The Notre Dame Football program got a special coach and recruiter in Marcus Freeman, who will help them close the gap between them and the elite.
When Mike Elko left Notre Dame for Texas A&M, Brian Kelly was in a tight spot. Elko was the defensive coordinator for only one season, but in that one season, he was a major part of the Irish turnaround from having gone 4-8 in 2016.
Kelly had to make a key hire, and if that hire was anything like Brian VanGorder, his job would be on the line and the program would be set back again.
He went with Clark Lea, and that worked out perfectly. Oddly enough, Lea was receiving the same promotion that VanGorder got when he moved to defensive coordinator from linebackers coach. If you looked over their CVs, VanGorder was even the better hire, as he had college and NFL experience as a defensive coordinator, which Lea never had.
Of course, we now know how it worked out. Lea took Notre Dame to the next level, going to two College Football Playoff semifinals in three seasons as Irish defensive coordinator. There are just two issues with his tenure. The first was that his defenses were unable to slow elite offenses once they made it to the Playoff. The second, he’s gone and Brian Kelly needed to replace him.