 

Brian Polian moved the needle and got the Irish program back on track during his time as recruiting coordinator. Changes were made, but now, Notre Dame can build on Polian's foundation with Mike Elston back in the recruiting coordinator role. 

It was fun to watch Brian Polian when he took over when I left last time went to associate head coach and he became the recruiting coordinator," said Elston. "It was really fun to watch the personnel side of it. His strengths come out with evaluation and really getting the roster right with positions and very integral in that part. 

"Those aren't necessarily my focus right now because that's been done really well over the last four years. My strengths are the creative part and how we get them to say yes."

The creative part was on display for the Pot of Gold campaign on St. Patrick's Day, where Notre Dame offered around 30 2023 prospects and it allowed the Irish to take over Social Media for a day in the recruiting world. 

But the changes go much deeper than that. There is more organization. There are weekly schedules set. Kids and their families know they will talk to Freeman or Jeff Quinn (or any other coach) every Tuesday at 4:00pm. 

"Let's outwork everybody in the country," stated Freeman. "That's in terms of evaluations, developing relationships and I think we've done a really good job of identifying the guys that we feel are the best players that fit Notre Dame."

Notre Dame has made the College Football Playoff two of the last three years, but it's clear there is a gap between the Irish and the top two programs in the country. 

Alabama and Clemson have set a high bar, but it's one that Notre Dame can close and it starts with more high-end talent on the roster.

Freeman and the other coaches in The Gug know they can raise the bar. It's now a matter of outworking every program in the country for student-athletes that might not want to come to Notre Dame.  

"I think at times, it can be easy to recruit at Notre Dame because you're Notre Dame," explained Freeman. "There's a certain group of kids that would die to come to Notre Dame. 

"I think for us to continue to elevate and be National Champions and be able to close that gap with Alabama, we got to continue to acquire some of the best football players in the country. Those guys might not always be dying to come to Notre Dame, but if we understand they're the right fit and we do our research and they can be successful here at Notre Dame - our job is to convince them. To let these guys know what makes the University of Notre Dame special. 

"It's not hard to do once you're here. It's hard to convince about it because they're not here. When you're here, you almost wonder where else would you go. It's our job as a staff to convince these guys there is no better place to go in the country." 

Notre Dame will have the chance to take the next step over the next two months. The strength of the relationships the staff builds with targets over the month of May will be crucial as those kids will finally be on campus AND able to talk face-to-face with coaches.

The Irish will host some of the top players in the country and it will be time for them to convince them Notre Dame is the best fit. 

"We're obviously very excited to get young people on this campus and their parents," stated Elston. "Notre Dame is a place Coach Kelly has always felt you have to visit to understand. Let's face it, you can go to a lot of campuses in the SEC and you see one, you've seen quite a few of them. They are carbon copies of each other. 

"Notre Dame is different. You have to come to our campus and you have to see it." 

June will also be a chance for Freeman as an individual to take the next step in his recruiting journey at Notre Dame. 

Recruits and their families have had a hard time turning Freeman down over Zoom and FaceTime. It will only be more challenging for them to do that face-to-face, which is great for the Notre Dame program. 

"We've identified the top 2022 prospects," said Freeman. "Now, let's continue every day to find ways to convince this family that the University of Notre Dame is second to none when it comes to your college experience, competitive side, the development side of you as a student-athlete - there is nowhere else in the country that compares to it. Every day we'll continue to work at it." 

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