Notre Dame Notebook: Marcus Freeman Talks Fixes, Chris Tyree, Wide Receivers

Notre Dame Notebook: Marcus Freeman Talks Fixes, Chris Tyree, Wide Receivers

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – An 0-2 start to the season has everyone in and around Notre Dame football scratching their heads. A season-opening loss to No. 2 Ohio State was tough, but at least digestible in comparison to this past weekend’s 26-21 defeat at the hands of unranked Marshall.

First year head coach Marcus Freeman is looking for the answers to the problems plaguing his team.

Identifying The Issues, Finding Fixes

After Saturday’s loss to the Thundering Herd, Freeman said his team needed to execute better. So, has he started to narrow down where the biggest issues lie?

“It’s all over,” Freeman said of execution issues. “It’s at every level, both sides of the ball. That’s what I told the coaches, we can’t sit here and watch film on Sundays and continue to say, if he would have done this, if we would have checked that if he would … So we have to start taking out that word ‘if’ and say … here’s why he did that or he did do exactly what I told him to do?

“That’s a challenge to our coaches that we can’t just keep coming in here on Sunday saying if Johnny would have done this, we would have been a better situation executing, so we have to get our guys to execute exactly what we want them to do,” he continued. “That means take a hard look at yourself and say ‘Okay, if he’s not doing exactly what I want to do, there’s miscommunication. There’s a misunderstanding of what we need to do’. So it all starts with us. It starts with us as teachers, evaluating ourselves, evaluating the way we’re teaching, evaluating the expectations and the standards we have. Our players got to be accountable too. They have understand, as I told them yesterday, if your coach is telling you exactly what he wants and you’re not performing it, then you’re letting your team and your coach down.”

What Is Holding The Offense Back

The Irish offense is averaging just 15.5 points through two games. They’re also averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and 103 yards a game on the ground. There’s a lack of experience across the offense as well as a lack of execution. 

“I think it’s both, but I think the inexperience leads to a lack of execution,” Freeman noted. “I can go down a list of things that really what is the lack of execution mean? Maybe it might be a missed point, right? It might be, you know, maybe hey, he didn’t get the check, he didn’t get the signal. He’s not running his route to the exact precise depth that he’s supposed to be running it. You know, maybe his helmet, the offensive line, the helmet placement isn’t exactly where it needs to be, so he gets beat.

“I can go on and on, about what a lack of execution means, but I think it correlates with a lack of experience, also,” he continued. “But, I’m not sitting here saying we got to, we can’t use that as an excuse. Nobody cares. Nobody cares. We’re inexperienced, nobody cares, you know. We have guys that haven’t played a whole bunch of football, (but) the expectation is go out there and do your job, execute and win.”

Getting Chris Tyree More Involved

Probably the most easily fixable part of the offense is simply getting junior running back Chris Tyree more involved. Or, more specifically, get him more touches. The junior running back has nine carries for 45 yards and three receptions for 20 yards for an average of six total touches per game.

That’s actually down from the 6.6 touches he averaged in 12 games last season, when Kyren Williams was the lead back. Williams averaged better than 20 touches a game last year. With him now in the NFL, Tyree is the most experienced (and fastest) running back on the Irish roster.

“We have to try to find ways to get the ball in his hands,” Freeman said of Tyree. “With Chris it’s unique, because he played more plays than the other running backs, but you’re using him at so many different positions; at wideout, use him at slot, (use) him at running back, so he’s a guy that we know has to be on the field. I think we’ve got to find ways to get the ball in his hands, because he’s a playmaker. And we’ll find ways to do that …. I believe he’s a guy that makes plays.”

Wide Receiver Depth An Issue?

The lack of depth in Notre Dame’s wide receiver room is well documented by now. Just four receivers, Lorenzo Styles, Braden Lenzy, Matt Salerno and Jayden Thomas, have caught a pass through two games. Styles has eight catches, while the other three have combined for four.

“I don’t know if it’s the lack of depth as much as the lack of experience, you know,” Freeman noted. “That’s something that we’ve been talking in depth about is that, you know, Braden Lenzy has played the most of that entire room, but he’s playing more now than he’s ever played. Lorenzo Styles last year was obviously a freshman and (Jayden Thomas) is … he redshirted last year and so he really is starting to get some meaningful snaps. So there’s a lack of experience, a lack of doing it, obviously, versus a component that we have to continue to get better at, but that’s a part of our entire offense.

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“Our entire offense, man other than (Jarrett Patterson), and maybe Braden and Michael Mayer. Kevin (Bauman) a little bit, Kevin didn’t play much last year,” Freeman stated. “It’s really inexperienced in terms of just their overall game time experience, you know? And so, that’s something that we have to continue to move forward. We can’t use it as an excuse.

“You got the guys who’ve gotten to play and so the expectations are to go out there and execute and win,” he continued. “So we have to do a better job as coaches of pulling those guys along faster, right? Get them to the point we need them to be at and to perform it to obviously the level we need them to perform at.”

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