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Founder, The Sports Court
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football program is in good hands with Marcus Freeman as head coach.
Freeman, a former linebacker at Ohio State who spent a year in the NFL bouncing around practice squads, helped build the Cincinnati defense as their DC.
That Cincinnati defense made the CFB Playoffs this year while Freeman was in South Bend.
Since Freeman was appointed DC on (date), he has commanded respect from players and other members of the coaching staff.
When Brian Kelly announced he was leaving the program, players were left shocked. The captains took matters into their own hands and made sure that Notre Dame’s AD, Jack Swarbrick, knew that they wanted Marcus Freeman as their next HC.
Swarbrick listened and appointed Freeman as head coach. Freeman, who has helped Notre Dame build two incoming top 5 recruiting classes, was welcomed by a standing ovation to the team when he walked in their locker room as HC for the first time.
Mike Elston, the Defensive Line coach at Notre Dame, talked about this moment, stating, “I was actually somewhere recruiting (laughing). I wasn't even in the locker room. But seeing the video doesn't shock me. He's the same guy every day. The players appreciate that. It was very heart-warming. And he's a great guy, and the players love him, and it showed up on that video.”
The trust that the players put in Freeman to help him get promoted to head coach has paid off, the players are in better shape and having more fun than ever.
Since being appointed head coach, the players have found practices more upbeat.
When asked about the biggest change Freeman has implemented on the Notre Dame program, star tight end Michael Mayer said, “I think number one, it's been the practices. The practices have been more upbeat, more up-tempo, a little bit more against our own defense. For me, I think it's been great. It's got me better in shape. I think the team can agree. It's a little bit more competitive, a little bit more energy on the field, and I think that's something that's been great for this team, and I think it will show this weekend.”
Meanwhile, Freeman himself has learned a lot about himself in his short head coaching tenure so far.
“You come from Cincinnati where we had a lot of success, and you feel like you really had a good spring. You really had a good fall. As you go into the first game versus Florida State, after that game, you're like, "Oh, crap, we're not as good as I thought,” stated Freeman at the Head Coaches press conference. Freeman went on to say, “after week 6, your best player, Kyle Hamilton, goes down. So you have to say, Okay, now how do we fit this scheme around who's the next guy in? This group has just trusted us and this coaching staff. The coaching staff has done a tremendous job in terms of just figuring out what's the best way to teach these guys. What's the best thing that fits these guys? We've worked as a team. The defensive staff has been a team all year. Taking other people's ideas is something that we've done. And just the ability to try and get to this final product that we have, it's been a growing experience.”
Freeman continually emphasized the importance of learning from one another and continuing the momentum.
Freeman and the Fighting Irish will face Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on New Years Day at 11 AM Mountain Time. This will be the first game of the Marcus Freeman era and all Notre Dame fans are rooting for a strong start to an era that has high expectations.
Founder, The Sports Court
Jack Coan is a Notre Dame guy.
Most Notre Dame fans know Jack Coan for being the graduate transfer from Wisconsin who in a rebuilding year has led Notre Dame to the #5 ranking in the country with his stellar play, brute toughness, and leadership abilities.
Little do most Notre Dame fans know is that Jack once was ready to commit to play all four years of his college athletic experience at Notre Dame, but not for football.
Jack Coan was a lacrosse star and committed to Notre Dame for lacrosse and was set on going to South Bend before getting an offer from Wisconsin to play football for them.
Football being his main love, Coan jumped on the opportunity, and the rest is history.
The Sayville, New York, native led the Wisconsin Badgers to a Rose Bowl appearance, losing to Justin Herbert and the Oregon Ducks in a heartbreaking 28-27 game.
The following offseason, Coan was injured and did not play for Wisconsin that season, marking an end to his career with the Badgers.
When Coan announced he was transferring, the first school he thought of going to was Notre Dame. After several schools called, including the Irish, Coan realized that the opportunity to play for his dream school in his dream sport had finally presented himself and he jumped on the opportunity.
“(Notre Dame) means a ton to me. It was always sort of my dream to come play football here at Notre Dame. And, obviously, I was coming here for lacrosse. And then when I was in the transfer portal and Notre Dame came around and offered me to come here, it sort of just felt like it was meant to be,” said Coan about coming to Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl media day.
Coan has started every game for the Irish this season and has thrown for 2,641 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s even won games while playing with a dislocated finger.
The heart and passion that Coan plays with have been a driving force into Notre Dame’s remarkable season.
Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator, Tommy Rees, stated that his only regret with Jack Coan is that, “we didn’t have him for four years.”
Rees, a Notre Dame legend as a player and on his way to becoming one as an OC, has high praise for Coan and believes he will be a successful player in the NFL and will find his way onto a roster next year.
Coan, Rees, & co. will take on Oklahoma State on New Years Day at the Playstation Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.
This will be Coan’s final college football game and his chance to prove himself in front of NFL scouts and add a piece of silverware to his impressive resume.
Founder, The Sports Court
Malcolm Rodriguez walked into Fiesta Bowl media day with a cowboy hat on and full of excitement. Rodriguez, the leader of the team, leads Oklahoma State in tackles and is ready to pounce on Notre Dame and walk away from Glendale with a win and Fiesta Bowl trophy in his final game as a Cowboy.
“I’m just glad they (OSU) took a chance on a small-town kid like me. I’m glad we were able to kind of be in the top ten at the end of the season, and hopefully, we get this W on Saturday,” said Rodriguez about OSU.
Rodriguez is the energetic, full-of-life team leader alongside players such as safety Kolby Harvell-Peel, who is a dynamic, versatile, highly-touted NFL Draft prospect.
Harvell-Peel, who has ten interceptions in his career at OSU, including three this season, withdrew his name from consideration in last year's NFL Draft pool after realizing that he wanted to have another go at it with Oklahoma State.
“After I made the decision it felt like I had a weight taken off my shoulders and I was able to lock in on playing ball at OSU again. I went through this whole season, enjoyed it, and in the end coming back paid off and I was able to have a great season.”
Harvell-Peel is one of the main pieces to OSU’s team that has soared to the 9th overall ranking in the country.
However, the excitement of playing in a New Years 6 game will also come with faes leaving and tons of preparation for Notre Dame’s offense.
Oklahoma State’s former DC, Jim Knowles, recently left the program for the Ohio State Buckeyes, which left OSU’s Mike Gundy with a quick decision on who to appoint as interim DC.
Gundy looked no further than defensive line coach, Joe Bob Clements, who has had plenty of offers to be a DC at many schools around the country.
Clements has a lot of his hands to take care of. Although he knows the team inside and out, he will have to fill in the void that came with Knowles leaving the program.
In addition, Clements will also have to prepare for Notre Dame’s QB carousel. The Fighting Irish have used 3 different QBs this year, all of whom possess different unique attributes.
Jack Coan is a proven winner and pocket passer. Freshman, Tyler Buchner, is labeled as the future of the program and has good size and wheels. Meanwhile, Drew Pyne is a mix of both Coan and Buchner.
Joe Bob Clements talked about the preparation for the game and having to play against possibly 3 QBs, “Well, we've had the fortunate benefit of having a month to prepare. It might have been a little bit more of a headache if we only had a week. But you see some uniqueness with the quarterbacks that they play, but you also see similarities… They’ve got (Coan) who’s played in two different New Years' 6 Bowl games for two different teams, and that’s not a coincidence. They also got 12 (Tyler Buchner), and he’s a dynamic runner but can also throw the ball and make things happen for them.”
Collin Oliver, who leads the team in sacks, also talked about playing against a multitude of QBs, “I'm very excited. It's a new challenge that I can't wait to take on. We obviously have been preparing for the trio of quarterbacks that they have in a good way, in preparing certain calls for certain situations. So I think Joe Bob [Clements] has his stuff down,” Oliver said.
Oklahoma State’s hard-hitting, energetic, and cohesive defensive unit will take the field against Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl on New Years Day and all the players are looking forward to the chance to play against a school with the prestige and talent of Notre Dame.
Although doubts have been presented by many college football fans after the Jim Knowles move, Notre Dame is going through a similar situation and both teams will want to start their new eras off strong.
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All Editorials written by Chris Dailey