The Journal Gazette
Thursday, December 02, 2021 1:00 am

Irish staying in house for coach

Reports: Notre Dame to promote Freeman

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman will be elevated to head coach, according to multiple reports Wednesday night. 

The decision, which has not been formally announced, comes barely 48 hours after former coach Brian Kelly departed Notre Dame to take the head coaching job at LSU. Kelly reportedly offered to make Freeman the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the country on his staff with the Tigers.

“Since he's come in here, it feels like we've known him for years,” All-American Irish safety Kyle Hamilton said in supporting Freeman's candidacy for the position. “He's always even-keel. He's the same guy every single day. I think he's a great leader. He knows when to get on you, when to cheer you up. He has a great sense of how we're feeling, and he's a realist in the way he talks to us.”

Notre Dame also announced Wednesday that offensive coordinator Tommy Rees will remain with the Irish. Rees was reportedly offered a $400,000 raise to join Kelly at LSU. It is unclear whether Notre Dame matched the offer.

Notre Dame defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston also announced he will remain with the Irish. He would be a candidate to call defensive plays assuming Freeman is elevated to head coach.

Freeman, 35, is in his first season as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator.

He previously was the coordinator at Purdue and then Cincinnati, the latter from 2017 to 2020. He spurned an offer to be the LSU defensive coordinator from then-Tigers coach Ed Orgeron in January.

Notre Dame's defense has significantly improved in the latter portion of the season. After giving up four 60-yard plays in their first two games, the Irish did not surrender a touchdown for a 31/2-game stretch in November and are just one sack shy of the Notre Dame record.

At Cincinnati, Freeman molded a defense that led the Bearcats to a 9-1 mark and a top-10 ranking in 2020, when he was named defensive coordinator of the year in college football by .

A number of prominent alumni, players and recruits publicly promoted Freeman's candidacy for the job.

Among them were Hamilton, Foskey, former Butkus Award-winning linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, former two-time captain and Carroll graduate Drue Tranquill and top class of 2023 recruit Drayk Bowen of Merrillville.

Freeman was the lead recruiter on most of the defensive commitments in Notre Dame's 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes.

The Irish released a video of Rees, 29, addressing the team to announce his decision to remain with Notre Dame, where he played quarterback and where he has spent the last five years on staff, first as the quarterbacks coach, then as the offensive coordinator starting in 2020.

“It's on Twitter, but I'm f---- staying,” Rees said. “I wanted to tell you that in person. I love you guys, I love this place. I believe we can win a national championship here.”

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