Sources: Notre Dame expected to promote Marcus Freeman to replace Brian Kelly

Notre Dame is looking to stay in-house for Brian Kelly's replacement.

According to Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is expected to become the team's next head coach after going through the Irish's formal hiring process. 

Update here: Sources told Yahoo Sports that the process to formally get an offer together for Marcus Freeman will unfold the next 72 hours. A job offer to make Freeman the next coach is expected to follow that process.

— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 2, 2021

Freeman came to Notre Dame from Cincinnati after the 2020 season and replaces Kelly after a year in South Bend. Kelly was officially introduced as LSU's new head coach Wednesday afternoon. 

According to Sports Illustrated, Freeman could be announced as Notre Dame's coach within the next week.  

Thamel previously reported that offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is staying at Notre Dame in his same capacity. Rees is a former Notre Dame QB and told the team Wednesday night that he's staying.

“This is where my heart is.”@T_Rees11 |

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) December 2, 2021

Notre Dame has allowed 18 points per game and 5.1 yards per play in 2021. The Fighting Irish are currently No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings after an 11-1 regular season. Notre Dame could make the College Football Playoff if two teams above it in the rankings lose Saturday. If Notre Dame makes the playoff, it would be the first school to have its coach leave for another job in the same season it made the playoff. 

Freeman played at Ohio State

Freeman, 35, played linebacker at Ohio State and briefly played in the NFL for multiple teams.

He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Buckeyes and moved to Kent State and Purdue. After coaching linebackers for three seasons at Purdue, he became the team’s co-defensive coordinator in 2016. He was hired by Cincinnati after that season when Luke Fickell became the Bearcats’ head coach. Fickell was Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach when Freeman played and coached in Columbus.

Cincinnati made the Peach Bowl in 2020 on the heels of a strong defense. The Bearcats allowed fewer than 17 points per game and 4.6 yards per play in 2020 before going undefeated in the regular season and losing 24-21 to Georgia in Atlanta.

The Irish hired Freeman to replace Clark Lea after Lea became the head coach at Vanderbilt. Notre Dame’s defense has 40 sacks this season and has scored four touchdowns. That defensive success was part of the reason why Kelly reportedly offered Freeman a significant pay raise to come with him to Baton Rouge and be LSU’s new defensive coordinator.

Amid this season's head coach hiring cycle, Freeman is the lone African American to land an opening at an FBS school.  

Oklahoma the biggest job remaining

With Notre Dame apparently staying in-house for its next coach, that leaves Oklahoma as the biggest job remaining in college football. The Sooners are looking to replace Lincoln Riley after he left for USC after OU's loss to Oklahoma State. 

Riley's move was one of the first in a host of Power Five coaching moves in recent days. Washington hired Fresno State's Kalen DeBoer, Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry is the new coach at Virginia Tech and Florida has hired Louisiana's Billy Napier. TCU also announced SMU's Sonny Dykes as its new coach and Washington State promoted interim coach Jake Dickert into the permanent job. 

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