Who is Marcus Freeman? What to know about Notre Dame’s reported new head coach



Here come the Irish — this time, with Marcus Freeman.

After Brian Kelly’s surprising and abrupt departure from Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish braintrust didn’t waste much time trying to find the next head coach. It was easy, considering he was already in the building.

Reports indicate defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is set to become the next head coach at ND after spending just a year as the team’s defensive coordinator. Freeman’s meteoric rise through the ranks is warranted: As defensive coordinator, Freeman’s Cincinnati defenses were among the best scoring Ds in the nation, a trend that followed him to Notre Dame.

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Perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing, Freeman rehashed Kelly’s pitch to get him to join Notre Dame and spurn LSU in July:

Here’s what you need to know about Freeman:

Who is Marcus Freeman?

Freeman, 35, is a former linebacker who spent time at Ohio State between 2004 and 2008. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Bears, but wouldn’t see a regular-season snap with the team. He would retire in 2010 with a heart issue.

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Following his retirement from on-field play, Freeman returned to Ohio State as a graduate assistant, before taking a linebackers coach job at Kent State. After spending two seasons, he made a stop at Purdue (2013-16), where he was linebackers coach, and later, co-defensive coordinator.

Freeman was eventually landed in Cincinnati underneath head coach Luke Fickell in 2017 as the Bearcats defensive coordinator. Freeman instantly molded the Bearcats defense into a powerhouse, jumping from outside of the top-50 to a top-15 defensive program in the nation. After being ranked 100th in the country in 2017 in points allowed (33.5 per game), the Bearcats jumped to No. 8 in the nation in 2018 (18.1), 18th in 2019 (20.6) and seventh in 2020 (16.4 points per game allowed).

A hot coaching candidate byJanuary 2021, Freeman was hired by Kelly as the team’s defensive coordinator. Coincidentally, Freeman indicated he was actually leaning to join LSU to be the Tigers defensive coordinator before accepting the Notre Dame job.

“The work Marcus has done elevating the programs he has been a part of speaks for itself, but equally as important is the exceptional work he has done in building relationships with his staff and players,” former head coach Kelly said at the time of Freeman’s hiring.

BENDER: ND picks a players’ coach, and it feels right

Freeman’s impact was immediately felt in South Bend in 2021, with Notre Dame’s defense allowing just 18.3 points per game, tied for 12th in the nation with Minnesota.

Along with the defensive prowess of Freeman-led units, he’s also fostered a reputation of being a top-flight communicator and recruiter.


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