Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman checked in with journalists Thursday following the team’s 58-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers. The coach talked leadership, provided injury updates and more ahead of the team's matchup against the Clemson Tigers.
On Mike Mickens’ responsibilities as the new defensive passing game coordinator, Freeman said, “It’s really a collaborative effort, amongst our defensive... whole coaching staff. It’s a way to give Coach Mickens some ownership in terms of studying some of the pass game and obviously giving Coach (Al) Golden input on the different things that we think could help defensively stop the opponent. I’ll reiterate it’s a collaborative effort. At the end of the day, Coach Golden is responsible for, obviously, the defensive game plan, but I think the way to give guys titles with coach Mickens being a pass game coordinator, Coach, Washington being a run game coordinator, it gives them ownership of, of having input on certain aspects of of an opponent. Right, exactly. Hey, study the past game and be able to come up with different ideas to help coach Golden and same thing with the run game with Coach (Al) Washington”
On the journey and potential of cornerback Christian Gray, Freeman said, “It was a huge step for Christian to play those meaningful reps that obviously more than he’s ever played on Saturday versus Pitt. We’ve believed that he’s been a guy that’s gotten better throughout the course of fall camp and throughout the season, but his reps in the game, until you get those reps against a meaningful opponent, then you don’t really know what they do at all times. And so I guess what we learned from Christian... we believed he was gonna be a good football player when we needed him out there on the field; I guess that was confirmed that Christian Grey, his ceiling is high. I don’t know what it is but it is high.”
On reintegrating tight end Eli Raridon after two knee injuries and Jayden Thomas after a hamstring injury, Freeman said, “I think with a soft tissue injury like Jayden had, it’s more of a physical thing, right? Is that you have to physically build up the reps to callus that body that you can go and play at a high level for an extended amount of time. So that to me is the physical part with Jaden, whereas Eli, I think it’s just continuously building on the details of the passing game, when you’re out for so long with an ACL it takes time to continue to work on the detail. So I think it probably is a little bit more mental than physical with Eli. He’s physically ready to roll. Now. He’s got to get that the confidence that it takes with reps in time to really be able to perform at a high level. I think he’s getting it. He’s obviously got a lot more reps this week with Mitch (Evans) being out. so I’m excited to see the progression of where he performs on Saturday.”
On upping the aggression and taking shots downfield in the game ahead with the defense in mind, Freeman said, “If… you have a defense that isn’t playing at a high level, you have to do things offensively to counteract that you have to do things to, make sure we are playing complementary football and fortunately for us, our defense is playing at an extremely high level, which gives our offense and our team a lot of confidence to be aggressive and take those shots knowing that you’re not gonna hit everyone, but if you happen to struggle on a series offensively that your defense usually will be able to get you the ball back. And so I think it’s really important. It’s a competence for both sides of the ball. You know, that truly plays into the complementary football aspect that we look at.”
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