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Notre Dame Football

Marcus Freeman Notebook | Blue-Gold Game

April 22, 2023

Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman spoke following Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game. 

On the spring game: 
”It was good just to get out there, obviously, in weather we haven't been in and to still see some really good things on both sides of the ball. That's ultimately what matters and you try to make it competitive. You try to make it winner-loser and see how they respond in an environment like that. But, obviously, there were some restrictions I had on the defense and it's really good to see.

“I saw a lot of positives on both sides of the ball. Making a field goal, special teams, even saw a positive there and it was good work. It looks like for the most part, everybody was pretty healthy and that's what you want to do. As I told this group, you look at 15 practices and the progression we've made, it's tremendous.

“They've got to finish up here with finals and get a couple of weeks off, and they get back here in June and it's time to go because we play week zero. It's going to be here before we know it. And so, I'm really, overall picture, just from the spring, I'm really pleased with the progression of this football team.” 

On if QB Sam Hartman was as good this spring as he was on Saturday:
”His practice one to today has been tremendously different. But that's what it's all about is the progression is getting him better and improving. That's what you see. He's consistently improved, gotten better and better. I don't know what the stats will say, and even with Tyler (Buchner), we didn't protect that well on that side of the ball with the blue team. We had some dropped balls. And I told him I got to take responsibility for the pick because on third down, I went in there and I was trying to help, I was like, 'It's cover two. It's cover two.’ And it ended up not being cover two.

“So I said I'll take responsibility for the pick. He's like, 'Yeah, you owe me one' I said, 'Yeah, I'll take responsibility. I'll tell the media. Don't worry about it. I got this one.' So yeah, that was on me.

“But listen. Both of those guys have done extremely well. But it's good to see Sam play well in his first real game-like experience at Notre Dame Stadium. Right? I know we had a scrimmage last week but to have fans here in this atmosphere that we had, and probably got to shout out the fans. I mean, it was a really good atmosphere for the weather conditions. And we appreciate all support that our fans showed today.” 

On the QB competition and if Hartman has pulled ahead: 
”No, I think we still have a quarterback battle. You can't determine a winner or a loser based off one practice, practice 15. Again, you can't base a decision off of what we view is a certain outcome. There's a lot that goes into it.

“There's a lot that goes into a quarterback battle, but obviously the quarterback play. I know just being out there, we've got to go back and watch the film. We're not blocking the end, there's some protection issues, we're dropping balls.

“We've got to go and look were the routes exactly precise. I'm always going to defend the quarterbacks because, as I've always said, that position is most like the head coach. They get praise and criticism. Everybody's going to praise Sam for how we played today, they're going to criticize Tyler. They both probably played pretty well.

“We have to look at the film. I know the stats might not say it. But listen, both of them are tremendously talented. We'll go back and evaluate all 15 practices and continue to look at it as we move forward.” 

On if Hartman’s performance was what he expected when recruiting him: 
”Yeah. I don't want to downplay the performance Sam Hartman put on either. I just want to make sure that we look at this in a real lens. Man, he played well today. He played really well, and it's really good to see. As the head coach of this football team, I'm like, 'Yeah, that's what you want to see.' You want to see some production from the offense.

“But yeah, that's what I expected. When we went out to look for a transfer portal quarterback, you don't look for the second, third, fourth. You look for the best player in the country that would fit in your locker room. Sam Hartman showed today why he was extremely successful at Wake Forest and I think will be extremely, extremely successful here.” 

On WR Jaden Greathouse 
”I didn't even know - 11 for 118 is a pretty good stat line. He stuck out. He played well. He played really well. All three of those freshmen are going to help us. All three of those freshmen will play for us this year. I'm really confident that three those three guys will help this football team.

“It's good to see Jaden step up today. Like I said, when the lights are on, you want to see who will step up and make plays and all three of them have been really, really good additions to our program throughout the spring. That wasn't just a one-time performance. All three of those guys have shown to be productive throughout spring.” 

On this spring vs. last spring: 
”Man, I can't even think back to last spring. Hopefully improved. I think you look at defensively, second year in the same system, same scheme, same coaches. A lot of the same players. They're at a different level than they were last year.

“Last year, they were still trying to figure it out, you know, figure out what this Al Golden scheme is and how to implement and how to run it. Offensively, you've just seen a great progression from us naming Gerad Parker to the new additions to the coaching staff to Sam Hartman, some other guys.

“The progression that I'm most pleased with the offense, the progression from one to 15. With the defense, the ability to come out at practice one and play at a high level and be consistent throughout spring. And that's kind of how it's been. One group's doing this, one group's just been practicing at a high level for 15 practices.

“I think we're at a better place. I am, personally, as a head coach and what I've most realized more than anything is that we have to consistently get better. How do you feel about going into the fall? Good. We better get better. We better get better and make sure that we're ready to play to our full potential week one, or week zero as you want to call it.” 

On who else stood out today outside of Hartman and Greathouse: 
”Man, I was trying to coach up the defense a little bit on the headset. I'm trying to think if anybody stood out. Not putting the ball on the ground, that was a positive. I think Audric (Estime) played well. I know we didn't want to give them the ball too many times, to be smart. I really can't evaluate the offensive line just from being where I was standing.

“JD Bertrand is always going to be consistent. I'm just trying to think who else, you know. It's hard without watching film and say who stood out.” 

On the depth of the linebacker unit:
”Yeah, I was really pleased. Kyle Hamilton asked me down the field, like, 'Which group has stuck out to you today?' And I said the linebackers because we know what JD Bertrand and Marist Liufau can do. Right? And they didn't play much this game.

“We kind of got them out of here. Jack Kiser was out. But to see the production of the Nolan Ziegler's, of the Jaylen Sneed's, even those three freshmen all step up and make plays. That's a deep position. And I'm extremely excited to see how that depth was going to help us as we move into the fall.”

On the spring game format: 
”As far as the format of the Blue-Gold Game, there's still an element of you know it's televised nationally. Every year, you're going to do some things differently schematically and there's a part of that where you want to do keep that in-house.

“You want to keep that in-house and not just show everything you're going to do. I want to see success on both sides of the ball. But we know that the jersey scrimmage is really for that. Jersey scrimmage is for game planning. That's put your best out on the field. Whereas the spring game is I want to get everybody a chance to play.

“Not everybody gets a chance to play a Notre Dame Stadium or will ever get the opportunity to play in a meaningful game. It's a great opportunity to give the guys that you're counting on a chance to go out there and compete for a little bit, but also give the guys that might not ever step on that field in a meaningful game an opportunity to go out there and play in a real Notre Dame uniform in a spring game.

“And so, I wouldn't change it. I like it. I like it. I like what it provides for your team. I like what it provides for recruiting and what it would provide for your fans.” 

On potentially playing an opponent instead of the normal spring game: 
”Would I like to play another opponent? Absolutely. Absolutely. The chance to play another team. It would still be similar to a spring game. You're not going to show everything, and you're not going to want to get the guys you're counting on that have experienced injured.

“You're still probably going to hold back a couple guys. But I think to play another opponent would be pretty cool. Logistics on that, that's for Ron Powlus and Jack Swarbrick to figure it out. But it would be different, but it's no different than almost like an NFL preseason game.” 

On Lorenzo Styles leaving the program:
”He just came and said he's going to enter the transfer portal, and you wish him all the best. The only thing I told him and his father was just I hate losing out on opportunity to get a Notre Dame degree. That's the thing is that we all have our players chase this NFL dream and chase this dream of starting, and playing a lot of football, and major college football, and that can be achieved.

“But the degree from Notre Dame is truly something special. And I want that for every one of my players because I believe an education from Notre Dame and a degree from Notre Dame will take care of you the rest of your life. And that's what I wish for all of our kids that come through this program. But we love Zo. I love Zo. And I wish him all the best.” 

On punter Bryce McFerson:
”Yeah, he's got a strong leg. Really strong leg. And he's done some really good things throughout spring. And it's been impressive. And so, last year, he went through a couple of injuries. I think it was a groin or hip.

But this year, he's been healthy and he's been booting the heck out of the ball. And so, I really look forward to seeing the weapon that he provides our team in terms of the position.” 

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