Football: Marcus Freeman finalizing first coaching staff at Notre Dame with hiring of DC

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Former Miami (Fla.) and Temple head coach Al Golden will bring that experience to the Notre Dame staff as defensive coordinator.

SOUTH BEND — One of the biggest questions about the Notre Dame football program since Marcus Freeman became head coach in early December finally appears to have an answer. 

Multiple reports indicated Tuesday that Notre Dame's next defensive coordinator will be former Miami and Temple head coach Al Golden, who recently completed his second season as linebackers coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Freeman served one season as defensive coordinator for the Irish before replacing Brian Kelly, who left in late November for LSU.

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Football Scoop was the first to report that Golden likely was the final piece to Freeman’s first coaching staff. Golden coached his last game for the Bengals in Sunday's 23-20 Super Bowl LVI loss to the Los Angeles Rams. 

"Since Al got here the last two years, we drafted and developed those guys, and that’s an enormous credit to Al and the job that he’s done," Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters before the Super Bowl. “The consistency he brings to this room, how demanding he has been. Those guys certainly have a ton of respect for him, and our coaching staff has a lot of respect for him." 

The 52-year-old Golden, whose birthday is the Fourth of July, served as head coach at Miami (Fla.) for five seasons before being dismissed seven games into the 2015 season.

Golden, who went 32-25 overall at Miami, becomes the only current Irish assistant with major Division I head coaching experience. 

"He’s a brilliant coach," Bengals linebacker/defensive end Sam Hubbard said recently. "Great with relationships and people. He’s obviously had a lot of experience recruiting. The sky’s the limit for a guy like Al.”

Golden coached against Notre Dame once in his career for Miami, losing to the ninth-ranked Irish, 41-3 at Soldier Field in Chicago during Notre Dame's 2012 run to the BCS National Championship game.

He had better luck against Notre Dame as a player. 

A tight end at Penn State, Golden caught a game-tying, 14-yard touchdown pass in South Bend against the top-ranked Irish as a junior in 1990. Penn State rallied from a 14-point deficit to win 24-21.  

Nov 21, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebackers coach Al Golden against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In 2001, Golden became the youngest defensive coordinator in Division I when he was hired at Virginia, where he spent five seasons under Al Groh. The Cavaliers’ defense, operating out of the 3-4 alignment, jumped from 108th in the nation to 18th.

Golden moved next to Temple, where he also spent five seasons (2006-10), lifting the lowly Owls from 1-11 in his first season to a combined 17-8 in his final two years as coach. In late 2009, after Charlie Weis' firing, Golden was a candidate for both the Notre Dame and University of Cincinnati jobs before landing at Miami a year later.  

Golden went 59-59 as a college head coach. Prior to his two seasons in Cincinnati, he also spent four years (2016-19) as an assistant with the Detroit Lions, coaching tight ends and later linebackers.

A native of Colts Neck, N.J., Golden has been a football coach in some capacity the last 29 years. He played one season in the NFL (1992) with the New England Patriots. 

Golden is the sixth new assistant coach to join Freeman’s staff at Notre Dame. Expected to work with the Irish linebackers as well, Golden will coordinate a defensive staff that includes defensive line coach Al Washington, cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens and safeties coach Chris O’Leary.

Mickens and O’Leary are holdovers from Freeman's previous defensive staff. 

The 2021 Irish defense ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense (19.7), 37th in run defense (135.3 yards per game), 23rd in team passing efficiency defense (120.59) and 43rd in total defense (359.5 yards per game). 

Notre Dame’s defense returns eight starters from the 37-35 Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State on New Year’s Day. Spring practice begins in March with the Blue-Gold Game set for April 23. 

Tribune writer Mike Berardino contributed to this report. Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI

Al Golden head coaching record 

2006 — Temple, 1-11 

2007 — Temple, 4-8 

2008 — Temple, 5-7 

2009 — Temple, 9-4 (Lost Eagle Bank Bowl) 

2010 — Temple, 8-4 

2011 — Miami (Fla.), 6-6 

2012 — Miami (Fla.), 7-5 

2013 — Miami (Fla.), 9-4 (Lost Russelll Athletic Bowl) 

2014 — Miami (Fla.), 6-7 (Lost Independence Bowl) 

2015 — Miami (Fla.) 4-3 

OVERALL – 59-59 

Career timeline 

1989-91 — Tight end at Penn State 

1992 — Tight end for NFL’s New England Patriots 

1993 — Offensive coordinator for Red Bank Catholic High School in New Jersey 

1994-96 — Graduate assistant at Virginia 

1997-99 — Linebackers coach at Boston College 

2000 — Linebackers coach at Penn State 

2001-05 — Defensive coordinator at Penn State 

2006-10 — Head coach at Temple (27-34)

2011-15 — Head coach at Miami (Fla.) (32-25 overall)

2016-17 — Tight ends coach for NFL’s Detroit Lions 

2018-19 — Linebackers coach for Detroit Lions 

2020-22 — Linebackers coach for NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals