January 8, 2013
Energetic Freeman good addition
Luke Batton's father went to Kent State, but growing up in Ohio, Batton naturally was a Buckeye fan.
So he watched Marcus Freeman flying around, making plays from his weakside or strongside linebacker spot and ultimately racking up 268 career tackles in 51 games for Ohio State.
Never did he think he'd actually learn the position from Freeman.
After a health condition kept Freeman from pursuing playing in the NFL, he landed on Ohio State's staff under Jim Tressel as a graduate assistant. But when Darrell Hazell left Tressel's staff to take Kent State's head coaching job, he brought Freeman as his linebackers coach.
And, all of a sudden, Batton was in meeting rooms and being taught by Freeman, who was getting his first break into coaching as only a 24-year-old.
"I had the obvious respect for him because he was a pretty good player there," Batton said last week while in Mobile, Ala., preparing for Kent's bowl game. "It was easy to relate to him. He's a young guy. We're on the same level pretty much. It goes a long way because it's easier for him to teach you something. He can show it to you just as well as he's explaining it. So that helps a lot."
Purdue's linebackers soon will get that same opportunity. Freeman is expected to be officially named to Hazell's staff soon, along with former fellow Kent State assistants Jon Heacock and Jafar Williams.
Hazell said last week that he hopes to have his staff assembled for its first staff meeting on Jan. 12 and that he was in good shape to have that accomplished.
None of the coaches have been announced.
But Freeman seems to be an energetic and up-and-coming selection.
Batton said he appreciated Freeman's style.
"His big thing is not making us robots, just be natural football players," Batton said. "That's how you got here, why take that away from you? Not drill so much on the Xs and Os, just play football. That's what he pretty much brought. It makes things easier for young kids. You still have to learn the playbook, there's no getting around that. But it makes it easier for the younger kids to go out there and play. It makes a good player going by the book and being a robot (in)to a great player."
Freeman admits he's doing a lot of learning on the job early, entering only his third season as a full-time assistant. But he has his priorities down.
"I want to be a great teacher, first. That's the most important thing," he said last week after a Kent State practice in Mobile. "So the things I implement in the meeting rooms are shown on the field. Does that incorporate sometimes getting after them? Absolutely because there are days they don't want to practice. But then there are days they're ready to go and you need to make sure they're doing the right things when they're excited. You just want to make sure the things you teach are showing up on the field."
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