Former LSU coach Ed Orgeron visits Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Fifteen months after nearly hiring Marcus Freeman to be his defensive coordinator, former LSU coach Ed Orgeron was a special guest on Tuesday at Notre Dame spring practice.

Freeman even had the gravelly voiced “Coach O” address the team after watching practice No. 12. Orgeron and his three sons, all of them aspiring coaches, plan to be in town all week to observe.

“Outstanding practice,” Orgeron said. “I walked down the hall and heard the offensive line coach (Harry Hiestand) getting after it early in the morning. I liked that. To be able to see the physicality that they have here, I think that Marcus is going to bring a tremendous program here.”

Orgeron, 60, was fired and received a $16.8 million buyout after six seasons at LSU, including a College Football Playoff national title in 2019. His message to the Irish team was about aiming high.

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“I don’t know them that well, but I know the expectations are one goal and one goal only, I would imagine,” he said. “I can’t speak for them. That’s what I talked to the team about: that standard of performance has to be very high. What I saw out there, I saw a very good football team.”

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Orgeron, who called Freeman “a tremendous recruiter,” said he admired Notre Dame’s new coach since watching him run the defense at Cincinnati in 2017-20.

“Phenomenal,” Orgeron said. “Energy, the way they got after it, the way he had energy on the sideline. That’s just the way I like to coach. When I met him, he just had something about him: character, class. You could tell he was going to be a championship coach. I think he has all the makings of being a great coach.”

The former Ole Miss and USC coach was asked about the phone call he received from Freeman in January 2021 in which the fast-rising coach turned down LSU in order to join Brian Kelly’s staff at Notre Dame.

Former LSU football coach Ed Orgeron (center) watches Notre Dame spring practice on April 12, 2022
Former LSU football coach Ed Orgeron (center) watches Notre Dame spring practice on April 12, 2022

“I think it was tough,” Orgeron said. “I think he liked LSU. I think it was a family decision to stay up here. Obviously, he’s got six kids, a beautiful wife (Joanna) and it’s hard to move them to the South down there from being up here. I think that was one of the decisions. It looks like he made the right decision to me.”

Before the year was out, Kelly was headed to Baton Rouge on a $95 million contract as Orgeron’s replacement and Freeman was promoted at Notre Dame. Could Orgeron ever have imagined the coaching carousel spinning quite that way for all three men?

“No, not at all,” he said. “But you know, that’s football. That’s football.”

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.

This article originally appeared on ND Insider: Ed Orgeron, ex-LSU football coach, visits Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame