Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman met with journalists Thursday as the team prepares to take on the Central Michigan University Chippewas. The coach dropped names, talked about the importance of vocal leadership and more.
As JD Bertrand remains in concussion protocol, Freeman said regarding the captain’s status, “He’ll be out.” On the evolution of Davis Sherwood, Freeman said, “To think back all the way to when he was in high school and we recruited him as a preferred walk-on linebacker and he had special teams value the minute he walked through the door and that’s why we put him on scholarship because of the value he brought to our program and special teams and then we moved him to tight end out of necessity last year. He’s a guy that just continues to work and thrive and improve. To see him get a little bit of a reward for that hard work last week and to be able to score a touchdown was great. We’re gonna need him to continue to be a part of our offense but he also is a huge part of our special teams unit and has done a really great job.”
On Jason Onye’s role and Coach Gerad Parker’s collaborative approach to offense, Freeman said, “You look at our punt system; let’s start with that, and two of those three shields are defensive players with Onye and Junior. We were looking for bigger bodies that have some athleticism in this new system under Coach Biagi and they’ve done a really good job at owning that and really excelling at it in practice and in the games. As far as the collaborative effort on offense, leadership… there’s so many different ways to lead. I would say Coach Parker’s similar to me in terms of leading as a collaborative effort of amongst the staff. I do it as a head coach, Coach Parker does it as the offensive coordinator, I did it similar as the defensive coordinator. You have to embrace the really tremendous minds that are around you.”
On the impact of associate director for sports nutrition Alexa Appelman, Freeman said, “Alexa’s been a tremendous hire for our program. She was at Ole Miss I think last year and when she came here... the ability for her to one, gain the trust of our players. You can be the most intelligent nutritionist in the world, but if you don’t have the trust of your players, they’re not gonna be able to maximize the results of that. She’s really gained the trust of our players and been able to take some of their feedback to see what each individual needs to reach their full potential as a person.”
Freeman noted the necessity of Drayk Bowen and Jaiden Ausberry considering Bertrand’s injury and said regarding the linebacker situation without Bertrand, “You look at JD Bertrand and when he’s out, yes, you lose a lot of production; he’s a really good football player, but you lose a captain, you lose the leadership, the verbal communication of a competent guy that’s played a lot of snaps and that’s, to me, where I’ve challenged that room, and Jack Kiser’s played a lot of ball, but you gotta be so vocal to get guys lined up. A lot of people call the linebackers the quarterback of the defense. What I’ve challenged those guys to do, not only step up with their play, but the vocal leadership that we need...” Freeman went on to say, “You’ll see, Jack Kiser, he’ll play probably more. Marist Liufau, he has to be more verbal in his communication. Jaylen Sneed will play more. Drayk Bowen will play, and Jaiden Ausberry will be the next guy to go in, too. As a collective group, they have to make up for the production you lose in JD Bertrand, but each individual’s been challenged to be more vocal in their communication amongst the defense.”
Follow me on Twitter.