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Everything Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman said after Blue-Gold Game

IMG_9992by:Tyler Horka04/20/24


Here’s everything Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said after the Blue-Gold Game on Saturday, which was the third time Freeman has been at the helm for the Fighting Irish’s annual spring game. The Blue Team beat the Gold Team, 28-21.

Opening statement

“Good day. Great way to finish the spring, practice 15. To be in the stadium and be able to compete against each other, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to finish this spring practice period off the way we did. Even this day, this day was pretty special. Obviously, we had the groundbreaking for a brand new football facility, which is just amazing for the future of this football program and Notre Dame student-athletes and what that’s going to provide. So, thank you to our leadership and our administration for really being the forefront and the people behind this movement to create this new football facility. 

“Again, the game, there’s a lot of things, a lot of good, a lot of bad from the game. As I told the players, let’s utilize the teaching opportunities that the game like this provides, but also, continue to use these first 15 practices as a barometer to continue to move forward. I don’t want to start back over. I want to use what we’ve developed over these 15 practices and continue to use it as a springboard as we move into the last couple of weeks of the semester and then give them a little break and bring them back for the summer. I’m really, really pleased with where the progression of this group is going.

“So with that, I’ll open up for questions.”

On the play of Notre Dame’s quarterbacks

“I was really pleased with what I saw. As you said, a lot of good. You never want to turn the ball over, which we did, but I love the decision-making just from being back there and watching them. They’ve been progressing all spring.

“It’s good to have Kenny (Minchey) and CJ (Carr) be live today. I think it’s good for the defensive guys to realize, just because you get close to the quarterback, you realize it’s a lot harder to actually get a sack. Those guys love to yell ‘sack’ when they get close to the quarterback, but today it shows you actually got to bring the quarterback down and it’s not as easy as sometimes it may seem.

“But I was really pleased overall for the entire spring of what all three of those guys have done with the groups they’ve been in and with and you know the production a really provided this offense.”

On Notre Dame’s pass-rushing

“When you start splitting the offensive line units and even the defensive line into you know different teams, those guys gotta get used to working with each other. Especially the O-line. There’s five guys that are used to working with each other and now they’re on separate teams.

“But it’s a testament to our D-line. Our D-line has done a good job to get pressure, to actually get the quarterback down. I think they had probably two or three on Steve (Angeli), who was in red. But again, you’ve got to be back there to be able to get sacks. So just credit to our D-line. And again, it’s a little bit of a reflection of our offensive line being split too.”

On what Fighting Irish linebackers showed in terms of what life after Jack Kiser has in store

“I don’t know if anything today as much as the rest of the spring. Kyngstonn (Viliamu-Asa), he’s going to be a really good football player for Notre Dame football. You thought that when he came in, you thought that in high school recruiting, then when he came in he validated that through 15 practices. He’s going to be a really good football player and do some great things for us right away.

Drayk (Bowen) has really done a good job in filling the void of JD (Bertrand) and that leadership that we lost and production. (Jaylen) Sneed and Jaiden Ausberry are two super athletic players that I think are— for Jaylen, being in his third year — really starting to come into his own, understanding what he’s doing and he’s playing faster. He brings just a really unique skill set. 

“And Ausberry, to be able to say, okay, he’s helping us a linebacker, but we got to find ways to not take him off the field. So, we moved him to nickel halfway through spring. That’s a reflection of his athleticism, his versatility. So it’s a great room. I’m really confident in where we’re at now, and the only guy you plan on losing is Kiser.”

On the announcement of Notre Dame’s football facility expansion

“If we’ve ever lost a recruit because of the facility, then it that probably isn’t a loss, right? So I want to make sure I answer that first. Our facility has never been a recruiting disadvantage for us. But what it does is it shows the recruits that you have and your current players the vision you have for the future. We’ve outgrown the building we’re in. That’s the number one reason we had to create and build a new building. The numbers in college football have just grown in terms of the staffs, the players. It’s just grown. 

“So, that was the biggest thing — we have to create a bigger building. Then, with that, we’re getting state-of-the-art everything, right? State of the art just in terms of how can we truly provide our players with every possible opportunity for development? In what ways can we help develop? That could be in nutrition, that can be in recovery and treatment, your classroom, how we’re teaching in the classroom setting.

“I think it’s really important as we build a new building, it’s about giving the current players and future players every possibility to really develop and reach their full potential, and that’s the vision behind it.”

On the Fighting Irish’s running backs

Aneyas (Williams) played well. He played really well, and it was good to see in some live. We didn’t have a whole bunch of live periods throughout the spring, so for Aneyas to go out there and make some big plays — the thing for me, I think I said this on the live broadcast, is that what prevents running backs from playing at a young age is protection, right? It’s pass protection. It’s not being able to run with the football. That’s why we recruited them. We know they can run with the football, but being able to trust them in the pass protection, he’s grown tremendously there. He’s the one that stuck out to me more than anything. Justin Fisher had a good day today. Being a local guy, I’m sure he a lot of people here watching him. But it’s really good to see Aneyas. 

Gi’Bran (Payne) kind of got tweaked a little bit, his ankle, I think towards the second half and we move a guy like Devyn Ford, who’s been playing nickel and defensive back all spring, to running back because of Gi’Bran going down. I think Fisher got banged up a little bit, and he goes in and he does a great job. Those that are guys to me that you need in your program; versatile guys that have so much value. He’s going to help us on special teams. He’s unselfish and gone to defense for the spring, and now to come back in the spring game and play offense, Devyn Ford is gonna help this football team.”

On wide receiver Kris Mitchell’s 62-yard touchdown

“It’s big. It’s why we got him from the portal. We knew he could help this team, and we’ve seen it on film. He’s had a really good spring. There’s been days we’ve kept him out for precautionary reasons. But it’s good when we go live and let him go and throw the ball deep to him, he makes some big plays. He’s going to help us. That’s why he’s here — to really boost this wide receiver room. And it was good to see him score a touchdown today.”

On running back Jadarian Price not playing and tight end Eli Raridon playing a lot

“Jadarian, we had a kick scrimmage on Tuesday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and the very last rep, he came up with a pulled hamstring. And it wasn’t crazy. It’s one that would keep them out a week, but it just came at the wrong time, right before the spring game, because we wanted to see him out there. Shame on me. I don’t know, I just wanted to get one extra rep in the kick scrimmage and it ended up costing us a hamstring. I take the blame on that one, but he’s fine. He had a great spring. He’s done some really good things, some really good things.

“As far as Eli, he didn’t start the spring full go. So it was a progression for him to get back in. I know it’s not a meaningful game, like winner or loser, but it is a meaningful practice. So to be able to have Eli out there, if you’re healthy, let’s get you some live reps and be able to evaluate you and make you better. And so that was why we had Eli out there. He’s done a really good job since the time he’s gotten back from being on a sideline to, obviously, what he did today.”

On replacing former Notre Dame punter Bryce McFerson

“We will bring somebody in. We’re looking to, at some point, bring somebody in to be a punter to add to that room.”

On injuries to wide receiver Cam Williams and offensive lineman Styles Prescod

“Cam was a hamstring. Listen, this is one of the healthiest springs we’ve had. I’ll tell you that. But we did have two hamstrings this week that just came at the wrong time. It’s things you learn as a head coach, right? It’s a reflection of somebody goes down and we have a thin wide receivers room, right? With Jordan (Faison) not being here and Colzie was out for a while with the finger and (Jayden Thomas) a couple of weeks ago. And so, when you start adding those reps to Cam Williams, then all sudden, he pulled his hamstring and in one of the practices. But he was very similar to (Price). It was a very mild tear but he wouldn’t be able to go full-go today. And so that’s why he wasn’t out there.

Styles Prescod, he’s just a guy that we’re really working on muscle deficiency in one of his legs that was previously worked on in high school. He hasn’t been totally full-go all spring. It’s just something we’re trying to make sure we build his right leg up, or I can’t remember which leg, one of his legs, to make sure it’s equal with the other so we can truly be safe.”

On Notre Dame wide receiver Micah Gilbert scoring two touchdowns

“I wasn’t surprised one bit. I mean, he’s been a guy that has made plays. When we evaluated him last year and to the start of spring, Micah Gilbert is a really good football player. He’s added a great skill set to that room at a young age and he’s a hard worker. He doesn’t talk a lot. He just goes out to work, and I saw his parents last night at the parent dinner and just said he’s a pleasure to coach and he’s one of those guys that you just love being around because he’s a yes or no sir guy and just works. And what you’re seeing is a reflection of that work he’s putting in.”

On where Notre Dame is in year three of his tenure

“Obviously, through experience, hopefully I’m a better head coach today than I was the first two times I was up here, but every year you look at what do you need talent-wise to really mold it together to make a run? I believe this probably is, I want to say, one of the most talented rosters we’ve had since I’ve been here, right? Now, it’s our job to build that talent and mold that talent and make sure we teach that talent to get to where we want to go. 

“We have a new offensive coordinator, a couple of new coaches, so we have to really continue to grow as coaches to develop that talent that we have. But I’m excited. I’m excited for this group. I’m excited for the build that we’re creating right now. We’re building towards that first game we have in College Station. I love where we’re at. 

“We have to really make some strides from now until summer. And then when they get back for summer, those six, eight weeks, we’ve got to make sure they’re really efficient. What did we learn from the spring? Me and coach (Loren) Landow have met, what did we learn from the spring that we can really create in our summer conditioning?

“One of the things I went up to him today during the game, I said, this is why we should never do a drill on-line. Because we have how many, three or four defensive false starts or offsides because we’re not checking with the refs to make sure we’re aligned right. 

“So, I think those are things that me and Coach Landow are growing together and how can we train this area in the summer when you’re training and conditioning? So, we’re learning, but I really love where this group is progressing to.”

On where he has grown in three years and where the Notre Dame roster has grown

“I think I’m really pleased with what we’ve added to this roster in terms of our wideout room. I’m confident in the guys that we have returning in this wideout room, but I’m also confident the guys that we brought in to really elevate the room as a whole. 

“As far as me, and I think — I wish I could just pinpoint one thing. There are a lot of things, a tremendous amount of things, you learn, and I don’t ever think you stop. I don’t know. I haven’t stopped in the three years I’ve been a head coach, and there’s no plan to. But I think the one thing that sticks out is that you have to, at times, pull back. 

“And I think the first year being a head coach, every day was the Super Bowl. Every day like we had, win or lose, this was the Super Bowl. And that’s not saying that every day is not important. Every day is important, but what you’re trying to get out of each day can change, right? 

“You have to look at this as a progression to making sure you’re ready to go when it matters the most. And I think that’s the thing I can point to that I’ve learned more than anything, is being able to pull back and look and say, ‘Okay, how does this day matter in terms of the progression to where we want to go?’ And it’s a different perspective than that previously had.”

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