Freeman hoping to have an excellent season.

When the whistle blows during practice and the Notre Dame football team begins scrimmaging, Marcus Freeman goes through a transformation. The fifth-year senior tight end goes from the type of guy you would have baby-sit your children to a guy not afraid to push and shove with the defense, get into an altercation of some kind.

Freeman's been known to mix it up with the Irish front seven on several occasions, which includes a few defensive tackles that he gives up 40 pounds to.

"I guess you can say I'm scrappier aggressive guy," the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Freeman said. "I'm small so I have to make up for the lack of size."

One of Freeman's favorite targets is sophomore defensive end Ronald Talley.

"I have fun with him," Freeman laughed. "He's a character. He's a fun guy, we have good times."

When Freeman's not having a good time fighting with his teammates this spring, he's been busy trying to show the coaching staff why he should be playing more this coming season. The St. Paul, Minn. product has played in 31 games during his career but has mostly been utilized as an extra blocker or special teams player.

Freeman doesn't want to be relegated to just those roles again. The door of opportunity opened when Mackey Award Finalist (given to the nation's best tight end) Anthony Fasano elected to bypass his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL. John Carlson and Freeman are the only two tight ends on the roster with experience, in an offense that likes to run two and sometimes three tight end formations.

During the offseason Freeman worked his tail off in the weight room and the coaches have taken notice.

"Obviously, with Anthony going to the NFL the tight end position is one that will be in question," head coach Charlie Weis said before the spring. "I have to tell you, of all the positions where you lose a starter like Anthony that I am most encouraged about, it would be at tight end because not only does John Carlson look great, but Marcus Freeman definitely going through this offseason was easily by far, the most improved player we had going through the spring. It was night and day difference. I think if you asked any guy on the coaching staff, anyone would have said that the most encouraging thing coming out of the last couple of months was the looks of Marcus Freeman."

It's not just the coaches that have noticed Freeman.

"He brings experience but at the same time a lot of athletic ability whether it's in the run blocking game or running routes," quarterback Brady Quinn explained. "He's done a great job of getting himself in the position to compete for the starting spot."

In Weis' pass-happy offense, it's kind of surprising that Freeman didn't catch a pass last season. He made all five of his career catches in 2004, for 50 yards. He also started six games.

"It was kind of surprising but at the same time you have to do what's best for the team," Freeman said. "Whether that's me playing special teams or being primarily a blocker than that's what has to be done."

Part of the reason why Freeman, a blue-chip recruit that played in the U.S. Army Bowl, hasn't played much during his career is the quality of depth the Irish have enjoyed at the tight end position the last four years. Freeman played behind Jerome Collins, Fasano, Gary Godsey, Billy Palmer and Jared Clark. The chance to play more downs is available, but seeing those guys go is still bittersweet for Freeman. They have made him a better football player.

"It's good and bad," Freeman said. "There were times where we had six-seven tight ends and all of them were good. You take different things from each tight end in terms of what they can bring to the game. But at the same time you get more opportunities to play and more opportunities to shine."

With Carlson and Freeman, Weis has two guys that do different things at the position.

"He's a bigger guy, longer rangier guy. I'm smaller I guess, maybe quicker guy," Freeman assessed.

"We do use a lot of two tight end sets so me and John are both interchangeable in what we can do at different positions on the field. It's just about putting the best people on the field in the best position they can make plays in."

Freeman, who will graduate this May with a marketing degree, has played on every special teams unit during his career. This season he is on the kickoff-return team and punt-coverage team.

Away from the field, the same guys Freeman tussles with and any other challengers, he beats in the EA Sports video game NCAA 2006. If someone on the team thinks they can play that game, they have to prove it against Freeman.

"I don't like to brag but I've been know to win a couple games here and there," he said. "I like to go at it, battle with some people."

Going into the fall, Freeman hopes that he has won the tight end battle.


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