Notre Dame hires Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to same role with Fighting Irish

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame

Marcus Freeman has seen his coaching stock soar since taking over the Cincinnati defense in 2017, and that has led him to one of the prime landing spots in all of college football. Notre Dame announced Friday that Freeman, 34, will take over as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach of the Fighting Irish. He will take over for Clark Lea, who recently took over the head coaching position at Vanderbilt. 

“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,” said Notre Dam coach Brian Kelly. “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.”

Freeman’s success at Cincinnati elevated the Bearcats program to national prominence. It ranked fourth nationally in defensive yards per play (4.57) and eighth nationally in scoring defense (16.8 points per game) in 2020. That was the driving force behind a spectacular run that included an undefeated regular season and berth in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl vs. Georgia — the first New Year’s Six bowl appearance for the Bearcats. 

Freeman’s defenses at Cincinnati finished in the top three in the ACC in defensive points per game in each of the last three seasons, and has led the conference in scoring defense for each of the last three seasons. 

“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,” Kelly continued. “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, a former linebacker at Ohio State, has coached with the Buckeyes, Purdue and Kent State since his NFL career ended after the 2009 season.

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