Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2021

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 32 of 67 PRESEASON 2021 33 BY TODD D. BURLAGE S enior Houston Griffith might be the perfect illustration to the depth of impact that new Notre Dame defensive coor- dinator Marcus Freeman is already making on the program. Griffith, a richly talented but un- derachieving safety to this point in his career, decided to transfer on Jan. 4, shortly after completion of the 2020 season. Four days later, Freeman was hired. Two weeks after that — upon Freeman's aggressive re-recruitment of the highest-ranked player (No. 43 overall) in the 2018 class — Griffith changed course and withdrew his name from the transfer portal. "It's exciting," said Griffith, who through fall camp was working as the starting Irish safety opposite All-American Kyle Hamilton. "The whole winter I was just trying to push myself. The whole transfer por- tal thing, that's in the past. "I'm here and I came back for busi- ness. It's a business year, and I'm trying to go out, ball out and show all my talent." Freeman's second order of busi- ness — alongside implementing the principles of his defense — was to recruit, and recruit hard. Check. The coach had a heavy hand in welcoming nine four-star defen- sive recruits in a 2022 class that was ranked No. 1 in the country by Rivals as of Aug. 16. Up next for Freeman is having his defense fully installed and under- stood when the season opens Sept. 5 at Florida State — and not to fix what ain't broken. During the last three years when Clark Lea was the defensive coordina- tor, Notre Dame went to the College Football Playoff twice and steadily improved its recruiting and on-field performance. Lea left the Irish to be- come head coach at Vanderbilt. "I'm the new guy," said Freeman, who last season helped Cincinnati to a 9-1 finish. "Those [defensive coordi- nators] before me, these players, have built this place to the giant it is now. "I'm here to uphold that and hope to exceed those expectations." FRESHEN THINGS UP "Relentless" and "attacking" are the two buzzwords most used to describe Freeman's defensive phi- losophy and style. "Simplistic" is another. Freeman isn't one to out-think the room and try to build an elite defense around confusing schematics in the way failed Irish defensive coordina- tor Brian VanGorder did in his 30 games from 2014-16. BUILDING ON SUCCESS First-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is tasked with improving, not fixing, an already solid unit Freeman said, "We have our standard of defense. No. 1 is challenging everything. We're going to be an aggressive group." PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason 2021