Marcus Freeman coaching timeline: Notre Dame head coach's rise through the ranks started a Cedar Crest Falcons shirts Ohio State grad assistant
Marcus Freeman has already been the head coach for one game at Notre Dame. But Saturday's matchup against Ohio State feels like his true introduction to the job.
Freeman skipped the "interim" stage when Brian Kelly abruptly left Notre Dame for LSU after the end of the regular season and before the team's bowl game. He was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach and made his debut in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. The Fighting Irish lost 37-35.
On Saturday, Freeman will begin his first season as head coach with a game that couldn't have much higher stakes. The No. 5 Fighting Irish will be taking on the No. 2 Buckeyes in a game with major College Football Playoff implications, particularly for independent Notre Dame.
What's more, Freeman will be coaching against his alma mater, where he got his first coaching job following a one-year NFL career.
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The Sporting News looks at Freeman's coachi FSU vs. Miami Rivalry Gear ng career, which began in Columbus and will enter its latest chapter there:
Seasons coached: 2010
Position: Graduate assistant
After four seasons with the Buckeyes as a linebacker, Freeman was selected in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Bears. He was waived before the start of the season. He spent time with the Bills and the Texans that year, but then retired after the season due to an enlarged heart valve.
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It didn't take long for Freeman to return to Columbus. He was hired by Jim Tressel as a graduate assistant. He was working on his graduate degree in sports management while he was a player at Ohio State, The Associated Press reported, and he learned about the inner workings of t Concordia Golden Bears Jerseys he athletic department as an intern when he was still a student-athlete.
His coaching career at his alma mater did not last long, however. The year after Ohio State went 12-1 with a win in the Sugar Bowl over Arkansas, Freeman followed another Buckeyes assistant coach to his first full-time coaching job, and he got to stay in the Buckeye State.
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Seasons coached: 2011-12
Position: Linebackers coach
When Ohio State wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell was hired to be the next head coach at Kent State, he decided to bring Freeman with him to Kent, Ohio.
Freeman's impact was immediately felt by his players. In Freeman's first season as a coach, linebacker Luke Batton was named to the All-Mid-American Conference third team after leading the team with 102 tackles and tallying 7.5 tackles for loss. He was named to the conference's second team the following season.
That first year, C.J. Malauulu earned an all-conference second-team selection with 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks among 83 tackles. He was named to the third team the following season.
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The defense during Freeman's fir Brenau Golden Tigers Jerseys st season allowed the 49th-fewest points per game in the FBS at 24.3, but the team finished just 5-7. The Golden Flashes m Alabama vs. Auburn Rivalry Jerseys ade a drastic improvement in 2012, finish College Cold Weather Shirts ing 11-3 and going undefeated in the MAC. They lost the GoDaddy.com Bowl 17-13 to Arkansas State. The defense allowed 24.5 points per game, the 43rd-fewest in the FBS.
Hazell was hired away from Kent State after the early success, and Freeman went with him.
Seasons coached: 2013-16
Positions: Linebackers coach (2013-16), co-defensive coordinator (2016)
Freeman's first full-time job with a Power 5 program came in the Big Ten with the Boilermakers. He was hired as the team's linebackers coach when Hazell was hired as head coach.
The first year was a bit rocky. Purdue went 1-11, its worst season since 1993. The program posted its lowest winning percentage (.083) since leaving the Western Conference for the Big Ten in 1953. The defense allowed 38 points per game, 13th-wo Kentucky vs. Louisville Rivalry Jerseys rst in t Ferris State Bulldogs shirt he FBS.
The next several seasons brought only mild improvement. Purdue went 3-9 in 2014, 2-10 in 2015 and 3-9 in 2016. Hazell was fired during the 2016 season and replaced on an interim basis by Gerad Parker.
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There was personal success for Freeman, though. Linebackers Markus Bailey, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Danny Ezechukwu became major contributors to the defense.
Prior to that 2016 campaign, Freeman was promoted to co-defensive coordinator with Ross Els. But Purdue struggled again on defense, allowing 38.3 points per game, 12th-worst in the FBS.
Seasons coached: 2017-20
Positions: Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach
Before the official end of the 2016 season, when Luke Fickell was announced as Cincinnati head coach, Freeman was offered an opportunity to join his former coach at Ohio State as the Bearcats' defensive coordinator. Later reports said that he turned down several high-profile offers, including one to coach linebackers at Ohio State and one from the NFL's Titans, to join Fickell, who coached him as a defensive assistant at Ohio State and who worked with him during his time as a graduate assistant.
The first season in Cincinnati, again, was not great. After a series of down campaigns under former coach Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati finished 4-8 in 2 FAU Owls shirt 017 with a defense that allowed 31.8 points per game (94th in the FBS).
But it didn't take long for the tide to turn. In 2018, Cincinnati had the ninth-best defense at only 17.2 points allowed per game and the team went 11-2. It ended the year ranked. The following season? More of the same; it ranked 24th in the FBS with 20.6 points allowed per game and went 11-3.
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Those 2018 and 2019 seasons earned Freeman nominations for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to the best assistant coach in college football. He won the honor in 2020. He was also named 247Sports.com Defensive Coordinator of the Year that season.
How did Cincinnati perform that year? The Bearcats went 9-0 in the regular season and emerged as a possible College Football Playoff contender. They did not receive one of the four bids, however. They went to the Peach Bowl instead and narrowly lost to Georgia 24-21. Cincinnati finished with the eighth-best scoring defense in the country at 16.8 points per game.
Cincinnati was the best it had been since Brian Kelly was the head coach. Kelly had taken notice, and he brought Freeman over to South Bend.
Seasons coached: 2021-present
Positions: Defensive coordinator (2021), head coach (2022-present)
It was announced not long after the Peach Bowl that Freeman would be moving west to join Kelly at Notre Dame as defensive coordinator.
In the announcement of the move, Kelly praised teams' success under Freeman and his recruiting ability.
“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 said. "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 found immediate success coaching Notre Dame's defense. The Fighting Irish had the 14th-best scoring defense (19.7 points per game) and were sixth in interceptions (15), seventh in sacks (40) and 18th in third-down conversion percentage (32.9) as they Cheyney Wolves Jerseys went 11-1 during his lone season as DC.
Kelly left for LSU immediately after the end of Notre Dame's regular season. The university took less than a week to name his successor. Freeman was announced as the team's 30th head coach on Dec. 3. He is the second Black head coach in program history after Tyrone Willingham, who coached the team from 2002-04.