Who is Notre Dame's reported new special teams coach, Brian Mason? Here are 5 things to know

Justin Frommer
South Bend Tribune
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman leads the team out during the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman continues work filling vacancies on his coaching staff since concluding the season Saturday with a 37-35 New Year's Day loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Freeman, who was promoted from defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Dec. 3, 2021 after Brian Kelly left for LSU, has reportedly tapped Cincinnati special teams coordinator, Brian Mason, for the same position with the Irish. 

Notre Dame had not confirmed Mason's hiring as of Wednesday afternoon. He would be the first hire for Freeman who is also in the market of a new defensive coordinator to replace himself as well as wide receiver and offensive line coaches following the recent departures of Del Alexander and Jeff Quinn, respectively.

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Mason, a native Hoosier, would replace Brian Polian who left the program last month to join Kelly at LSU. Polian had two separate stints at Notre Dame, first from 2005-09 under Charlie Weiss, and then returning under Kelly in 2017. 

There are several ties between Mason and Freeman. Both are 35 years old and were  graduate assistants together at Kent State in 2012. They also later worked together as assistants at Purdue.

Brian Mason

Most recently, they were on the same staff at Cincinnati, where Freeman was defensive coordinator from 2017-20 and Mason was director of recruiting in 2017 before transitioning to special teams coordinator. 

At Notre Dame Mason will have to work with a vastly new special teams group, with starting punter, Jay Bramblett entering the transfer portal earlier this week, and starting kicker, Jonathan Doerer, graduating. 

Here are five other things to know about Notre Dame's reported new special teams coach: 

1. Mason has a recruiting background

Freeman has made his coaching rise through relentless recruiting, and will be expecting the same from his staff.

In his first year with the Bearcats, Mason was the program's director of recruiting. According to 247sports, Cincinnati had the third best class in the American Athletic Conference and the 63rd best class in the country. Following that year, the Bearcats had the top recruiting class in the ACC four times (2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022), plus four top-50 classes on the national landscape, include a tenure-best No. 37 2022 recruiting class in the country. 

At Notre Dame, Mason will be going up against some of the top football brands across the country for top prospects.

2. Mason is an Indiana native

Mason was born in Zionsville, Indiana before attending Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where he began coaching after an injury ending his playing career. Mason's in-state ties, mixed with his recruiting background, could help Freeman make in-roads with top Indiana prospects. 

3. Cincy's special teams unit this year was strong

Under Mason's coaching, the Bearcats had six blocked punts/kicks heading into their College Football Playoff appearance, which was tied for the most in college football this season. 

The Bearcats also ranked among the nation’s best punt return and kick return coverage units. UC ranked first in the AAC and No. 9 in the nation in opponent punt return average (2.62) and No. 2 in the AAC and No. 27 overall in opponent kick return average (18.2).  

In comparison, Notre Dame was tied for 67th in the country with one blocked punt this season, 54th in kick return average (20 yards per return) and 47th in punt return average at over 6 yards per return. 

4. Mason coached a Ray Guy finalist 

In 2018 Bearcats punter, James Smith, was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2018 and also earned spots on two All-America squads. 

Notre Dame has never had a Ray Guy Award winner or finalist, given to college football's top punter, and hasn't had a semi-finalist since Geoff Price in 2006. 

5. Mason also coached at Ohio State

Another comparison to Freeman — who played linebacker with the Buckeyes and was a graduate assistant in 2010 — is that Mason was also a graduate assistant in Columbus during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

With the Buckeyes, Mason coached in two Fiesta Bowls (one of which was a College Football Playoff game). In all, he has coached in four New Years Six bowl games and two playoff games.