Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2022

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

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18 FEBRUARY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL A s calm as Marcus Freeman looked for nearly four hours on the State Farm Stadium sideline, he popped up on a Zoom screen from a dais ready to fire away. So eager, in fact, that he jumped a couple steps ahead of the press conference moderator. "Obviously disappointed with the outcome of the that game," Freeman said following the Irish's 37-35 Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State in his head coaching debut. He then stopped. A moderator told him the Zoom recording and instructions to reporters on the call had yet to start. It was an outburst of urgency and energy Freeman displayed through- out portions of practice open to media (and the closed ones, too, per his play- ers) since becoming Notre Dame's head coach Dec. 3 but kept below the surface during the game itself. Both are departures from his prede- cessor, Brian Kelly, an animated side- line actor and a more measured practice observer. Freeman is tasked with main- taining what Notre Dame built under Kelly and pushing it just a bit further. It's far from predictable how that quest will go, even after the unnerving debut. One month in, though, it appears he's approaching it with different methods than Kelly. Not better or worse. Kelly's methods clearly worked, after all. But different. Blue & Gold Illustrated kept a watchful eye on Freeman during the practices and the Fiesta Bowl to see how he went about his new job on the field. NEW DUTIES IN PRACTICE Graduate student captains and de- fensive mainstays Kurt Hinish and Drew White received a point-blank reminder their old coordinator had a new job when they saw his usual spot on the bus empty. On road trips, the defensive coordina- tor usually rides on Bus 2 with defensive players. In Arizona, though, Freeman had a new spot: Bus 1. Hinish couldn't pass on the chance to rib him about it. "I FaceTimed him to let him know he was on Bus 1 and let him know that he's changed," Hinish said. In actual practice, though, Freeman begins with the same routine he kept as defensive coordinator: Hop-scotching through the stretching lines to greet ev- ery single player with a hug, handshake or pat on the helmet. It's one of many ways he tries to connect with everyone on the team. Then his new duties call. The team huddles around him after stretching and breaks into the next session. In both Fi- esta Bowl practices open to media, Notre A WATCHFUL EYE Observing Marcus Freeman in action as Notre Dame head coach shows new responsibilities but the same mindset and methods

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