Let’s take you back about a month ago to Tuesday, November 28th and Coach Marcus Freeman (CMF) and Notre Dame saying goodbye to Chansi Stuckey. It was a surprise move coming shortly after CMF had stated that he hoped to keep his staff in place for the next season. And if you had polled ND fans at that time, it would have been Gerad Parker leaving which is what most would have expected as the season came to a close (more on that move later).
Around the same time as the Stuckey move, WR Chris Tyree entered the portal as a graduate transfer (btw best of luck to Chris, he is a graduate of Notre Dame and gave nothing but his ALL to ND and I am wishing him all the best moving forward), WR Braylon James decided to transfer from ND following his first fall on the team and WR Tobias Merriweather decided to leave ND after two seasons. Lastly, there were rumblings that freshman WR Rico Flores was going to enter the portal after a stellar first year as a pass catcher. Definitely if the news on the three other WRs stung, this news on Flores hurt the most as Rico had a great freshman season, he seemed to really like the University and the arrow was pointing up around his future at ND. In the end, Flores decided to enter the portal making it four WRs that would be leaving the Irish following this past season.
Things seemed to be in a dire situation for the Irish. Notre Dame message boards were talking about the dumpster fire that was the ND football team, fans were questioning the future of ND football, and many folks were questioning if Marcus Freeman could figure this all out / if he was in over his head.
And what was Marcus Freeman’s reaction to all this?
“Hold my coffee...”
Coach Marcus Freeman’s and the job he has done:
Listen folks, I will be the first to acknowledge that Coach Marcus Freeman has had some growing pains in the first two years when it comes to on field performance of our Fighting Irish. No need to litigate that here, we all know many fans’ utterances when it comes to their thoughts on CMF and what has transpired on the field over the last couple of years. I get it, I am not here to argue that.
So let’s set that aside for right now because so much of being the head football coach in college football these days is what you are doing in the offseason and how you are getting your program in the right position to compete when the games get underway in the fall.
That being the case, with what has transpired since the Stuckey firing and the players that have entered the transfer portal, it has been nothing but BRILLIANCE from CMF. Even the casual fan has to give CMF credit for the job he has done and what he continues to do as the leader of the Notre Dame football program.
And I am ALL FOR IT as CMF continues to show everyone that he is absolutely the best person to be the head coach of our Fighting Irish, and that the future is extremely bright for Notre Dame football.
Let’s analyze it:
Following up to the “dire” news around Stuckey and our WR room being depleted, here is what Coach Marcus Freeman has accomplished in a few short weeks:
Dec 4th: Jordan Clark from ASU commits to Notre Dame, bringing in a veteran to take over the nickel back role that Thomas Harper occupied this year.
Dec 5th: Kris Mitchell, highly regarded WR from FIU, commits to Notre Dame from the portal. Instant speed and a ton of production is added to the roster.
Dec 10th: Beaux Collins, accomplished WR from Clemson, commits to Notre Dame bringing size and athleticism from the portal.
Dec 10th: Mike Brown is named the new WR coach at Notre Dame, coming over from Wisconsin: “I was in a great place; I had a great job. There was probably one person in the entire country that could have picked up the phone and called me and I would have been the least bit interested in, and that’s Coach Freeman.”
Dec 11th: DT Howard Cross announces his return to ND for another season, giving the Irish a sure fire captain and one of the best players in all of college football at his position for the 2024 season.
Dec 12th: QB Riley Leonard commits to Notre Dame and the Irish have their leader for next year, giving the offense a true run pass option on every single play next season (I am a big fan of Leonard and think he will be lights out next year).
Dec 13th: Jack Kiser announces his return for one more year, giving ND another captain and a stalwart at LB who can not only play a variety of positions, but also mentor the younger guys (Bowen, Ausberry, Sneed, Zinter, KVA, etc.).
Dec 13th: RJ Oben commits to Notre Dame from Duke, brining a veteran presence and instant replacement for JJB. It’s a big time transfer pickup for ND at a position of need and one that brings even more stability to our Dline.
Dec 14th: Rylie Mills announces he will be coming back for one more run, thus giving ND one of the best interior defensive lines in the whole country. Having Mills and Cross back is beyond HUGE for 2024.
Dec 14th: Kicker Mitch Jeter commits to ND, coming from South Carolina where he was 23-25 on his FGs with his only two misses coming from over 50 yards.
Dec 18th: In a surprise move, Gerad Parker announces he is leaving Notre Dame to become the new head coach at Troy. And while most of us did not see this coming, there is exuberance around this move as CMF gets another chance to bring in his top choice as offensive coordinator to lead the team in 2024. We all know the downfalls that came with Parker (and Hartman) in 2023 and the ability to make an upgrade for the upcoming season is there for the taking (more on this here below).
Dec 19th: Loren Landow is hired by Notre Dame as the new Director of Football Performance. It’s an out of the box hire, but one that looks like it will focus on maximizing not only the team’s performance, but tailoring a strength program to each individual’s potential.
Dec 20th: Notre Dame signs a generally regarded top 10 national recruiting class with ZERO drama on signing day. No decommits, no surprise changes, and to read more on things, here is Josh’s write up from the day: 2024 National Signing Day: Notre Dame Football Commitment and NLI Tracker. It’s a class that has a ton of talent and the Irish are getting reinforcements across all their different positions and areas of need.
Dec 22nd: While not officially official until Notre Dame announces it, word gets out that CMF got his man as Mike Denbrock is coming back to ND for this third tour as a coach, this time as the Notre Dame offensive coordinator. It is a HOME RUN hire with CMF getting his absolute first choice (they worked together at Cincy) with Denbrock coming to the Irish having just led the #1 ranked offense in the country and having coached the Heisman Trophy winner. After all that happened last year with the Andy Ludwig situation, this was a complete and total win for CMF and Notre Dame. Five days after Parker announced he was heading to Troy, ND had their guy locked up and it cannot be overstated enough how much Denbrock brings to Notre Dame. His veteran presence will be apparent across all aspects from recruiting, to game prep, to game plan installation, to tight end development, to play calling, to in game adjustments, etc. This was a MASSIVE get for ND and I could not be more excited around Mike Denbrock being back with the Irish. And taking him away from Brian Kelly? CHEF’S KISS level of awesomeness.
In Coach Marcus Freeman we trust:
The first three days of December were dire for a lot of Notre Dame football fans. It was a tough go, many were questioning so much around ND and what was going on inside the program. But if those days have taught us anything, it is that while lows felt low, the highs can be even higher.....and let’s give credit where credit is due as Coach Marcus Freeman has OWNED December. He has systematically made Notre Dame football better in the span of three weeks and he continues to show that he is in charge and that he is willing to do everything possible to make Notre Dame football better, all while continuing to uphold the values and academic standards that Notre Dame strives to live by.
Certainly the administration deserves credit too, but I don’t think they would be doing this if they did not have a coach who is as committed as CMF is. And that needs to be said.
Now there is still a game to be played on December 29th and Marcus Freeman will be judged heavily by the outcome of that game, but in the background, where Notre Dame is being built for 2024 and beyond, CMF is showing that he will put in the work, that he wants to be the best and that he is up for the job.
So let’s all put a little more faith in Marcus Freeman, he is absolutely the right coach for Notre Dame and I for one cannot wait to see what the future holds for our Irish. It is looking really bright as led by CMF.
Oh, and a last note to Tobias, Braylon and Rico....any desire to play for the offensive coordinator that just led the #1 offense in all of college football? And get a world class education and degree? Actually, nah, WE GOOD, we got all the players who want to be at Notre Dame and who want to play for our school and head coach. We’re cool.