ND FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Freeman having fun adjusting to head coaching role – Goshen News

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Updated: December 13, 2021 @ 7:44 am
Goshen, Indiana
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, right, talks with senior offensive lineman John Dirksen before practice Sunday at the Irish Athletics Center in South Bend.
Notre Dame sophomore running back Chris Tyree runs with the ball during a drill in practice Sunday at the Irish Athletics Center in South Bend.

Sports reporter
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, right, talks with senior offensive lineman John Dirksen before practice Sunday at the Irish Athletics Center in South Bend.
Notre Dame sophomore running back Chris Tyree runs with the ball during a drill in practice Sunday at the Irish Athletics Center in South Bend.
SOUTH BEND — Marcus Freeman has had to learn a lot in a short amount of time since becoming the head coach of Notre Dame last week.
One of those lessons came Saturday when the Fighting Irish held its first practice since Freeman became the head man in charge.
“Just trying to figure out where the heck to go,” admitted Freeman Sunday was one of his problems during the first practice. “I find myself running to the defense side, and I go, ‘No, I can’t go back there.’ Like, we were doing field goal (Sunday), and I was going behind the defense because that’s where I always go, but then I said, ‘No, I’ve got to go behind the offense.’”
The former defensive coordinator has even had to change how he reacts to certain drills in practice.
“It’s now that you can’t cheer for the defense; like, you can’t want the defense to win every rep,” Freeman said. “No, I want the offensive guys to have some great reps.”
Freeman survived his first and second practices as head coach for Notre Dame this weekend. He knows that everything will start to feel normal to him over time, but the first weekend definitely provided the 35 year old with some new challenges.
“You can try to prepare as much as you want, but you don’t know what to expect,” Freeman said. “You get out there and say, ‘OK, I guess I’ve got to blow the whistle.’ … Those are some of the little things that are going to take adjusting, and obviously, (Sunday) was a little bit better than (Saturday) for me. And, hopefully Wednesday is going to be a little bit better than (Sunday).”
Freeman mentioned that they hadn’t began preparations for the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 against Oklahoma State, but the coaching staff would start those on Monday and Tuesday while the players take their final exams for classes. The Irish will then resume practices Wednesday with preparing for the Cowboys. They will practice in South Bend until Dec. 23 before the players will be able to go home for a few days for Christmas. Everyone will then fly to Phoenix on Dec. 26 to get ready for the bowl game on-site.
As of now, only two Notre Dame players have announced they will forgo the upcoming Fiesta Bowl to start preparing for the NFL Draft: safety Kyle Hamilton and running back Kyren Williams. Hamilton’s announcement wasn’t a surprise, as the junior is expected to be a top-10 pick in April’s Draft. He had also been out since the USC game on Oct. 23 with a knee injury, and risking further damage to the knee in a bowl game other than a College Football Playoff Semifinal seemed unlikely.
Williams’ departure seemed somewhat surprising, although he is expected to be one of the top running backs selected come draft time. Williams had 1,005 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, leaving behind a lot of production to replace for younger guys like sophomore Chris Tyree and freshmen Logan Diggs and Audric Estime.
All three guys listed above have seen playing time this year. Tyree has 204 rushing yards and one touchdown, Diggs 201 yards and three touchdowns and Estime 61 yards.
“They’ve done a good job,” said Freeman of the younger running backs. “To see Logan out there, he’s done a great job just, obviously, being a freshman. But I told him, ‘I don’t consider you a freshman anymore.’ He’s an experienced guy throughout this year. And Chris Tyree has done a great job; he brings a different element of speed to the backfield. … Even Audric (Estime) has done a good job; he’s a strong, physical running back. He was punishing a couple of people (Saturday), so it’s nice to have that three-man crew kind of going out there and kind of sharing the load.
“There’s only one Kyren Williams, and we have to replace his production. That’s been the challenge.”
Freeman provided some injury updates to a couple key Irish players Sunday as well.
• On freshman offensive lineman Blake Fisher, who’s been out since the season opener with a torn meniscus: “He was out there getting some team reps. I don’t know if he’ll be full-go released for the game yet, but to see him out there during team reps is extremely encouraging.”
• On sophomore safety Ramon Henderson, who injured his hamstring in the season finale against Stanford: “He’s not full-go yet, but we expect him to be full-go on Jan. 1 (for the Fiesta Bowl). He’s getting there. He ran full speed in a training session, but he did not go full-go (Sunday) and that’s very precautionary on our part.”
• On junior linebacker Marist Liufau, who suffered an ankle injury right before the season began: “He’s not ready, but it’s good to have him out there. And he’s not doing any team reps; he’s doing some individual stuff. He’s not to the point where we would even think he would play, but it’s good to have him out there and the progression he’s made.”
Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

Sports reporter
Austin Hough is a sports reporter for The Goshen News, covering prep and college sports.
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GOSHEN [mdash] Paul J. Ganger, 88, of Goshen, died on Friday at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis. Visitation is 5-7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17 followed by a 7 p.m. funeral service at Miller-Stewart Funeral Home, 1003 S. Main St., Middlebury.
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