A long day that began with hope that LSU might be signing its next defensive coordinator ended with Notre Dame instead announcing it had hired Marcus Freeman, a highly coveted assistant from Cincinnati.
LSU and coach Ed Orgeron courted Freeman, who flew into Baton Rouge for an interview this week, and, had the hire been made, Orgeron would've signed each of his top choices for the team's biggest staff openings.
Earlier this week, LSU announced the hiring of offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and passing game coordinator DJ Mangas. Peetz agreed to a two-year deal that pays him $1.2 million in the first season, $1.3 million the next, and Mangas agreed to a two-year deal that pays him $400,000 per year, according to term sheets signed by both coaches.
Details for Freeman's contract with Notre Dame have not been released, but the defensive coordinator position at the university has a $5 million endowment from the donation of an alumnus.
The choice between Notre Dame and LSU didn't turn into as much of a bidding war as much as it had to do with proximity to family, a source told The Advocate. Now, Orgeron and his staff will begin again in pursuit of the team's next defensive leader.
Filling every coordinator position this week would've exceeded Orgeron's own expectations. On Tuesday he said in an interview with WNXX-FM, 104.5 that, although he hoped the hires would be done by the time players report Monday, "that may be wishful thinking."
"I just gotta get the right guys in," Orgeron said, "and hopefully these guys that we have this weekend are the right guys."
Freeman is considered one of the up-and-coming defensive minds of college football, a 34-year-old former Ohio State linebacker who reportedly garnered interest from Notre Dame and Texas and was considering seeking out a head coach opportunity.
Freeman entered coaching after a medical condition cut short his NFL career after one season, and he climbed from a graduate assistant position at Ohio State (2010) to coach linebackers at Kent State (2011-12) and Purdue (2013-15).
He was elevated to co-defensive coordinator at Purdue in 2016, then joined Luke Fickell's staff in Cincinnati the following year. Freeman has led Cincinnati's defense since 2017, and, this past season, he was a finalist for the Broyles Award for nation's top assistant coach.
The Bearcats ranked within the top 13 nationally in both scoring defense (16.8 points per game) and total defense (324.6 yards per game) — a sturdy 4-3 scheme that helped the Bearcats (9-1) reach No. 8 in the College Football Playoff standings and contend with No. 9 Georgia in a last-second, 24-21 loss in the Peach Bowl.