Freeman's Notre Dame Football Zoom transcript looking ahead to Sun Bowl
Notre Dame head football coach Marcus Freeman held a Zoom call Monday through the Sun Bowl with the media, looking ahead with No. 16 ND's Dec. 29 bowl matchup wot No. 19 Oregon State in El Paso, Texas. Here's everything he had to say. Answers are largely verbatim. Question are edited for brevity and clarity.
“First of all, I want to thank you guys for this opportunity. We are honored and excited to play Oregon State in El Paso, Texas, in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. Since the announcement, I've seen videos just showing the excitement and emotion from the committee, the people of El Paso, even executive director Bernie Olivas. It really hit me, and I want to make sure that everybody knows how excited we are. The feeling is so mutual.
“I'm excited to take this team to El Paso, Texas, and experience everything that encompasses the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl and compete against another Top 25 opponent. We look forward to getting down there, and we've talked all year about these 12 guaranteed opportunities. So, we're fortunate now to have opportunity 13. With that, I'll open it up for questions.”
Q: What are some things that went right for you guys? Why did you get to 9-3 and make the Sun Bowl?
Marcus Freeman: “I thought our players truly handled some of the adversity we had this year. We had a tough loss to Ohio State and found a way to bounce back. And then two weeks later we lost to Louisville, and it's a resilient group. I'm proud of our coaches and the players of continuously being resilient, continuously improving. The opportunity to play for 10 wins is something that very few college football programs get the chance to do, and so just credit to our leaders and credit to our players for the work they put in.”
Q: Can you run down who won't be available for you in the bowl game as you know it today? And are there still decisions being made along those lines?
MF: “Yeah, I know and we know who's playing and who's going to opt out. We're moving forward with the guys that we have, but I want to make sure we let those guys, who are not going to play, make their announcements in the next few days. I want to give them the opportunity to do that.”
Q: Can you share if Sam Hartman is playing?
MF: “As I said, I'm going to let the guys that are not playing make their announcements.”
Q: What was your reaction when you see how excited people here in El Paso are to just have you come in here to the Sun Bowl for the second time in history?
MF: “Yeah, it reminds you how honored you are to be able to play in the Sun Bowl, but [also] to be able to play in game 13. Our guys have worked tremendously hard to put ourselves in this position. And so, we are embracing that. We're just as excited to get down there to experience the city of El Paso and everything that comes along with the Sun Bowl.”
Q: How much do you know about Oregon State and what kind of problems do they present for your team?
MF: “I've been on the road recruiting since we found out we're playing them. We've watched them in a few crossover games. I know most recently, as we were preparing for Stanford, we were able to watch Oregon State play Stanford, so I know they're a heck of a football team. There's a reason why they're ranked in the Top 25. And I know they'll present some great challenges for our program. So, we're excited for this opportunity to play against a really good football team.”
Q: I know there's been some movement with your wide receiver position, with guys entering the portal. Did you anticipate the amount of movement that has happened since you let Chansi Stuckey go? And do you have guys committed to playing in the game from that position? I also wanted to follow up on Deion Colzie and KK Smith and their availability for the game?
MF: “Yeah, both Deion and KK will be available. This is obviously KK's first real practice, but we've only had two practices so far, so I'm excited to see him as we continue to progress. From the last time we spoke, it was 24 hours of deep thought and difficult conversations with a lot of players and a lot of coaches regarding our overall performance at wideout. And I had to make a difficult decision, and I'm truly just thankful for Chansi and everything he's done and given to this program, but we had to move forward and that's what we were going to do.”
Q: Yesterday was crazy with such a long wait for the bowl announcement. What was going through your guys' minds? And then what did you think when you saw you were selected by lottery to come to El Paso?
MF: “Well, I think that everybody tries a project where you're going to go, and we don't have a say in that, and so we were waiting for the ACC to make their decisions. And when I found out we were going to the Sun Bowl, I have a lot of respect for that bowl. And to play a great opponent like Oregon State, it was exciting. I was in between a couple of [recruiting] home visits, so I was pretty busy at the time. And, finally, when I got the news where we were going, it's an exciting time for our program.”
Q: Timelines are tough at this point in the season, but strength and conditioning can affect a lot of things going forward. Is that a coach situation where you're honing in on a hire or is it something that had to go on the back burner considering you’re recruiting your own roster and recruiting new players and was first obviously on the docket in late November?
MF: “No, that's definitely in the top of our priorities, my priority. Still working through this process and going through some interviews and hope to make a decision here sooner rather than later.”
Q: Can you take us through your schedule from now until when you leave for El Paso?
MF: “I was trying to do it a little bit on a plane here a minute ago, but we'll be back this weekend from recruiting and have a couple practices and then we’ve got to go back on the road [recruiting], and our players will have finals. After the following week, recruiting will be over, and so then we'll really dive deep into the practice plans of before — I can't remember the exact date — we're going to let them go home. We're going to give them a couple of days to go home before we get to El Paso on the 24th. So, that's kind of how it's going to be the next two weekends — we'll practice. During the week we'll be on the road recruiting and then we'll have a good five, six days before we let our players go home.”
Q: Where are the challenges or opportunities with players not playing in the bowl game?
MF: “The challenges are to really kind of figure out exactly what guys are going to be at what positions and what team you’re going to have as you prepare for this game. I have a good of the guys that will be opting out. It’s a great opportunity for some guys who maybe don’t have as much experience to really show how talented they are, how they can help your football team. I really look at it as a great opportunity for the core nucleus of our team as we continue to move forward into next year to, one, improve, but, two, showcase their ability in the Sun Bowl versus a great opponent.”
Q: Would you have liked Chris Tyree and Rico Flores Jr. to stay? What was your reaction to that?
MF: “When guys earn their degree and are seeking more playing time or a different opportunity, I’m supportive of that. I’m always disappointed when a guy leaves without his degree. That’s really the situation with those two.”
Q: Is it going to be difficult to evaluate Oregon State with a different starting quarterback who didn’t play much this season?
MF: “Concepts are concepts. We’ll look into it as we really get a chance to dive deep into the preparation. Our coaches right now are currently on the road. You look at the personnel to know who you’re going against. What are their strengths and weaknesses? But concepts are still concepts in terms of actually preparing for an opportunity. There will be some challenges not knowing exactly — maybe if there’s not a lot of film of a certain individual playing in the game at that position. But you game plan mostly with concepts. That’s something we’ll continue to do.”
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