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Sources: Notre Dame's defensive coordinator search dials in on Cincinnati Bengals' Al Golden

Former Temple, Miami head coach could be the final piece for Marcus Freeman's staff

Super Bowl LVI has a bit more interest for Notre Dame.

Per multiple sources in both the NFL and collegiate levels, Cincinnati Bengals linebackers coach Al Golden has emerged as the primary target to join first-year Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman’s staff as defensive coordinator.

Showing a methodical approach and patience beyond that of a coach in just his second month atop a major program, Freeman has thoroughly vetted a litany of candidates to replace himself as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator.

But specifically within the past two weeks that focus zeroed in on Golden, who’s spent the past six seasons as an NFL assistant coach with the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals, who tonight face the Los Angeles Rams for the NFL championship.

Moreover, Golden has rich experience as a head coach – at Group of 5 program Temple and Atlantic Coast Conference, Power 5 program Miami – from a decade atop those programs.

It’s Golden’s head coaching experience that could prove particularly beneficial for Freeman, a former Broyles Award finalist who’s experienced a meteoric coaching rise in the past five years.

Integral in helping Luke Fickell turn Cincinnati into a College Football Playoff participant last season after Freeman’s previous four years running the Bearcats’ defense, Freeman also helped dramatically impact the Notre Dame defense prior to his ascension to head coach.

The Fighting Irish ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense last season, 13th in sacks and seventh in defensive touchdowns, among other superlatives.

Last month, Freeman hired Al Washington to coach Notre Dame’s defensive line, securing the up-and-coming Washington as he also was pursued by the University of Georgia, sources with direct knowledge told FootballScoop.

As Freeman has systematically worked to make the final hire for his inaugural Irish staff, he has vetted a number of top defensive minds around the game – from Derek Mason to Jim Leonhard to Tim Banks to Tem Lukabu to Joe Rossi, among others.

But Golden first rose through the coaching ranks, much like Freeman, as a staunch defensive mind.

With superstar coaching additions in the form of running backs coach Deland McCullough, as well as up-and-coming wideouts coach Chansi Stuckey and former Purdue interim head coach Gerad Parker, plus retaining offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, whom many in the industry regard as a future head coach, Freeman has moved to assemble a top-flight Notre Dame staff for his first year atop the program.

Finalizing a deal with Golden is the potential final piece to that puzzle. Per sources, a deal could be consummated this week.