Notre Dame Football head coach Marcus Freeman checked back in with journalists Thursday coming off the 48-20 victory against the USC Trojans and the following bye week before they take on the Pittsburgh Panthers. The coach talked flexibility, snapping back after the bye and sign-stealing.
On the coachability and flow of the running backs room, Freeman said, “I think it starts, it always starts with trust and the connection that coach (Deland) McCullough must have with the guys in the room that they trust that the decisions we make as a coaching staff and he makes as a running backs coach. It’s in the best interest of Notre Dame, but also with his players. So, it starts with that and I always believe the foundation of any strong room starts with trust. But two, it’s to me, a credit to the unselfishness of those guys. You have a lot of talented running backs that continue to develop. The skill set is continuing to develop, but they’re unselfish and they’re willing to, whoever’s in the game, that’s what’s best for our team and they take advantage of their opportunities and, maybe don’t count every rep, right? ‘Make your reps count, but don’t count every rep.’ So, I’m really pleased with that room and, and I’m really pleased with development, Audric, (Estime) the development of him over these past three years, you know, then you got Jeremiyah Love and Jadarian Price and, and, and really where they started from, to where they’re at now is a credit to coach McCullough and his development, the trust, but also the unselfishness, of those guys.”
On the signs he’s needed to see among his team following the USC win and coming off the bye week, Freeman said, “As you look back to last week, we wanted to, one, get better, but also, two, make sure our guys are fresh and they come back from this bye week, mentally and physically, ready to roll. So, the challenge for me was when they get back, we had to create some friction, we had to make it difficult or we would practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which isn’t typical; on Mondays. We usually do a walkthrough, but we practice on Monday and we got after them on Tuesday and Wednesday, but we had some really good practices; we weren’t perfect. All right? We wanted to create though, that friction that it really takes to grow, right? And we had to grow as a team this week. And so I challenged our coaches, I challenged myself and I challenged our players that we have to do good-on-good. We have to do some challenging situations and so I was really pleased. I just told the staff of really how these three practices went, and where we’re at right now as we head into Thursday and Friday is now you’ve got to just continue to smooth out the details to get ready to go on Saturday.”
On the state of Irish signs considering the Michigan Wolverines’ situation, Freeman said, “We do it every, I would say couple of times a year and the reality is, is that you have to not only change your signals but also mix up who’s live and who’s not. And so, I feel like we’ve done a good job and that goes back to my time as a coordinator. I started when I first became a coordinator here at Notre Dame as the defensive coordinator. I was doing signals, right? And I did that at Cincinnati. And then when I got here, you realize how often you’re on TV. You have to change up who’s signaling who’s live and, and have a good system. And so, we do a lot of, really a self-scouting in terms of how often somebody’s live. ‘What signals are we using? Do we have multiple signals to, to give the same, call to the offensive defense?’ So, it changes often, but there’s also change, not only in your signals but who’s live and what they’re signaling.”
Freeman expanded upon the threat of sign-stealing and said, “We assume every opponent we go against studies our signals. We have an idea of what our signals are. And so, there’s been games over my career that I felt like the opposing team has maybe had our signals and we’re calling things out. So you have to go to the sideline and adjust, but what you can’t do is confuse your players and that’s always the double-edged sword. We want to make sure we’re not just telling an opponent what we’re doing, but we also want to make sure our guys have clear in what they’re doing. So, yes, change signals within a game. if we felt like a team had our signals, but two, we have to be really cautious on making sure our players are very clear on, who’s live and what the signals are because I’ve seen that too is that somebody gets confused on who’s the live signaler, and, he doesn’t get the right signal and that can be catastrophic to the team.”
On the benefit of having quarterback Sam Hartman on the roster, particularly to Kenny Minchey and Steve Angeli, Freeman said, “I think the most important thing they’ve benefited is the preparation, how they prepare throughout the week outside of the time, that’s permitted through the NCAA rules, right? The four hours we get with them a day, it’s the preparation in terms of watching film, a routine, a pre-practice routine, a post practice routine. That’s the biggest addition they’ve received from Sam Hartman and, and they all do it right? They’re always together, they’re always watching a film together. They’re always going through the routine together. And so that to me has been the biggest benefit.”
On the addition of the next Irish quarterback and the possibility of looking to the portal, Freeman said, “...we’ll make final probably decisions here as we get into the next bye week. But I am again, I’m really pleased with the growth, and confident with the growth and the performance of Kenny and Steve Angeli.”
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