Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, the post-double-bye Gonzo edition. Please remember to include your NAME and HOMETOWN with your question. Let's get started.
Andrew from Plymouth, Ind.: Why do you think ND has been so reluctant to let Ian Book run so far this season? He was one of the most prolific running QBs last season and had a statistically great season when you consider his running and passing numbers. Last season he destroyed Duke on the ground, and I don't recall seeing even a single designed run for in that game this season. Is this a philosophical change from Chip Long to Tommy Rees?
Eric Hansen: In a small sample size, the numbers (which include scrambles) aren't that far off — 6.5 carries a game this year vs. 8.6 last year. And he does have three rushing TDs. Eventually, the defensive prowess of some of ND's opponents is going to make the decision to run or not to run Book more urgent in certain games: Pitt. Clemson. UNC. For now, I think a lot of it has to do with quarterback depth. Remember, last year, with Phil Jurkovec was the backup, it was still post-Michigan when ND really committed to Book's planned runs. This year you've got even less experience at the No. 2 QB. And in the USF game, Brendon Clark wasn't available because of COVID, so you were down to one scholarship backup and that was true freshman Drew Pyne. The offense runs smoother when Book's running is part of the package. But ND is going to be smart about when and how much to sprinkle that in.
Mike from Oklahoma, Hi Eric, enjoy reading the chats. Gives us a different perspective. Do you think ND will recruit the state of Texas more aggressively than they have in the past. Looks like they are working N.C., Fla., and Georgia pretty hard, but I don't see as many kids from Texas as I have in the past.
Eric Hansen: Mike, I turned to Carter Karels, our recruiting guy, to help me with this one. Here is his answer: The Texas kids on the roster are wide receiver Avery Davis, tight end Brock Wright, offensive lineman Hunter Spears and defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah. I just don't think Texas and Florida are as valuable to Notre Dame as states like California, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. If a recruit attends a Catholic high school, Notre Dame starts his recruitment with a leg up. There are a lot more valuable Catholic schools in that second group of states compared to the first group. Kids from Texas and Florida don't seem as willing to leave the area as much as those from the second group of states. I wouldn't be that concerned about Notre Dame not recruiting Texas as much. I'd be concerned about Notre Dame's issues recruiting Southern California. That is a glaring problem.
RC from Albany, N.Y.: Hi Eric, thanks for keeping up with the chats. Are we overlooking Florida State? There is no question that they are struggling, but as you indicated in your article earlier this week, they are talented, especially on defense. We have beaten two teams with a combined record of 1-6. I expect Florida State will load the box to take away the run and the short passing game, forcing ND to win with intermediate and long passes against some talented defensive backs in one-on-one situations. Could we be in for a low-scoring, close game?
Eric Hansen: There's a difference between the fan base/media/oddsmakers looking at a matchup and how the team itself does. And they're not always linked. I would imagine Notre Dame's layoff will both sharpen its focus and flatten its execution to some extent. One of Florida State's biggest problems is self-inflicted wounds. The Seminoles are one of the most-penalized teams in the country. They're in the bottom 10 nationally in turnovers lost and sacks allowed. What would happen if they got that all together for one game? I question how much loading the box will work, because Georgia Tech and Miami had no trouble running into and through those looks. I think the game may be close in the first half, as ND finds its timing and footing. But I have ND winning 31-13.
Jeff from Cleveland, Ohio: Eric, I feel like the offensive line is going to continue to improve as the season goes along. My question, however, is related to how you think they are positioned for next year and beyond? If I'm not mistaken (knowing me, I very easily could be ...), I believe four out of the five starting offensive linemen will be graduating at the end of this year. So, in addition to Jarrett Patterson at center, who do you feel will be locking down the guard and tackle spots going forward? And are we in good shape with those guys or do you just not know because of lack of playing time? Do Brian Kelly and Jeff Quinn believe in giving these young guys playing time when given the opportunity?
Eric Hansen: Well, technically they can all come back because of the NCAA's COVID rule, but I would expect Liam Eichenberg, Tommy Kraemer and Robert Hainsey to move on as scheduled. Aaron Banks would have another year even without the COVID rule. His return would depend on how the NFL sees him at this point. Whether he leaves or not, there's some good material coming back, just not a lot of experience. I'd say Andrew Kristofic is the likely starting left tackle. Tosh Baker has freaky upside at that spot. I think Josh Lugg starts at right tackle. Lots of experience there. Patterson is still at center, so now it's the guards. If there's no Banks, a healthy Dillan Gibbons may grab that left guard spot. I think Zeke Correll, who plays center, could compete for a starting guard spot. So might too true freshman Rocco Spindler. Don't rule that out. There are plenty more high-end prospects across the line, including Blake Fisher, Quinn Carroll and Michael Carmody. The current backups will play when the score dictates, but the starters still need reps together,
Doug from Sunny Florida: Am I the only person that caught your Ted Nugent reference?
Eric Hansen: Gosh, I hope not, but you never know.
Barney from Long Island, N.Y.: Since Jack Kiser's name is not listed in the current depth chart, are we to assume he is either in isolation or quarantine?
Eric Hansen: There are a lot of variations on this question today, but this one lets me address the methodology behind the depth charts Notre Dame releases.
How Notre Dame is working it goes as follows. If a player is listed on the two-deeps on Monday, that means the expectation is he'll be available Saturday. That goes for both injuries and COVID-19 concerns. However, if something happens during the week, the media will be alerted Saturday, 90 minutes before kickoff. The list of unavailable players will NOT distinguish between those out because of injury or those missing because of quarantine or isolation.
Now just because a player isn't in the two-deeps on Monday does NOT mean he's unavailable. He might be or he might just be the third option. In Jack Kiser's case, it it my understanding he will NOT be available to play. When the chat was live, I had a little bit different answer. I have since heard from a good source he will not be available.
When Jack returns, it's going to be an interesting competition with Marist Liufau, Shayne Simon and Jack Lamb as he recovers more fully from injury. Remember, Liufau/Simon won those depth chart spots over weeks, not one day. I think Kiser is going to be really, really good. I think his biggest challenge when he can practice again is consistency, not something lacking from his skill set. I repeat from past chats, I think there is a lot of talent at the linebacker positions on this team.
Erik from Granger: Thanks for being here! Did South Florida really escape South Bend without catching the coronavirus? If so, what are the dynamics that prevented in-game transmission? Just the amount of time players spend breathing on each other in the tackle pile?
Eric Hansen: Erik, I am going to oversimplify this and rely on conversations I had with St. Joseph County deputy health officer Dr. Mark Fox, who's been a consultant to Notre Dame and the football program. 1. USF had zero positives. 2. The thinking in the last 6-8 weeks suggests players who are positive but don't have enough viral load yet to trip a positive test result, also don't have enough viral load to transmit the virus during a game. 3. However, that viral load continues to build, and so a player who couldn't spread it Saturday afternoon could very well do so on Sunday or Monday. 4. Close contact is defined as 15 sustained minutes, so a tackle pile would be maybe one sustained minute at the most. 5. Teams and doctors are learning every day.
Lawrence from San Diego: Can this team have a decent chance of taking down playoff-caliber teams without a go-to receiver. By go-to receiver, I mean a player who can consistently force a defense to choose between allocating extra resources to help cover him or letting him make plays.
Eric Hansen: Lawrence, I appreciate you defining that. I think it would be very difficult to overcome that lack of that dynamic against the caliber of teams you see in the playoff. They're just too balanced and talented offensively and defensively for a team to come into a playoff with that kind of hole in their game and expect to win. Maybe in a freaky turnover game. ... Having said that, I think a healthy Braden Lenzy, a healthy Kevin Austin and a regular, old ornery Tommy Tremble can give Notre Dame that kind of dynamic. I know I'm putting a lot on Austin, a player who hasn't been in a game since 2018, but I do believe he has that kind of potential.
Bruce from Centralia, Ill.: Eric, I enjoyed your article on FSU’s struggles on the field despite their strong recruiting classes. When programs don’t meet expectations, you often hear it said that something has gone wrong with the culture. Without asking you to comment on FSU in particular, when you hear that a team doesn’t have a winning culture, what does that mean to you? Thanks as always.
Eric Hansen: Hi Bruce. It can be very broad and include things like infrastructure, financial and philosophical commitment to football from the administration.... but I'll boil it down to player dynamics. You need great leaders, players who set a high standard on and off the field. Players that will demand excellence when the coaches aren't watching. ... You need resilience. Some teams would have folded after the Michigan loss. Maybe even some prior ND teams. This one has responded with the longest active win streak among Power 5 schools. ... It's about kids staying and persevering when the path of least resistance is a transfer (though not all transfers are bad for the program or player). ... It's about handling adversity, being unselfish, being about team.
Terry from Niles, Mich.: Hi Eric. I appreciate the work that you must put in to answer our questions. I know the players have their HIPAA Rights, and I would not ask you to violate their rights. Can you tell us how many players will be unable to play this weekend? Did the number grow this week with additional players?
Eric Hansen: It was 11 — seven in isolation and four in quarantine — as of Monday. If there are no new positives, I think it'd be hard for the seven in isolation to be back, since they can't work out in isolation and they have to ramp back up slowly. The four quarantine players have a chance, based upon how early in the week (if at all) their 14 days ended. Quarantined players can condition once they hit about the halfway point of the 14 days. ... and again, the players on the published Notre Dame two-deeps as of Monday were all available as of Monday.
Dwight from Arkansas: With Ian Book losing his eligibility after this season and the real likelihood that no backup QB will get any significant work, I thought of the transfer portal that has worked amazingly well for other major programs. Jalen Hurts, Baker Mayfield, Justin Fields and Joe Burrow among others have hit a gold mine when transferring for their last year (I believe in most cases) to a different school. (I am thinking BC may have such a quality transfer in a young man named Jurkovec, but too early to be sure). When a quarterback with a strong pedigree ponders transferring, do they contact schools of interest? How does the word get around that they are searching? Does ND keep their ears/eyes open for such an impacting player?
Eric Hansen: The difference between the transfer portal concept and what existed before is that once a player puts himself in the portal, any school can contact him and vice versa. And schools are constantly monitoring the portal. Previously, you had to have a release from your current school, and sometimes certain schools were blocked from contacting you. In both instances, a player will often kind of use a third party to gauge interest before he even enters the portal, although some players will not. Notre Dame uses the portal less often than a lot of schools, but they are diligent about knowing what's in it.
Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, with ND running out of spots in this year's recruiting class, can you shed some light on the situation with David Abiara? He has been a rather publicly rumored flip to Oklahoma since around May, which is odd. When will ND or Abiara make a decision? And if he leaves, will ND look for another defensive end? Thanks, dude.
Eric Hansen: This is another question in which I leaned on Carter Karels ... Here is his response:
Until David Abiara signs on the dotted line, I expect him to be up in the air. His situation continues to be fluid, but I will say that Notre Dame seems to be in a better position with him than it was in May. In May, it seemed like a certainty that he would leave. Now, it's more 50-50. I'm also not certain Oklahoma would be his landing spot. Texas and SMU also are strong contenders. The Irish landed defensive end Will Schweitzer's verbal pledge in August. He gives them some insurance to go with defensive line commits Gabriel Rubio and Jason Onye. ND has not offered a scholarship to any other defensive ends lately. One more thing — I don't believe Abiara has done a public interview since he committed to Notre Dame in March. He agreed to do an interview with me last week, but, all the sudden went quiet. Not sure if that means something. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say when he finally talks publicly.
Tom from Georgia: Do you expect Brendon Clark to take the helm for at least one series in the first half on Saturday? Should he?
Eric Hansen: Not unless there's an injury to Ian Book. And not unless there's an injury to Ian Book.
Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, great that Kevin Austin and the chat are back! It was nice to see Irish recruiting do well in my neck of the woods last week. Hopefully, Deon Colzie and Jayden Thomas will be great additions to the class. With regard to the 2021 class, which commits are planning on enrolling early, and who do you think will push for playing time as true freshmen? Also is there any update on the status of David Abiara? Finally, with all the good publicity the O-line is currently getting, and with the commitment of Rocco Spindler, do you think there is any way to get back into position to get a commitment from Donovan Edwards? Thanks for your insights.
Eric Hansen: Hi Marie, nice to hear from you. Let's start with the early enrollees. Carter Karels tells me that list comprises Rocco Spindler, Tyler Buchner, Ryan Barnes, Lorenzo Styles Jr., Gabriel Rubio, Blake Fisher, Cane Berrong, Justin Walters and David Abiara if he stays committed. Maybes are Prince Kollie, Mitchell Evans and Will Schweitzer. Colzie originally was on the list but will now wait, it seems ... Abiara I just updated (or rather Carter Karels did through me). ... I don't see Donovan Edwards ending up at Notre Dame without a lot of weird stuff happening. As far as who might play early, I'm going to defer to a little later in the season. The COVID rule, with the ability for anyone to come back in 2021, clouds where they might be some opportunities for young guys.
Mark from Orange County, Calif.: Hi Eric. Sure do appreciate all of your efforts to keep us informed on the status of ND football, especially these chats. Hope you and your family are well. Phase 2 of Brian Kelly's career here at ND (the last losing season to now) has seen some fantastic improvements and results in the football program. Do you think the team will play Saturday as if it is the third game of the season, or play with some rust because of the long break since their last game?
Eric Hansen: Mark, thank you. I think mentally, the Irish will be sharp. I think physically (timing, rhythm), it likely will take them a half to get settled in. And don't forget you're adding back in some pieces to the passing game — good pieces — but a chemistry challenge all the same. We talked about that a bit with Corey Robinson on our latest Pod of Gold podcast:
Denny from Liberty Hill, Texas: Hi Eric. Do you think it would be best for Tyler Buchner to get in another season of high school football or early enroll for spring advantages? Also do you think Notre Dame may influence his choice one way or the other for best results?
Eric Hansen: Tyler James and I asked Rick Mirer that very question on last week's Pod of Gold podcast. Mirer, who lives in the San Diego area, is very familiar with Tyler Buchner and his family. His thoughts were that Buchner would be better off at ND learning its system than another year in high school. I think the ND coaching staff would support him either way but would encourage him to come to ND.
Gene from New York: Hi Eric, thanks for bringing us a little bit of "normal" in these crazy times! We’ve taken steps forward against lesser talent, but are still light years from Clemson or Alabama. While we’re getting an injection of talent in receiving corps and offensive line has shown improvement, to beat those teams you need QB, OL and receivers to be at top of game (along with OC), or else defense will take away one or two options and force you to beat them with weakest link. And we know that hasn’t worked well in recent years. What are you looking for before Clemson game to feel we might be able to compete with them one month from now?
Eric Hansen: Thank YOU! Improved quarterback play. A running game that can stand up to elite talent. Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy turning into the Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy that they're capable of being. The run defense going from good to great. Continued progress at cornerback.
Jim from Oakwood, Ohio: Peace and blessings to you and your family Eric for good health. A mini-rant if I may please: I am still stunned at the fact that Father Jenkins was without a mask and glad-handing everyone at the Rose Garden super-spreader event ... in violation of ND protocols that he was responsible for enforcing and after threatening the student body early in the semester with the possibility of being sent home for their actions. An incredible failure of leadership. How did Sunday's scrimmage go? Any new injuries or COVID limitations as of today?. Saturday night's game still a go? Virginia Tech is off to a good start with its road win at Duke while so shorthanded with key personnel and coaches. I am surprised that they've played two games now with so many in isolation and quarantine. Be well.
Eric Hansen: Jim, thanks and blessings to you. Kelly was pleased with the scrimmage and all what they were able to get out of it. Lots of 1s vs. 1s and situational work. Virginia Tech has a transfer running back from Kansas who leads the nation in rushing and all-purpose yardage (Khalil Herbert). The Hokies play at North Carolina on Saturday in a noon game. That should tell us a lot about both teams.
Mark from Grand Haven Mich.: Eric, your article today on blocking schemes was one of your best, and that’s saying something because your coverage of the Irish is top-notch. My question stems from my wanting to make sure I understand what Aaron was explaining. My question: Would an example of the pin and pull be the old Lombardi sweep, where he pulled two guards to lead the backs? Thanks!
Eric Hansen: Mark, thanks. I give Skip from Houston all the credit for asking the question in last week's chat. I would say your assessment is correct, but it doesn't have to be the two guards pulling. Sometimes it's the center and a guard, for instance.
Jim Tal from Valley Center, Calif.: Hi Eric, so appreciate all that you do and the tremendous amount of work you put in to keep us Irish fans in the loop. I really admire and appreciate the skills and mindset that Clark Lea brings to the table and I consider him one of the truly topflight assistants in the entire country. What he's done with the defense has been notable, to say the least. I hate to say it, but I just don't see him staying at ND beyond this season because he's gotten head coaching potential written all over him. And that would be a real and impactful loss for the Irish. Could you share your thoughts on how likely it is that Irish nation gets lucky and still has Lea calling the defensive shots in 2021? Thanks much.
Eric Hansen: Jim, thanks for the kind words. If Clark is going to leave after this year, he'll leave for a Power 5 job. The question is with the pandemic and not so many schools in position to eat contract buyouts, will more coaches stay who would normally be fired under pre-pandemic conditions ... because of finances? Such a case is Lea's alma mater, Vanderbilt. Head coach Derek Mason has six straight losing seasons there and likely will have seven in seven tries after 2020 ends. Yet, he reportedly signed an extension in February of 2019 and has three more years on his contract after this one. So the answer isn't as easy as it should be. The bottom line is Lea loves Notre Dame, but he also believes he's ready to be a head coach. So he has options.
Gabriel Weiss from South Bend: Another question related back to Clark Lea: I do not remember all that happened when Mike Elko left for Texas A&M, but I do remember it was weird circumstances that left ND feeling spurned. Do you feel at all that Brian Kelly felt more unbothered by his decision knowing he had Clark Lea to hire? Thanks again for your time — always enjoy reading your pieces
Eric Hansen: The circumstances were that Mike Elko agreed to a raise to stay at ND, but then Texas A&M was willing and able to get into a bidding war. So Kelly wasn't happy about a guy leaving after one year when he thought the commitment was for at least three years and that ND offered him a fair pay increase that he verbally agreed to. That the collaboration of Lea-Mike Elston, etc. has worked out so well certainly helped BK move on. But at the time, Lea had never been a coordinator, so there was some risk that came with that.
Denny from Beaverton, Ore.: Hi Eric and great to be in game week. Brian Kelly's assessment of Ian Book blew me away. He seemed to think a second and got to the core quickly. HE IS A WINNER OF FOOTBALL GAMES! I have heard Brian talk about the QB many times over the past 10 years, but I don't remember him expressing as much confidence in anyone as Ian regarding game preparation, confidence and calmness when the chips are down, and finally the absolutely total support of his teammates as a leader. He said Ian may not measure up in stats to the critical eye and he mentioned that doggone Michigan game, of which I would love to have Ian's take some day. Some pundits and fans have a roving eye to Phil Jurkovec, but I think Notre Dame is very fortunate to have Ian. And I think he has the heart and skills to lead us the a national championship. Alabama won many titles without Trevor Lawrence or elite type QBs but who were winners. What was your take on coach Kelly's comments? Thank you for the chats!
Eric Hansen: Denny, thanks. I thought he was candid and didn't try to spin something that wasn't there. I think there was a point when you could win a national title with a dominant defense and a quarterback who managed the game and didn't lose it for you. But now I think you have to have both — a dominant defense (sorry Oklahoma) and a dynamic offense/QB. I think Book can maybe get you to a playoff. He's going to have to have another level in him to win a playoff game. And it's not just on him. There are other facets of ND's team that need to continue growing over the next month or so.
Cliff from Battle Creek, Mich.: Hi Eric! I love your work! I've got to imagine this has been the toughest year you've covered the Irish. Not just COVID but not getting to see any practices means that you're probably relying more heavily on sources versus getting to see things with your own eyes. What, if any, things so far have been the biggest difference between what you were told and what you saw first two games? How big of an impact can Kevin Austin have coming back and what do you see happening for the wide receiver unit moving forward? Sorry for the 14-point questions. Haha! Thanks!
Eric Hansen: Cliff, as long as it's under 17 parts, you won't be sent to timeout. It was difficult not seeing practices. It's difficult in other ways, but I have to and will overcome that. I did less checking in with sources than usual, because I didn't want to become too dependent on that and then have to explain why I was wrong. It's easier to explain why you're wrong (and if happens) when you're opinion in part is based on your own observations. Having said that, the corners are way better than I thought they would be, but Mike Mickens in July on the record told me he liked the group. Ian Book's play has surprised me, being a little more choppy than I anticipated. I expected him to be more dominant early. He still can be. Shjaun Crawford as safety is another pleasant surprise. ... Kevin Austin has the skills to change the way opposing coordinators approach games with Notre Dame. Now will he have the polish, the consistency, the ability to play in the bring lights. We'll soon find out.
Justin from South Bend: Hey Eric, Non-2020 related because I'm a little over this year, what year of Notre Dame football coverage was the most fun for you?
Eric Hansen: I'll start with 2012, because Notre Dame put itself back in the epicenter of the college football universe, something so many people were convinced had become impossible. Also, 2017 because I spent a day with Brian Kelly the preceding June and learned about and saw his plan to reinvent himself, and it was cool to see that all play out during the season. Finally 2005, because Charlie Weis in year one of his regime was a trip in every sense oft the word.
John from Glenview, Ill.: Hi Eric! I hope you and your family are all well. I’m going to continue to call on WSBT to get you back on SportsBeat. You’re sorely missed and a ratings booster for their station is guaranteed to happen once you’re back on. With the class of 2021 recruiting almost finished, what position groups most need an infusion of talent and depth? I’m guessing cornerback, but what do you think? Do you expect us to flip any recruits already signed elsewhere? Lastly, is David Abiara leaving or staying? Stay safe!
Eric Hansen: John, scroll for the Abiara answer. Thanks for your support re the radio thing. I've made peace with it and will always support Darin Pritchett. When you're asking about position groups needing talent and depth, I'm going to assume you mean in the 2021 class? ND is almost finished there. There's not much room left. And yes there is the potential for a flip, namely at CB. So if I understand your question correctly, I'd go with cornerback, safety and linebacker.
Jim from Lebanon, Pa.: Good afternoon, Eric. What, if anything, are you hearing regarding Father Jenkins coming down with COVID-19? His appearance in the Rose Garden (sans mask) ... especially with the restrictions on the student body and all others in and around the university? Appears a bit hypocritical wouldn’t you say? Go Irish!☘️
Eric Hansen: Jim, Father Jenkins is usually out of my lane in terms of what I'm writing about or even thinking about. In this case, it's a hard story to claim tunnel vision to get out of having an opinion. So here goes. He's put himself in a very difficult position in having credibility with the students on his campus. I think he could have come with a stronger apology. His actions moving forward are going to be dissected and watched very closely. He needs to take that opportunity to rebuild the trust of the students.
Mike from Danville, Ind.: I appreciate your work on these chats and your writing. Since the (USF) punter got the punt off and Jordan Botelho didn’t touch the ball, when he slammed into the punter, why wasn’t it roughing the kicker?
Eric Hansen: Mike, thanks. The roughing and running-into-the-kicker penalties are much more well-defined when there's not a bad snap. In a normal punt, you're trying to protect both the leg extended and the plant leg. However, with a bad snap, here is how the rule is interpreted: "After a bad snap it is not reasonably certain a kick will be made. That means the defense gets the benefit of any doubt as to whether or not contact with the kicker is avoidable."
Sean from Portland, Ore.: Can you link any articles or details regarding the Michigan travesty from last year? I don't know that I will ever get over this.
Eric Hansen: OK, here's the deal and I'm going to do this once to be fair to everyone. I wrote about this for our special section, which came out Aug. 9. It was a premium story on our website. However, because the MAC, Big Ten and Pac-12 were all bailing on football about that time and a lot of the national media was using the clever dominoes cliché about the ACC, it was difficult to promote the section or the story. Just bad, bad timing. So a couple of weeks ago, someone asked me very nicely in the chat about the story. I shared it with him and the handful of others who immediately asked as well. I continue to get asked. So I'm going to be nice and share the link as a free story to all of you. Here it is. The scope of the story is much wider than the Michigan game. I hope you enjoy it.
Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric! On the lighter side, the phrase "The previous play is under further review" makes me crazy. It's actually under INITIAL review, is it not? Now, if they review the play, come back to the microphone, then decide to review it again, THEN it is under FURTHER review. Thanks for indulging my sick, over-analytical mind.
Eric Hansen: Haha. I love it, especially with a 21-day gap without football.
Denis from Niagara Falls, Ontario: Hi Eric. An interesting question, I hope. Would ND perhaps have been better off this year with an inexperienced Phil Jurkovec this year and then an experienced Jurkovec next year. Of course, the other choice is the one most likely playing out now. A tapped out Ian Book this year and probably first-time starter Tyler Buchner next year. I am assuming Jurkovec stays under this scenario. I am asking you to comment on the two different two-year cycles. I believe the first scenario would yield better results over two years. Thanks very much.
Eric Hansen: Denis, the variable no one can account for is how much the change of scenery changed Jurkovec's trajectory. Even if Book had gotten abducted by aliens and Phil was the default starter at ND in 2020, the pressure of leading a 2020 ND team that has the talent to make a run at a playoff berth and the pressure of leading a BC team that has the talent to surprise and not be awful in the ACC are two very different things. We can project and guess, but we don't know. But I always believe you play for the year that's ahead of you and worry about next year when you get to next year. Doing otherwise sends a very bad message to your seniors. So give me Book and Buchner.
Jake from Saratoga Springs: Hello Eric. I wanted to know what your thoughts are on where ND will go if they get their best receivers back on the field and the passing game does not improve dramatically. I think their line is very good and they are performing great so far, but the higher echelon teams will simply load the box. Thanks.
Eric Hansen: I agree with Brian Kelly's assessment that the passing game will get better incrementally with the returning players and with game experience to smooth out the chemistry. Again, the podcast this week with Corey Robinson provides a lot of insight on that particular dynamic.
Dan from Vernon Hills, Ill.: With the depth at running back and the problems at wide receiver, has there been any talk of moving Jafar Armstrong to wide receiver?
Eric Hansen: None, and he can do wide receiver-like things as a running back with a linebacker or safety trying to cover him instead of a cornerback.
Mike from Lemont, Ill.: Eric, How much Van Halen did you listen to last night? Eddie Van Halen was the King. I already knew you were a dude I wanted to have a drink with and than you posted VH as the music ND should add to the rotation. Awesome. Do you think you need great QB play to win the title? I know a lot of people think this way, but I'm not sure Kevin McDougal was exceptional, maybe very good, but not the best. And everyone knows ND won the '93 title. You always bring us back to reality with your stats about how you need a top rushing defense to compete for the title. Thank you for the chats. Cheers! Rock on!
Eric Hansen: Mike. I wish I had a little more time to tease this out. Let's start with the QB question. The team pass efficiency ratings for the last 10 nation champions were: 2-13-10-18-34-2-1-1-35-1. So,. the two outliers are Alabama teams. So yes elite QB is ONE of the key factors, but not the only one. ... Definitely listened to some VH last night and today.
Eric Hansen: That's going to do it for this week. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back to do it all over again next Wednesday at noon EDT.