Finally, slightly, Marcus Freeman exhaled.
As Notre Dame’s first head coach, 36, took to the podium Wednesday afternoon in the media room hidden under Notre Dame Stadium, Freeman finally had a full coaching staff.
He had simply had to wait for the Cincinnati Bengals’ run to end – ending just short of a Lombardi Trophy in Sunday’s Super Bowl XVI – and also had to fend off suitors for the two new recruits – running backs coach Deland McCullough – and the crucial remains – offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.
Freeman gave an overview of this process.
“Ultimately the selling point is (ask): ‘Do you want to be at Notre Dame? Do you believe in what Notre Dame can do for your future?'” Freeman said of his approach in these situations. “We’re not trying to match (wages), we’re not trying to do anything, we’re trying to say, ‘Hey, here’s the job, do you think that’s the thing? better for your career?
Although he didn’t specifically say Miami, Freeman acknowledged an intense chase over the past two weeks for Rees’ offensive calling services, as well as an opportunity for McCullough to return to the NFL.
“I had to fight guys for our offensive coordinator,” Freeman said. “Obviously I know that’s where there were a lot of teams and a certain team that wanted him a few weeks ago. Ultimately my conversation with Tommy Rees is, ‘Do you want be here man? Is this where you want to be and do you see yourself achieving your ultimate goals from Notre Dame?”
“Obviously we were able to fight with a lot of people to get him. [to remain at Notre Dame]. Same with Deland McCullough and same with Al Golden. When you’re at Notre Dame, people want your guys. That’s part of it.
Although Freeman retained McCullough and Rees, he stressed a desire to see coaches in his Fighting Irish program have future opportunities to develop their careers.
“When you’re successful, people want to be on that staff, and so ultimately my job is to keep improving as I progress,” he said. “Notre Dame head coach, it doesn’t get better than this. But I think we have a team full of people who have goals and aspirations and my job as head coach is to try to keep doing what’s best for our players here, but also to help these coaches and individuals achieve their ultimate goal.”
RECRUIT RECRUIT RECRUIT
Freeman, once again, took on the task of recruiting to be a key cog in the Irish machine.
Likewise, he underscored the need for the entire Notre Dame coaching staff to accept the demands of recruiting to the prestigious private Catholic institution while challenging national college football powers – among them Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State – for the nation’s top recruits.
Freeman shared what, for him, constitutes a good recruiter – regardless of age.
“It starts with the work ethic,” he said. “I think it takes a hard worker to be a relentless scout. There are times when we as coaches don’t feel like having that conversation with a kid. But you have to. It’s about putting in the effort, making the phone call and making sure that you develop a relationship with the child, with the parents, with the coaches and anyone who has an impact on that child which makes a very good recruiter.
“Someone who’s willing to work at it and is very intentional about the relationship they’re trying to build with that person.”
Additionally, while those relationships are the foundation, Freeman also knows that coaches need to know what they see on film in prospects and what they envision for their respective position groups.
“It’s also the assessment; it’s the ability to assess,” Freeman said. “We can all look at the different ratings and websites and say, okay, we’re going to recruit X, Y, and Z because they have offers, they have high ratings, but to really assess and determine whether this kid has talent -wise the best player for this program, then develop the relationship and see if he’s the right fit for Notre Dame Not all kids are.
“To me, that’s what we look for in relentless recruiters.”