"We're good friends," Freeman said. "I like John. He's a good guy. We're both from Minnesota. So we have the Minnesota connection going on. We have fun and we're two competitors."
"We all want to be the number one guy and have the most catches that we can. But ultimately, it's a team game. We have to go out and do what's best for everyone."
One might play more than the other. Carlson is regarded as the better pass catcher with Freeman the better blocker. But if Charlie Weis has his way, both might be on the field a lot at the same time to create mismatch problems for opposing defenses. The Irish head coach loves the talent Freeman and Carlson bring to the table.
"You can play either one of those guys and I don't think you'd miss a beat," Weis said. "John is a little taller. Marcus might be a more polished route runner. But both of them can block and catch and run good routes. I have a lot of confidence in both those guys. It's nice to know you have a lot of confidence in two guys at that position to start a season."
Freeman, who stands at 6-3 and weighs 245 pounds, has had a tough time getting the ball thrown his way. Through his first four years, he's caught a grand total of five balls, including zero in 2005. This is more a testament to how good Anthony Fasano was the past few seasons at tight end. Freeman has had to wait his turn and was used exclusively last season as a blocker. Now, after coming back for a fifth-year and with Fasano gone to the Dallas Cowboys, he wants to contribute to the team's success.
"That's the goal," Freeman said about contributing. "I'm going to go out and do what Coach Weis wants me to do. If they throw me the ball and think that's the best thing for me to do, that's what I'll do. If they feel blocking predominately is what they want from me, I'll do that as well. I'll do whatever they tell me."
Weis has gone out of his way a few times in fall and this past spring camp to praise Freeman's progress. It must be an encouraging sign for a player who has put in the time and effort to hear his head coach say positive words about him. Freeman thinks the past weeks have gone well.
"Fall has been going good," Freeman said. "We're just getting out there working on fundamentals and techniques and conditioning. We're just having fun. Camp is a grind. We're trying to get out there and do our best."
Not only is Freeman battling Carlson for playing time but they must show two young guys the ropes. Freshman Konrad Reuland and Will Yeatman are behind the older veterans on the depth chart and both have shown an ability to bring athleticism to the position.
"I really like both of them," Freeman said. "They're both good guys. They're both coming along in the offense. It's a hard offense to learn. But they're coming along and they're good people."