Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2021 Issue*

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

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22 MAY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI Y ou can't spell Freeman without free. That is one of the mandates for the 2021 Notre Dame de- fense under first-year defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Marcus Freeman. Football paralysis by over-analysis is anathema to an individual who was one of the most in-demand coordinators in the coun- try last year after a highly successful stint at the University of Cincinnati the past three seasons in which he helped a 31-6 run by the Bearcats. Per rising senior linebackers Bo Bauer and Paul Moala regarding their initial meetings with Freeman, a premium is placed on playing with the Three Fs: free, fast and fun — and, from a phonetical and allitera- tion standpoint, physical. "Defensive-wise, it's not too hard to get down," said Moala, a rover who is limited this spring while recovering from an Achilles tear suffered in the Florida State game Oct. 10 but has been "fabulous" in his rehab, accord- ing to head coach Brian Kelly. "He doesn't want us thinking out on the field, he just wants us playing smart." "He's more of a loose, free guy. … It didn't seem like such a tense atmo- sphere," Bauer added. Caution and context must always be included with such statements. One might also interpret being "loose and free" as undisciplined and not structured, whereas 2018-20 Fighting Irish coordinator Clark Lea was the embodiment of meticulous prepara- tion and assignment consciousness. Now the first-year head coach at Vanderbilt, Lea was one of the two or three most renowned Notre Dame as- sistants since the turn of the century during a 33-5 run in his three sea- sons as coordinator. Not only did the Fighting Irish advance to the College Football Playoff in two of those three seasons, but for the first time since 1969-71 they finished among the top 15 nationally in scoring defense three consecutive seasons. Freeman himself stated that one would have to be a "crazy person" to change too much from what has been so successful. At the same time, he also can't fake being someone he is not, so there is a balancing act. Where Freeman is similar to Lea is taking the holistic approach with the student-athletes. Freeman, who helped Cincinnati compile a 31-6 record the past three years, wants the Fighting Irish to play free, fast and physical, and have fun. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS FREE FOR ALL New coordinator Marcus Freeman is instilling his own personality into the defense

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