Chat shades

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Chat, South Florida week. And welcome back to a college football world that now has an opted-in Big Ten.There's nothing like college football in 2020.

Please remember to include your NAME and HOMETOWN with your question.

Denny from Beaverton, Ore.: Eric thanks again for your chats. The fact that we are having them and playing football this season is a miracle in the climate of today. How much effect did last Saturday's Notre Dame/Duke game have on the decisions of the Big Ten and possibly the Pac-12 to rethink their hurried decisions and reverse their decisions to not play this fall? Much credit, I think, should be given to those schools which did not buckle to the pressure that we must give up and accept the so-called wisdom of the moment. Best to you, Eric!

Eric Hansen: Denny thanks, and all the best to you. The pressure came from many directions when it came to the Big Ten opting back into the fall season, and the ACC/Big 12/SEC forging ahead was just one of many reasons. There was political pressure from Midwest lawmakers, media pressure, player/coach pressure, fan pressure. Just think about it ... in my home state of Ohio, the high schools were playing. The Bengals and Browns were playing. But not Ohio State? Notre Dame (and Iowa State) playing games in the same geographical region surely was part of the equation.

Jack from Oak Park, Ill.: Great to see the Irish live last Saturday but, all pandemic reasons aside, why did our veteran offensive line have so much trouble with run blocking the Duke defense? Is the switch to emphasize zone blocking more the issue and/or what adjustments did we actually make at halftime to see some improvements? Go Irish.

Eric Hansen: Jack, I think the most important takeaway regarding the O-line was the improvement as the game went on. For a team rolling out a new blocking scheme with its top two backs having a combined four college carries going in, some wonkiness in the first half was not reason for alarm. Had it continued ... but it did not. The offensive linemen themselves were making adjustments, communicating with each other, learning from every rep. Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree were also finding their rhythm.

One really important stat for the run game is power success rate. That's defined as the percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Last year, ND ranked 106th (out of 130 FBS teams) at 62%. In the 2019 opener against Louisville, the Irish were 0-for-4 in those situations. Saturday they were at 80% (4-of-5). There's room to grow, and there's also the talent to grow as well. Let's see if they take a step forward this week.

Andy from San Antonio, Texas: Good morning from Texas! Is there any new news regarding Kevin Austin Jr? Is he taking reps, and what is his timing for return? Also, what odds do you give Chris Tyree for returning a kickoff this year? Finally, will you be joining SportsBeat radio in the evening again? I always enjoy the On-Demand replay the following morning. Stay Safe!!

Eric Hansen: Andy, there haven't been a lot of questions directed at Brian Kelly regarding Kevin Austin lately because 1) We are very limited in the number of questions we can ask because of the Zoom formatting. So Austin is not yet high on my priority list. And 2) Austin's original timeline had him returning around the Florida State game (Oct. 10). If it hasn't been asked in the next couple of weeks, I'll make sure to do so in October. But I can understand why you're curious. Chris Tyree is already returning kickoffs, so I think you mean odds for a return for a TD? I think it will happen, yes. As far as SportsBeat, I hope you'll continue to support my radio partner, Darin Pritchett. I never heard back from management, so I think I have my answer. You can hear me and Tyler James every week on our Pod of Gold podcasts. Our guest this week was former ND and USF safety Devin Studstill.

Polish Prince Hank from Las Vegas. Good morning Eric. Without trying to come off as a naysayer. I have some serious concerns over the way the Irish offense performed last week. This is Jeff Quinn's third year as offensive line coach, with five highly regarded individual players. How is it that, as a unit, they perform so poorly in the run game? Secondly, to be kind Ian Book looked lost and confused again. I watched Clemson destroy Wake Forest later. Trevor Lawrence had 350 yards passing and three touchdowns in two quarters of football. How can the Irish compete against that offense if we can't throw the ball and can't run the ball between the tackles?

Eric Hansen: I hope to write about this in more detail later this week, but I'm glad you asked this question now. Team building in a normal year isn't going to be universal. Teams with elite talent (Alabama, Clemson, etc.) are going to look different in week 1 than everyone else. Notre Dame, as much as it had a veteran presence at a lot of positions, is a team that needs to grow into being a great team (if it indeed happens). That's even more the case in pandemic football. Looking at Clemson in September and early October isn't productive, and it's only going to make your head explode. ND needs to look like a top 5 team as it gets into mid October, when it plays Louisville. The question you have to ask yourself is what you're seeing that bothers you fixable? I think those issues are. I will admit Book's skittishness surprised me. I expect a better performance Saturday and going forward.

Mike from Rochester N.Y.: Hi, Eric. First, I think you and the rest of the staff did a great job covering the game, given all the limitations you were working under during COVID times. My questions: Ian Book had several high throws and seemed to be throwing off his back foot, not stepping into the throw. Was he holding the ball too long because he didn’t have open receivers or not reading the coverages or something else? Also, with Duke putting so many people within five yards of the line of scrimmage, why did they only throw one pass deeper than 12-15 yards the entire game? It seems a few more long passes would have softened the defense more, assuming a couple were completed. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Mike, thanks for the kind words. I was in the press box Saturday. and Tyler takes that turn this week. I'll be covering from my home office. There were several aspects of Book's game that were unsettling, and they've happened before. One of his remaining challenges as a college QB is adjusting more quickly when a team throws looks at him he was not expecting. His footwork needs to be more consistent. BK cited chemistry with receivers as something that was rough Saturday that he expects to improve. I don't think Duke is an easy team to take deep shots against. The Blue Devils play five DBs, and they're pretty experienced at those positions. And they pair that with two of the better defensive ends in the ACC. I think ND's run game is going to open up the deep passing game as we go along more than the deep passing game is going to open up the run. Especially against teams with similar defensive strengths to Duke's.

Rick Dierolf from Sinking Spring, Pa.: Hey Eric, I was very thankful to be able to watch our Irish play Saturday but also very frustrating at times. It seemed the receivers were not getting separation, and Book missed some easy throws and seemed jittery in the pocket,. When he did step up in the pocket, he hit Avery Davis for the touchdown. He also missed at least two open receivers for touchdowns. Will he ever get over these flaws in his game? And why can’t our young, talented receivers get on the field like they do at other schools? Thanks Eric, I love your work.

Eric Hansen: Rick, there were times when the receivers were not getting separation and times Book missed "layups," as Brian Kelly called them. But your question is why can't ND get young, talented receivers on the field early? It comes down to trust and being patient with mistakes sometimes. Mike Denbrock was more willing to do that then Chip Long/Del Alexander, it seems. Sometimes it goes beyond football, as Brian Kelly alluded to regarding Jordan Johnson recently. Anytime Kelly brings up working on "traits," he's not talking about route running. One caveat, there are position groups that have been affected at times by quarantines, and wide receiver may very well have been one of them.

Patrick from Fort Wayne: Eric, Saturday's weather will feel like fall, and a Florida team is in town. I wonder how they will deal with northern Indiana weather? Watching Ian Book throw the football last Saturday gave me deja vu. He was overthrowing receivers last year and continues to do the same this year. Also, he still throws off his back foot way too often. I would think he worked on such issues over the offseason. Do you see this as a continuing problem for a senior QB?

Eric Hansen: Patrick, it looks like a high of 64 degrees and low of 48, so I'm not sure that's going to be the culture shock you're hoping for. Again, I expect Book to improve. What he must prove beyond that, as the schedule toughens later in the season, is whether he's elite.

Steve from Canton, Mich.: Thanks for the insight you provide. Two questions: 1) From where did you view the game? And 2) Book appeared to be off on his passes. Did you view that as well or were the receivers not getting separation?

Eric Hansen: Steve, I was one of 26 media members in the press box (normally there are 180), and we were spread out. It was incredible to be there Saturday after so many apocalyptic stories this summer from people in my profession saying playing college football in a pandemic was impossible. I slept better Saturday night than I had in six months. I was finally in my comfort zone and it felt exhilarating. ... I've addressed Book already and am eager to see how he builds on that performance.

Tom from Georgia: In what phase of the game did you see improvement from Ian Book?

Eric Hansen: Leadership. I think one of the reasons ND had so few COVID-19 cases this summer and how they kept their focus with all the distractions was strong leadership, including that coming from Ian Book.

Terry from Alexandria, Va.: Hi Eric! I know we want to run the ball more this season, but what type of offense are we? Spread or pro-style style offense?

Eric Hansen: Terry, I think ND is still very much spread, but I think you may see less zone read, for instance, and also more formation and philosophical wrinkles this season than what you may normally associate with spread.

Alex from Jackson, Mo.: Good afternoon, Eric. Hope you are doing well. Two observations. The first, thank goodness for the screen game we spoke about last week. When done well, I believe it is the most beautiful play in football. Hit on two opportunities and another one was big yardage left on the field. Second thought, I believe maybe we need to be happy with Book as is. Maybe he has plateaued? I hope I’m wrong, but he is pretty good as is. I’m not sure sitting in the pocket is his game. And finally,I watched Kyren Williams beat my alma matter in high school. Glad to see him run over, around, and through Division I talent as well. What a joy to watch on Saturday.

Eric Hansen: Alex, yes the screens seem to fit the personnel very well, and Brian Kelly said to expect that to be more of a staple under Tommy Rees. Book may have reached a ceiling, but mid-September is too early to conclude that one way more another. October football is going to tell us a lot.

Mark from Orange County, Calif.: How much of an improvement do you expect to see from the offense this week compared to week 1?

Eric Hansen: It might be harder to tell, because Duke is better than USF, but I expect more than incremental improvement this week. I have ND scoring 42 points in my final score prediction.

Joe H from Lake Geneva, Wis.: Hi Eric Great to be talking Irish football with you again. Just wondering why we didn’t see any of our heralded freshman wide receivers last week and also why, with the exception of maybe one or two plays, didn’t we try any passing plays longer than nine or 10 yards?

Eric Hansen: Joe, second question first. Sometimes you have to attack a defense where it's vulnerable. Duke's defense probably will end up being very average, but their standouts are in the defensive backfield and in their pass rushers. They set their defense up to test ND's passing game, because that's where they perceived ND's offense to be most vulnerable. Ideally, ND will be able to run and pass equally well in time, and then that becomes a challenge for opposing defensive coordinators. When you play Clemson, you can't ignore Travis Etienne to focus on Trevor Lawrence and vice versa, for instance. ... One of those freshmen, Jordan Johnson or Xavier Watts, is probably going to rotate in this week.

Erik from Granger: You said on Pod of Gold that you like Brendan Clark but not his inexperience. Given that we didn’t see a lot of chemistry between Book and the wide receivers last week, do you think it will be more important for Ian Book to get more garbage time reps this week or Clark? (If we have a big lead in the fourth quarter and Book hasn’t been overly sharp).

Eric Hansen: I think Book needs reps with the receivers. Period. It's apparent that timing and chemistry needs to build. But if it's a four-TD lead in the fourth quarter, I think that situation calls for Brendon Clark to get experience. It's a balance, but if you're playing against a second-team defense, it's time for Clark to come in.

Chuck from Westfield, Ind: Good morning, Eric. So enjoy these chats and your articles in the paper. i recently inquired about the defensive freshman end from Germany. Will he see any playing time this year. Thanks, Eric.

Eric Hansen: Hi Chuck. Thank you for being part of these chats. The free year of eligibility the NCAA granted because of the pandemic kind of takes away the incentive to redshirt players in 2020, although I wonder it they'll walk back aspects of that at some point. In any event, Alexander Ehrensberger had trouble this summer getting back to the U.S., so he was in Germany much of that time. Even if he had been here, he's viewed as a long-term prospect. I'd expect Jordan Botelho be a higher priority to get on the field at defensive end this year. That doesn't change what the staff thinks in terms of Alexander's long-term potential. Not everyone develops on the same timetable. 

Cliff from Battle Creek: According to Pro Football Focus, Notre Dame had the best O-line in college last week. However, that didn't feel like what I was seeing live. Do you agree with PFF or what did you see from that group?

Eric Hansen: I think the line played better than he fan base thinks it did. In the fan base's defense, the expectation is that this could/should be THE BEST line in the nation. So I get the angst, but I also believe the line can/will start evolving in that direction. Also keep in mind, there was less competition for that award last weekend. No SEC, no Big Ten, no Pac-12 and not a full run of Big 12 or ACC games. Still, it's a nice starting point.

Jake8589 from Saratoga Springs, N.Y.: Hello Eric, do you think at some point Brian Kelly will get up the courage to make a change at QB, as the ceiling for Ian Book has been hit and it’s not pretty? A third-year starting QB who still acts like a chicken with its head cut off in the pocket if his first option isn’t wide open.

Eric Hansen: Jake, you lively minx, that is a LOADED question. I'll answer it without addressing the chicken-with-the-head-cut-off aspect. ND has invested in Ian book, believes in Ian Book. And unless there's an injury, they're going to find out this year what his ceiling is.

Gabriel Weiss from South Bend: Good afternoon, Eric. How surprised were you that Joe Wilkins Jr. was the wide receiver who stepped up for Notre Dame last weekend? I had often heard about Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy, of course, this offseason, but not so much about him. Do you think he will continue to get playing time, especially as the forementioned receivers get back healthy and on the field?

Eric Hansen: Not entirely surprised. When I've had conversations in the past with ND's defensive backs the past two seasons, and especially in 2019, they brought up Joe Wilkins a lot. The fact that the coaches didn't move him back to cornerback at some point led me to believe they felt investing in him on offense would eventually pay off. We had seem him flash in some practices in past years that the media was allowed to attend. I do think he'll get some opportunities this week, and he has to take advantage of those, because Kevin Austin and Ben Skowronek will be back sooner than later.

Tom from Downers Grove, Ill.: Hi Eric, I know it's only been one week, but do you think Duke might be one of the better ACC teams this year? There were a lot of good things and a lot of struggles, so I'm wondering if we can attribute any of that to Duke being better than what they are historically?

Eric Hansen: They were picked 12th out of 15 teams in the preseason ACC media poll, and yet Duke has had a winning record in five of the last seven seasons. I think reality probably lies somewhere in between those two points. I think if ND played Duke again in late October, the margin would be wider. I think it's a team with some standout players and a very good head coach, but with some missing pieces.

Lawrence from San Diego: DJ Brown played more than Houston Griffith or Isaiah Pryor in relief of Kyle Hamilton? Any insight or thoughts?

Eric Hansen: That's my first question to Brian Kelly Thursday. He may have to dance around it a bit, because I do believe safety is a position that was affected by quarantine at some point in training camp.

Joe from Toledo, Ohio: Coach Ed Orgeron stated that roughly 75% of LSU’s team has been infected with COVID-19. I have heard of high infection rates at other football powerhouses. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, have you considered the likelihood that some programs have tried to COVID-proof their teams or at least have been permissive to the point that it’s a likely outcome?

Eric Hansen: I have no evidence that happened, nor has that been my focus. If it did happen, it's beyond reprehensible, given the risk and the potential long-term effects of the virus that science is still learning about. Also, it has not been proven yet that an individual can't be reinfected after three months, Also, if that many individuals tested positive, than there would have been a lot of practice disruptions.

Iwin from Flagler Beach, Fla.: Hello. Great to have you and football back. I have more of a comment than a question — but I'll end it with a question mark. The players, coaches and university all did an amazing job getting us to this point in time. This has to be the craziest, most uncertain time in the history of college football. Rather than all the doubting, do you think the coaches and players should be hearing high praise for the work, the personal commitments and class they have all shown throughout this process and ordeal?

Eric Hansen: It's great to have you back too. I think they deserve praise, and they are getting it. Today's ND COVID-19 dashboard shows only 49 active cases on campus among students and employees, three new positives among 446 new tests, and a 1.4% seven-day positivity rate.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, Thanks for hosting the chat. It's great to have football back! I was really disappointed with the performance of the offensive line on Saturday, particularly with regard to the run game. They never seem to get a good push, and a lot of times they seem to be falling backward. I know that this is a talented and experienced group, but some of the problems seem to be related to poor technique. This was an issue last season as well. Why can't this get corrected? I also thought Ian Book was disappointing and lacked confidence. To me his issues seem more mental than physical. Does the team spend time working with sport psychologists and using visualization to help players get through mental blocks? As always, thanks for your thoughts.

Eric Hansen: Marie, always nice to get your sharp lines of questioning. We've addressed a couple of these, but I wanted to get to the last line of questions. Yes, the team does have a mental performance specialist in Dr. Amber Selking. It may be coincidence, but they are 34-6 since enlisting her services. Yes, she has told me visualization is one of the techniques they use to work through mental blocks. We hope to have her on the Pod of Gold podcast at some point.

Nathan from Long Beach, Calif.: Eric, you usually have a great perspective about the state of our team and aren’t as prone to freaking out, as I am. From what I saw, there were three things that alarmed me about our offense in no particular order: Our inability to create push at the line of scrimmage in the run game, our wide receivers' inability to create separation in the passing game and what seemed like vanilla play calling in Tommy Rees' first regular-season game as offensive coordinator. Am I overreacting or are you concerned as well?

Eric Hansen: Hi Nathan, I've addressed all but the vanilla play-calling so far. In October, every one of those things would concern me if they were still happening. In the opener, with the team improving significantly in the second half, I'm good. But you know what, I WELCOMED the overreactions this week. There were times this summer the world was telling us playing college football was a needle that was impossible to thread. To have the reactions and overreactions flooding my inbox and Twitter notifications made me feel NORMAL. Overreaction is week 1 is NORMAL. It was not the kind of performance that should have prompted you to douse yourself in Gatorade, but it's a building block. And that's OK for an opener.

Tom from Toronto: Hi Eric, Always enjoy your work and insights. Did you ever get an sense from Brian Kelly as to why the team's performance against Michigan last year seemed lackadaisical? And did you come to a conclusion as to why this occurred? Finally, do you expect to see a similar situation for the rest of coach Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame, or do you think that this issue has been resolved? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: I did write about that this summer in our special section preview that came out in August. Email me, and I'll try to get you a more expansive answer.

Frank from St. Louis: Do you believe the current group of assistant coaches are better recruiters than those assistants of, say, four years ago? I recall a couple couldn’t land any good corners or safeties.

Eric Hansen: Longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming thinks this is Brian Kelly's best recruiting staff. I think, despite the pandemic and some summer disappointments, ND is poised to finish the recruiting cycle strong.

john from Walled Lake, Mich.: Hi Eric, how are you doing? What are the chances Notre Dame gets Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas, and keeps David Abiara committed? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: John, I'm doing fantastic. Thanks for asking. To your question, I'd say there's momentum for the first two and a great big question mark for the third.

Bill from Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Went through a lot just to be able to play! If it’s true a team improves the most between its first & second game, what areas are you looking to see the most improvement? I saw a lot of freshman talent. Running backs ran hard. Secondary looked better, but line play, play-calling and Ian Book’s passing left me wondering. Not putting anyone down, but where do we go from here? Stay safe Eric!! I think these chats keep us sane!!! Go Irish!

Eric Hansen: I don't think a team makes its most improvement from game 1 to game 2, so I'm in the minority, I suppose. I think it's a myth. Where the team goes from here is just simply work to improve. None of the things that ailed them in the opener are terminal. Thank you for your question.

Tom from Downers Grove, Ill.: Eric, I firmly believe Ian Book has hit his ceiling. I don't believe he'll actually play better than his peak of the previous seasons. That being said, do you think an Ian Book at his peak will calm this fan base down? Also, does Book return next year because of COVID eligibility?

Eric Hansen: Ian Book at the peak you perceive won't calm anybody down. I'm not sure that you're right or wrong. I do know he works his butt off to get better. We'll find out together if that's good enough. I do not expect him to come back for a sixth year unless perhaps he suffered a long-term injury that wiped out most of his season.

Tim from Atlanta: It has been commented many times that Book doesn't step up into the pocket and throw off his front foot. This is so basic that I'm wondering if something else is going on. Is it possible that the line is giving too much ground or that Book is simply not tall enough to see over them if he is too close?

Eric Hansen: It's been a challenge for him intermittently throughout his career. it's something people at the next level notice. It's not unfixable.

Terry from Alexandria, Va.: If we are going to run the ball more and teams are going to try to stack the box or be a little more aggressive in their run defense, shouldn't we run more misdirection, screens and play action plays? This will give the other teams' defenses more to think about and to be a little hesitant with their aggressive style to stop the run, which could make the offense more explosive. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: ND did run screens and misdirections on Saturday, and they worked for the most part.

Dwight from Arkansas: With the possibility that the Big Ten and others(?) could start football in mid-October, how would that affect rankings, playoffs, the national title picture? Would they be joining too late to merit consideration?

Eric Hansen: I think where it gets muddled is the numbers. The Big Ten is going to play eight regular-season games, plus everyone in that league will play a postseason game during championship week. So that's nine games vs. 12 for the ACC champ and runner-up, for instance. Given there are no non-conference games for the Big Ten to present any kind of relative comparison for league strength and the limited numbers overall, it's had to see a path to the playoff unless there is a lack of unbeaten teams in the other power conferences.

Erik from Granger: Thanks for being here! What impressed you the most on Saturday? And what surprised you most (good and bad)?

Eric Hansen: Impressed me the most: The tight ends, Kyren Williams/Chris Tyree, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kyle Hamilton, depth in the front seven, Jonathan Doerer, the Notre Dame Stadium crowd. Surprises (good) Joe Wilkins, cornerback play. Other surprises: Book's struggles, kick/punt coverage.

Ryan from Philly: How good do you think Michael Mayer can be as he progresses? i think he can be a first-round talent.

Eric Hansen: It's just one game, but your trajectory is spot on. I think he has that kind of potential.

GB from Wasilla, Alaska: Eric, When you spoke to Charlie Weis Jr., did you get the sense that he was mad at the way his dad or he might have been treated in South Bend or did he leave South Bend on good terms? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: I hope it was apparent in the article. Otherwise, I did a lousy job. I don't think he was mad. I think it was hard on him, but he learned a lot from the way his dad dealt with it. And he loves South Bend. He's proud to call it his hometown.

Jake from the home of Tyler James: Can you see a scenario where Jafar Armstrong ends up as slot type receiver? He looked good Saturday speed-wise and from a physicality standpoint. Just seems like he has a lot of talent to be a backup.

Eric Hansen: I think they like him in a hybrid role, where it gives them lots of flexibility with formations and play calls. My kids were born in LaPorte (home of Tyler James), just so you know.

Joe from Tega Cay, S.C.: Hello Eric, thank you for your time. I saw a stat recently that stated Ian Book was blitzed on 35 percent of his dropbacks in 2019, which was fourth-most in FBS. How do you think that has impacted his performance? And the perception of his performance? Finally, why do you think ND has faced the blitz so often?

Eric Hansen: Joe, I know Tyler James did a lot of research on pressures, and I don't have those numbers in front of me. But if a quarterback shows he can't make you pay for blitzing, guess what? it's a copycat game. He's going to see it until he shows he can make you pay. Just like a major league hitter and a curveball.

Martin from Orlando: i am not concerned with the slow start. We seem to do this every year. Do we need more motion, distraction, and play action? Sure seems we do ... and will that expand with more game time?

Eric Hansen: As the running game becomes more of a threat, play action becomes a more effective option. Keep in mind, training camp in pandemic football was foremost for conditioning and fundamentals. With no spring practice, expect the playbook to expand throughout the season. I like your observations.

Five-Part Matt from Kansas City: 1. Against Duke, Ian Book didn't seem to play great, but was OK. Do you think it is a matter of being a bit rusty with new weapons in game 1 or is it more of a ceiling we see for him against really talented secondaries?

2. Do the coaches ever give you unguarded talk behind the scenes (non-political answers). I guess so you can have more of a real flavor of a given story?

3. In the run game, was our offensive line play just a matter of Duke overloading the box and not an indictment of us being able to get a push?

4. Will any of the fifth-years be back next year (I think the NCAA said this year doesn't count against eligibility)?

5. Who is this Foskey kid? He was everywhere Saturday.

Eric Hansen: OK, Matt, you're going to have to scroll for some of your answers. I can answer 2, 3 and 5, since they haven't been asked yet. 2. Yes, but I try not to go to that well too often. On-the-record comments are the most helpful and powerful. 4. I don't think there would be many, if at all. Most of those guys have NFL aspirations. 5. I've been talking about Foskey for a while. Get used to him making an impact. Future starter.

Joe from Toledo, Ohio: Eric, thanks for the chat, as always! I have two short questions. Do you believe Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is the best player on the team, all things considered? Also, Michael Mayer looks like an absolute stud. Will he be the leading pass-catcher on this year's team?

Eric Hansen: I think JOK is No. 2 behind Kyle Hamilton, but he could change my mind this year. Clearly, they're No. 1 and 2 in some order. Mayer the leading receiver? Not this year, but I love his game.

Terry from Niles, Mich.: Eric I appreciate that you take time out to answers questions. I am new to doing this. Do you believe Jordan Johnson will be able to get on the field this year. I heard that he has not been turning in his homework assignments, as he should. Since the Michigan game when Book was not stepping up in the pocket, I have been watching him. I thought that he did step up in the pocket against Duke. I believe that he will do all right once the receivers understand what he expects from them.

Eric Hansen: Welcome, Terry. I think Johnson has the talent to get on the field. He impressed Brian Kelly this summer. He needs to show he has the maturity to get on the field. That's his next step. I'm not sure I agree with you on Book, except the part about better chemistry with the receivers will make him more comfortable ... and the fans too.

Jonathan from Spruce Lake Campground, Estes Park, Colo.: It’s fun to read all the Eric appreciation here each week. Agree with it wholeheartedly. We're lucky to have you in the Fighting Irish universe. As to more pressing matters, why can’t we make teams pay for the run blitzes they keep sending our way? Am I wrong to think that’s been an issue ever since the collapse of the 33 Trucking campaign one ugly November evening at the U? Did the Miami scouts figure something out that game about how to defend the Kelly offense? Seems to this conspiracy theorist that we’ve never run the ball the same ever since.

Eric Hansen: Jonathan, thank you for three complete sentences of compliments. I'm overwhelmed. Let me oversimplify my answer to your question. I think ND is more committed to the running game in 2020 than at any time since the start of the 2018 season. I think they're better equipped to make that commitment count than at any time since the beginning of the 2018 season. Can they run effectively in a big game? I don't know that answer yet.

Mark from Orange County, Calif: Hi Eric. Thank you for all that you have been doing to give us fans some sense of normalcy in this unique season.

Eric Hansen: From what I see on the news, you need it more out in California than the rest of us. Hope you are safe. Those fires are scary.

Eric Hansen: That's going to have to do it for today. I have an interview commitment coming up in a couple of minutes. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back to do it all again next Wednesday at noon EDT.

ehansen@sbtinfo.com

Twitter: @EHansenNDI