The Duke Blue Devils parted ways with head coach David Cutcliffe after 14 seasons together. The Blue Devils should hire Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman as the program’s next head coach.
Duke just finished a dreadful 2021 regular season with a 3-9 overall record and an 0-8 conference record. Duke’s defense ended the season dead last in scoring offense and scoring defense. In the last three seasons, Duke has a combined record of 10-25. Between 2020 and 2021, Duke won just five games in total and only one conference game combined.
It was clear that the program needed to go in a different direction, and it was time for Cutcliffe to move on after being in charge in Durham, N.C., since 2008. His philosophies were not connecting with the program anymore and the Blue Devils had to recalibrate for the future.
— Duke Football (@DukeFOOTBALL) November 27, 2021
The next head coach will have a tall task in front of them to make this program competitive again in the ACC. For starters, the basic goal will be for Duke to win at least one conference game. The last 10-win season for Duke came in 2013 and the last winning season was in the 2018 season.
Needless to say, it will not be an overnight turnaround for the next head coach but if anyone can flip the fortune of Duke, Freeman can. In recent weeks, Freeman has emerged as a head coaching candidate at multiple schools.
Freeman, the 35-year-old, has never been a head coach in his career thus far, but he has six seasons worth of being a defensive coordinator. In 2016, he served as the co-defensive coordinator at Purdue, and then he made the jump to Cincinnati to be the defensive coordinator for the Bearcats for four seasons. He moved from Cincinnati to Notre Dame in 2021 and is having a successful tenure as the Fighting Irish’s defensive play caller.
Notre Dame is a top-30 defense in the country and ranks No. 11 in points against with an average of 18.2 opponents’ points-against-per-game. In their last four games, the Irish only gave up 23 total points to their opponents. This includes a shutout win against Georgia Tech in their final home game of the season.
In Notre Dame’s 45-14 win over Stanford on Saturday, Freeman’s defense held Stanford to only 55 rushing yards. They forced 18 lost yards on Stanford’s quarterback Tanner McKee. Overall, Notre Dame only gave up 30 points to two opponents in 2021, Florida State and North Carolina.
Now, compare Notre Dame’s success in stopping opponents to Duke’s lack of defensive success with stopping opponents. Since Oct. 2, Duke was outscored by their opponents, 373-119. In the final game of the season against Miami, Duke lost 47-10. They gave up 530 total yards to the Hurricanes, including 140 yards on the ground.
In their last two games against Louisville and Miami, Duke was outscored 109-32. In both games combined, Duke’s defense surrendered 1,217 total yards.
With all the big job openings Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman should land one of them…if he wants it.
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) November 28, 2021
Freeman will be able to stop the bleeding on defense in a relatively fast manner. Notre Dame struggled in their first two games in 2021 by letting up a total of 67 points against Florida State and Toledo. Freeman found a way to tighten up the defense and shut down Notre Dame’s opponents. Granted, Freeman had more to work with at Notre Dame than he would have to work with at Duke, but the point remains. Freeman knows how to improve a defense as the season progresses.
People thought Freeman should have stayed at Cincinnati after the Bearcats’ success in 2020, but he moved on to bigger opportunities as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. It is time for Freeman to test the waters as a head coach and Duke is the right place for him to get his start as a head coach.
Duke needs to conduct their due diligence and look heavily into Freeman as their next head coach. Freeman is still a young coach in college football, but his defensive acumen is exactly what Duke needs to turn things around in the next few seasons.