The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 08, 2021 6:50 pm

Irish hire new defensive coordinator, Cincinnati's Mike Freeman

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame has its replacement for departed defensive coordinator Clark Lea.

Just a week after Lea officially departed to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, the Irish announced that they had hired former Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to lead the next era of the Notre Dame defense. Freeman will also coach the linebackers.

“As we looked into finding someone to run our defense, it was important to find the right fit for our program and Marcus and his family are just that,” coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “He has had great success on the field, both running a defense and in his direct work with his linebackers. Additionally, he is considered among the elite recruiters in the coaching ranks.

“The work Marcus has done elevating the programs he has been a part of speaks for itself, but equally as important is the exceptional work he has done in building relationships with his staff and players. Marcus was our top choice to become our next defensive coordinator, and we are pleased he and his family will be joining us at Notre Dame.”

Freeman, 34, led a Cincinnati unit that finished 13th in the country in total defense and eighth in scoring defense during a 9-1 2020 campaign. The Huber Heights, Ohio, native played college football at Ohio State and served as a graduate assistant with the Buckeyes. He had a stint at Kent State and then spent three years at Purdue, including the 2016 season as the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. He has been with Cincinnati since 2017.

Notre Dame has hired a coach from Luke Fickell's staff at Cincinnati in two straight offseasons after bringing cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens over from the Bearcats prior to the 2020 season.

Freeman was arguably the top defensive coordinator candidate on the market and just this afternoon there was reporting that he would be taking the same position at LSU. Notre Dame must have done some last-minute wrangling, or maybe just made the wunderkind an offer he couldn't refuse.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily