Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman met with journalists Thursday following the team’s turning point victory against the Clemson Tigers and ahead of Notre Dame’s yearly game ahead of the Navy Midshipmen. The coach dropped some names, drew from past coaching experience, and looked forward.
The Punt Return Question
On the status of safety Brandon Joseph following a sprained ankle, “Brandon’s gonna be doubtful, and right now it looks like Matt Salerno, who obviously was our punt returner last year, will return punts for us.”
Audric, Ball Security, Message to Styles After Tough Drop
On responding to running back Audric Estimé’s tough drop in the Clemson game, Freeman said, “As I said in my press conference, the moments right after he dropped the ball and he came on the sidelines, I told him, ‘Hey, one play, one life. The next time you get the opportunity, then catch the ball. We believe in you,’ and there’s been no faith lost in Lorenzo, it’s continuing to work on those things that help you execute at a higher level. Same thing we did with Audric in terms of finding different ways in practice to address some of the ball security issues, same thing with Lorenzo (Styles) and all the wideouts, the ability to continue to attack those different fundamentals that it takes to make sure you’re executing, you’re catching the ball, you have the ball security, and all those different things, so no faith has been lost in Lorenzo Styles. He’s a tremendously hard worker. We just kind of have to tweak that… make sure we’re really intentional with catching the ball.”
Preparing for the Navy Defense
Making the defense comparison between Clemson and Navy, Freeman said, “I would say Navy is more similar to Syracuse’s defense than you would say Clemson in terms of the amount of stunting and movement that they do, and physically, they’re not the same type of football players that Clemson had up front, but they do move around a lot. They’re really aggressive. They’ll attack you and at times, they’ll drop 8, and two different extremes. We have to make sure that we’re controlled in terms of what we’re doing, but at the same time, contact will be made, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re physical at the point of attack, but you cannot be out of control because they move so much.”
Facing the Midshipmen as a Bearcat
On past struggles against Navy as a coach for the Cincinnati Bearcats, Freeman said, “To be exact, we gave up 569 yards rushing versus Navy in 2017 when I was at Cincinnati. That will be a number I’ll never forget, and it was a long day. What I didn’t have that day was answers. It’s a helpless feeling. It’s something that personally, I wanted to make sure to find different answers to how they think offensively, or not just how they think, but how the triple option really works and the different things they’re looking for… I needed answers to say if this isn’t working or they’re having success on this play, what are different ways you can attack it and challenge it? That’s how I’ve grown… Last year… really collaborate with a group of guys… that have played Navy for many years…”
On the injury status of defensive lineman Justin Ademilola and the growth of defensive lineman Nana Osafo-Mensah, Freeman said, “Justin should be good to go. Practiced. He’ll be ready. Nana has really improved the way he practices. Nana’s a talented football player that is practicing at a high level, and in turn, is helping him play at a high level in the games when he’s getting the opportunity, so this will be a big week for Nana. I was just watching back through last year’s game. He played well versus Navy last year, and we’re going to need him to play well this year, but in terms of him in the holistic approach, he has continued to enhance the way he practices, enhances the way he studies the game, enhances his own personal attributes in terms of how he becomes a better football player, and it’s really really showing on Saturdays”
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