Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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70 MARCH 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL I n his takeover of Notre Dame's defense, Marcus Freeman is mak- ing himself do the heavy lifting to ease the load for others. Instead of plopping down a play- book with new schemes and different vocabulary in front of Notre Dame's players and holdover assistants, the new defensive coordinator plans to observe what they know and force himself to learn it. He will gather what his roster does best and form his defensive structure around that. If his four years at Cincinnati are any indication, it's best not to write anything in Sharpie. The last one and a half seasons were primarily a 3-3-5 alignment. The 2017 and 2018 cam- paigns featured a lot of 4-3 and 4-2-5. "It's going to be our scheme," Free- man said in his first media availabil- ity. "I'm big on, 'Let's get the best players we can find.' "I've never said, 'You have to fit this position.' What are his positive traits; what does he do well? Let's make sure we tailor our defense around those." The initial base defense Freeman will employ isn't yet known, but he has already said he will keep some of predecessor Clark Lea's nomen- clature. The "rover" linebacker position manned by Jeremiah Owusu-Kora- moah the last two seasons is keeping the same name. The "vyper" defen- sive end spot is retaining its title as well. The "Buck" outside linebacker spot is changing to "Will." Whether their duties change much remains to be seen, but one gathers the title retention means any tweaks won't be significant. "Our alignments might change, the exact technique might change, but there are some similarities in where you're aligned and what you're asked to do," Freeman said. "The Notre Dame defense has been really good for many years. You have to be a crazy person to come in and say we're going to change what you've done to have success to be in the Col- lege Football Playoff two of the past three years. "I want to make sure we give our guys the ability to get lined up, play relentless, play with the effort we de- mand. … I have a chance to coach some of the best players in the coun- try because of how Notre Dame has recruited in the last few years. My job is don't confuse them." Freeman won't see Notre Dame's defensive players in pads until some- time this spring, leaving him to form his initial impressions of their skills off film sessions. Until then, he will remain busy identifying and recruiting players to form his future best 11. Freeman's recruiting acumen at Cincinnati stood out in his consistency securing play- ers with Power Five offers and even a few four-star recruits. He had already Freeman doesn't plan on a massive overhaul of Notre Dame's defense from its 2020 structure. PHOTO COURTESY CINCINNATI ATHLETICS STAYING BUSY Marcus Freeman put himself to work in his first month as defensive coordinator

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