3. Marcus Freeman, DC, Cincinnati
If Notre Dame wants to make a splash and hire the best defensive coordinator in the country, the Irish would be wise to pursue Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. Not hiring internally means a change in terminology but not necessarily philosophy. The Cincinnati defense and the Notre Dame defense strengths are the secondary and the pass rush.
Freeman takes advantage of athleticism like Lea. For example, Lea evolved the rover position to take advantage of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramorah’s elite athletic skill set. He is the size of a strong safety but plays positionless in the box.
Freeman has been one of the fastest risers in the country and is regarded as one of the brightest young football minds in college football. He began his career as the linebackers coach at Kent State. After a season with the Golden Flashes, Freeman would coach at Purdue, becoming the co-defensive coordinator in 2016. He followed head coach Luke Fickell, turning the Cincinnati defense around rather quickly.
By 2018, the Bearcats was one of the most formidable units in the AAC, leading the conference in total defense. Freeman might be the next man up once Fickell lands in the Power Five, so it might be prudent to stay in Cincinnati if he wants to be a head coach.