Notre Dame hiring Marcus Freeman as coach: Irish listen to players, also retain Tommy Rees to lead offense

Notre Dame is expected to promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to replace the departed Brian Kelly as the next head coach of the Fighting Irish, sources tell CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. Freeman, 35, will take over the program less than one season after joining Notre Dame from Cincinnati. The deal is not yet official.

Maintaining continuity during a period of tremendous success is a priority, especially since Notre Dame has a potential College Football Playoff team, according to Dodd. 

Freeman’s elevation comes with the program also retaining offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. A former Irish quarterback under Kelly from 2010-13, Rees was reportedly courted to join Kelly at LSU. Retaining Rees to lead the offense was believed to be a key for Notre Dame if it decided to promote Freeman from within. 

Rees announced his decision to stay with the Irish at a team meeting Wednesday night.

Though Freeman will become one of the youngest head coaches in Notre Dame history, he has dramatically impacted the program since arriving before the start of the season. The Irish held their final four opponents to a combined 23 points, and the program is also putting the finishing touches on its first top-five class since 2013 thanks in large part to Freeman’s leadership on the recruiting trail. 

Prior to Notre Dame, Freeman served as defensive coordinator at Cincinnati, where he helped grow the Bearcats into the College Football Playoff contender they are today. He was a player at Ohio State and was selected in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. 

Freeman has been the clear clubhouse leader for the job among players. Following Kelly’s shocking departure for LSU, players and Notre Dame recruits began a public campaign for Freeman to get the job…

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