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Notre Dame Football

Q/A | Notre Dame Football Head Coach Marcus Freeman Part I

June 27, 2022

Marcus Freeman was named head coach at Notre Dame in December and has yet to really take a break as the whole Fighting Irish program has put in seven months of non-stop work. 

On Monday, Freeman was gracious enough to sit down with Irish Sports Daily (and other media outlets) to go over a variety of topics from June official visits to his early impressions of the newest additions to the Irish roster. 

ISD: You had a very successful official visit weekend stretch in June. What were your takeaways and what were you able to change to put your own stamp on it?

Marcus Freeman: I think our staff does a tremendous job in terms of developing relationships with these kids. Man, they have great relationships with these young people, the families and it's evident when these kids come on campus. It's not like they're meeting strangers. It's meeting family. That's a credit to our staff and the hard work they put in.

I thought our recruiting staff did a tremendous job of putting together a great 48 hours in terms of the ability to show a lot of kids who have been here new things that are interesting to them, but also continue to show them our distinctions and what makes Notre Dame different.

ISD: It seemed like you incorporated taking recruits around the South Bend area more than in the past and was that something your staff focused on?

Marcus Freeman: We were looking for different places to - one - the first weekend we stayed downtown. We don't want to get away from what makes this place special and that's this campus.

We took them off campus for a couple of meals and to the Adventureplex place, but as a staff, we had to continue to remember the more time they can spend on this campus is still going to be our best selling point.

ISD: What has been your favorite thing to sell about Notre Dame or to present about Notre Dame?

Marcus Freeman: I think the biggest thing I love selling is you don't have to cheat your future. You look at what it offers you. You can argue apples to oranges, but you're going to be able to achieve the football excellence here just like you are at the top-notch schools in the country. We finished last year in the regular season top five in the country and made the playoffs two of the last three years before then, so not many teams have achieved that. You're going to get the football excellence and development for the NFL. I think the world of our coaching and strength staff. You're going to get developed here as well as anywhere else in the country.

On top of that, the education, the network and what it provides for your future long after you're done playing. You have to get young people to understand that it's guaranteed you're going to be done playing football. It's guaranteed. You have the opportunity to come to Notre Dame, where you truly open up countless doors for life after football.

This is a place I believe in my whole heart that you don't have to cheat any part of your future.

ISD: Not all coaches lean into that network or embrace it. You seemed to do even before you were the head coach. How have they served the program and how much more does that help?

Marcus Freeman: It's a deep belief in what you're selling. I think that's where it comes from. If you don't have a strong conviction of what you're selling young people or offering young people, then they'll be able to read it. I have a deep conviction of this opportunity here. I wouldn't have known it before I got here.

I had a perception of Notre Dame being unique, historic and traditional, but when you get here, you understand those words don't exactly replicate what this opportunity entails. That's what I've fallen in love with. What you do is care about young people for the longevity of their lives. They're not here for a couple years and you let them go and say goodbye. This is a lifelong relationship.

For me, if I'm going to say it's a lifelong relationship, I care for life after football and to offer young people to have football success and life after football success - that's something I care deeply about.

ISD: When you're having a first meeting or critical meeting, what's the first thing Marcus Freeman is discussing with them?

Marcus Freeman: Probably both of the football excellence, but also the life after football and the education. I believe there is almost a monopoly. That's my belief as the head coach of this place. We can offer you something nowhere else can. That's what I want to get them to understand. These are things that don't have anything to do with a coach.

I'm not selling myself or selling our coaches because those things can always change. A lot of times, our coaches are our strongest selling point, but I don't want to sell a young person to come to Notre Dame because of the coaches. It can always change.

The things that make this place special never change. That's what I want them to understand. When you go home and the emotion of being on this campus or any other campus is wearing off, the reasons you're attracted to Notre Dame will still be there.

ISD: What have been your early thoughts on the June (freshmen) arrivals?

Marcus Freeman: They've been really good. This group is a good-looking group. The offensive linemen - Ty Chan looks physically in a good position - Ashton Craig. Ben Morrison has done a really good job. I haven't been able to spend time with them evaluating them as much as seeing them physically in the weight room and hearing what the coaches say.

Both tight ends (Eli Raridon and Holden Staes), I think are going to do great things for us. I don't know when or where, or what time, but I think they have really bright futures.

Tobias (Merriweather) is another physically impressive-looking young man. I have heard good things from his individual drills.

Some guys are going to be thrust into positions where they don't have time to figure it out. They're going to have to figure it out on the fly. Tobias in that wideout room will be one of them. Gi'Bran Payne will be another one in the running back room. It's a part of recruiting some of the best players in the country, but also part of some injuries. You guys are here and it's time to go right away.

ISD: Thoughts on graduate transfer (defensive lineman) Chris Smith?

Marcus Freeman: He's a big man. He's a massive human being. He doesn't talk much, but he's used to the academic rigor. He's used to being a college football player. I don't hear a lot, but I just see a lot of working and that's really good to see.

ISD: In the spring, you mentioned as a staff you were challenging Tyler Buchner to grow as a leader. What have you seen between then and now?

Marcus Freeman: He's continuing to grow as a leader and staying within who Tyler Buchner is. We don't want fake leaders and that's what we can't have. We look for guys that can hold others accountable, hold people to the standards we have, but also still be authentic to who they are.

That's what he's done. I've seen him grow. He's been very authentic. Just growing. He's growing and maturing in his role. That's what you love to see.

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