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Notre Dame Football

Irish quarterbacks explain why meetings with Freeman mean so much

March 19, 2022

Tyler Buchner didn’t consider Marcus Freeman a stranger, but he also admits he knew very little about Notre Dame’s then-defensive coordinator.

Ditto Drew Pyne, who’s bonded with offensive coordinator Tommy Rees since Pyne’s sophomore year of high school but hardly knew Freeman at all.

Way back in January, at the onset of the Fighting Irish’s winter conditioning program and Freeman’s first full month as head coach, Freeman sought to change that dynamic.

He instituted weekly meetings with the Irish signal-callers. No Rees. No other staffers.

Freeman. Buchner. Pyne. The remainder of the Notre Dame quarterbacks room.

“The meetings with Coach Freeman are really useful and helpful,” said Buchner, who’s entered spring camp locked in battle with Pyne to earn the starting quarterback spot. “We do them every week, we’ve been doing them since the start of winter.

“Coach Freeman, not only does he provide a defensive aspect to whatever we’re watching, but we’ll go through some film, and the quarterbacks will talk about what’s going on on the offensive side of the ball, and we get a look at football from the other perspective, which is different than what we’re used to.”

Pyne, who’s long elicited praise around the program his leadership qualities, emphasized Freeman as the originator of this new weekly ritual.

“As far as the quarterbacks go, we meet with him at least once a week, and we go over certain plays, we’ll go over how to lead and that’s his idea,” said Pyne, a redshirt-sophomore. “That wasn’t our idea, that was Coach Freeman’s idea because he said he wants to build a relationship with the quarterbacks because he was a defensive guy. But he wants to build a relationship with the quarterbacks so that he can be on the field and coach us. And if he tells us something, if he coaches us, he doesn’t want us (thinking), ‘Ah, he’s just saying that. We don’t have to listen to him.’

“He cares about his players more than anything else. You can see it with his unbelievable family. I feel like we’re all a part of his family so I’m very thankful to be able to play for him.”

Buchner likewise pointed to the lasting value of those weekly gatherings in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.

“I think on top of that [football element], we didn’t spend a lot of time with Coach Freeman last year because he was on the defensive side of the ball,” Buchner said. “So he’s done a really good job of trying to build better relationships with everyone on the team and build great relationships.

“I think he’s continued to do that.”

Freeman laid bare his intentions with the meetings on the heels of the Irish’s first spring session.

“My role as the head coach is to let those guys I understand how difficult a position you all are in,” said Freeman. “Use me as a resource to help you. That's why every week we spend time together, we have a quarterback meeting with just me and the quarterbacks because I want them to know I'm a teammate.”

Recognizing football is a game of mistakes, Buchner appreciates that Freeman’s approach to getting to better know the quarterbacks across these three months is going to yield dividends on the field – especially when it’s time for Freeman to bark at his signal-callers.

“I think it is important, and he’s shown that to us, how important it is to him that we have a relationship because he’s organized these meetings once every week,” Buchner said. “We didn’t have last year. (Brian Kelly), he spent more time with the offense because that’s just what he did. Freeman coming from the defensive side of the ball, he builds relationships. He stresses how important it is to him.

“He can’t yell at us if he doesn’t know what we’re doing. He knows the offense now. So that way if he yells at us, he knows what he’s yelling at us for. You can’t yell at us if you don’t know us, you know what I’m saying? So that way if he supports us and builds a relationship, that way when he coaches us it’s not just like, ‘Who is this guy coaching us?’ We have a relationship with him.”

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