Eric Hansen: Welcome to the first Notre Dame Football Live Chat of 2020. Please, PLEASE remember to include your name and hometown with your question. Please no whining, If you want to vent, please have the courtesy to be creative, amusing or both.
One more warning. Among my grandkids, the 4-year-old is testing whether I'll tolerate a tantrum and the 1-year-old is testing whether I'll tolerate biting, so beware I won't be receptive to either on this chat today. OK, let's get started.
Ron from Raleigh, N.C.: Eric because Phil grew up loving ND, it seems strange that he would transfer solely with news of Ian Book coming back — at least until after he shows the new offensive coordinator that he's better than Ian. Unless the players already know that Tom Rees will be the next offensive coordinator, Phil assumed that nothing would change and Ian would be the starter in 2020. Even though all signs point to Tom Rees getting the OC job, I would rather see an experienced OC like Joe Moorhead get the job and let Tom be pass-game coordinator. Then when the OC leaves in a few years for a head coaching job, Tom will have the experience to be the next OC at that point. What do you think?
Eric Hansen: Ron, ultimately as I read it, your question isn't about Phil Jurkovec but who the new offensive coordinator and play-caller should be. My very first thought when Chip Long left was that Tommy would be really good in, say, 2023, but I wasn't sure that was the case for 2020. Also from the start, I felt if ND did go with Rees, the corresponding outside hire to the staff was very important and could make the Rees promotion make more sense. I still feel that way about the second statement. When it comes to Rees himself, my opinion has changed somewhat. I'm more open to it. In talking to people who could evaluate Rees from a coaching standpoint, they were unanimous in their belief that Rees, as an offensive mind, is a special talent and one advanced for his year of experience.
So I am open to him being the OC and play-caller, but I still think the best-case scenario involves a corresponding hire of a veteran coach, who's a great recruiter and who could collaborate with Rees and the rest of the offensive staff.
Mike Campbell from Lemont, Ill.: Eric, love the chats. Happy New Year to you! I know the writers and fan base want to make the playoffs and win a title, but you need All-Americans on your team. Period. Trevor Lawrence, Chase Young, Joe Burrow, etc. In 2018, ND had Julian Love, Jerry Tillery, Miles Boykin. In 2012 they had Manti Te'o, Stephon Tuitt, Zack Martin. In your opinion, who will play like an All-American on the 2020 team besides Kyle Hamilton? I see maybe Liam Eichenberg or Aaron Banks. That's not enough to be the best of the best. Nothing wrong with 11-2 or 33-6. I just don't see ND as a playoff team next year. What say you? Also, is Kelly being stubborn not to bring Harry Hiestand back or is something else going on? Thank you.
Eric Hansen: Happy New Year, Mike. Let's address your statement first, then get to the questions. There's no question there's room to upgrade the talent, and Brian Kelly realizes that. I do think the 2020 class and the still-forming 2021 class are making strides toward that end, But remember All-America status is a combination of individual and team success quite often. To your question, who has All-America potential in 2020 on this team? I'd keep my eye on Hamilton and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah on defense, and any of the older offensive linemen on offense. There are always surprises. I think Kevin Austin will be an ascending player. I like the defensive ends a lot. I think Jacob Lacey down the road might become a player of national stature. Don't underestimate depth in the playoff run equation. I am not predicting ND to be in the playoff at this juncture, but I think they could evolve into that type of team this offseason. As far as Harry Hiestand, it's Harry's choice to look at NFL jobs this time, just as it was his choice alone to leave after the 2017 season for the Chicago Bears job.
Bill from St. Joseph, Mich.: Eric, where do you think ND will end up in the final AP football poll, and where did you place them? I believe they will unfortunately end up just outside the top 10, in 11th.
Eric Hansen: Bill, we don't cast our votes until IMMEDIATELY after the national championship game. The AP does encourage us to have at least Nos. 4-25 done, so we can get our ballots in quickly. I have Notre Dame at No. 11, and I think they'll end up 11 or 12.
Mike from Cincinnati : Happy New Year! I am curious to get your take on the story last week about Brian Kelly not being engaged with two top recruits. I know it’s easy to say things after the fact, but from what you see does this have any merit?
Eric Hansen: Mike. I give Brian Kelly a pass somewhat for December, given he was without his offensive coordinator and he had other priorities, namely visiting his own recruits and making sure they were on board with the new direction of the offense. That paid dividends. Tight end Michael Mayer admitted he thought about decommitting. Wide receiver Xavier Watts had some pointed questions. That was the right thing to do. He also needed to get his team ready for the bowl game and take on some extra X's-and-O's duties with Chip Long out of the picture. Having said that, he could have been more involved earlier in the process. And maybe this is a story that will help bring a blind spot to light. I've seen several stories since Carter Karels' came out that claim this has been a long-time problem. If his staff gives him similar feedback, which I feel they will, this needs to be part of his plan to upgrade recruiting that Kelly spoke about just ahead of the Camping World Bowl.
Jaime from Chicago: All year it was reported how special Kevin Austin was as a receiver — possibly even the best on a roster, with Chase Claypool. With a more experienced O-line, a more explosive running back room with Chris Tyree, big-play potential with Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys, steady tight end play from Tommy Tremble, a third-year starting QB, and possibly early contributions from Jordan Johnson and Michael Mayer ... is it possible we could see the best offense of the Kelly Era this year, even with a new offensive coordinator? I'm a perpetual optimist, but it seems to me the weakest area of this team is cornerback, but the rest of the roster can contend for the only thing we care about, a berth in the playoff and national championship.
Eric Hansen: Jaime, there is reason for optimism for a lot of the reasons you stated. But there are questions. Will Ian Book be better in year 3 than in year 2? Can the offensive line be elite, as in one of the best five in the country? Can DelVaughn Alexander develop a really young but really talented wide receiver group? If all three of those questions are yes and ND can find some answers at cornerback, I think there's reason to be optimistic.
Gene from New York: Eric, thanks for the season of great coverage. Biggest concern this season was whether the offensive coordinator, the QB or offensive line (and coach) had what it took to beat a good defense. Reality is that if any of those three can’t, perhaps the team simply won’t. Now the OC is moving on and a highly ranked QB backup is likely no longer an option. Kelly says that if he thought Phil Jurkovec could help the team, he would have played him. That sounds logical, but reality is that the two best seasons for a QB under Kelly are likely DeShone Kizer’s and Ian Book’s first seasons — where they both started as the backup! That doesn’t make me feel like the team is definitely moving in the right direction. What do you think the odds are they prove me wrong against Wisconsin? I won’t throw Clemson in the equation, as they’re clearly on a different level, with a few other teams.
Eric Hansen: Gene, its very difficult to project what might happen vs. Wisconsin, because there are so many unanswered questions. Who's the new OC? Who is being added to the staff? How ready are Michael Mayer, Jordan Johnson and Chris Tyree to being key contributors as freshmen?
Justin from Houston: Hey Eric, your ND coverage is second to none. Is Jeff Burris high on the list for the vacant DB coaching spot. He would be great with his ND background, NFL playing and coaching experience, and he’s been different places in college and has had success. Plus, there has to be no doubt he knows how important recruiting is. Your take?
Eric Hansen: I think Jeff Burris deserves a long look. Brian Kelly certainly has familiarity with the 47-year-old former Irish DB. He was a defensive analyst at Notre Dame in 2016 and is currently cornerbacks coach at Louisiana Tech under Skip Holtz. He helped develop Amik Robertson into an All-American the past two seasons.
Rui Girao from Ossining, N.Y.: Houston Griffith, where have you gone, my friend? So highly rated and talked about coming into the program. This year was a complete WASH for him. Thoughts?
Eric Hansen: I wrote about him earlier this week as one of the six most compelling players to watch heading into winter workouts. I have long believed safety is his best position, so if he's going to ascend, this move is going to help. I love his athleticism, his attitude, how hard he works in the weight room. There are a lot of reasons to believe that his time is coming -- soon.
Peter from Providence, R.I.: Eric, do your think the coaching staff gave Phil Jurkovec a fair chance at QB? Do you think the coaching staff was responsible for his apparent lack of development? Thank you.
Eric Hansen: I love how concise you made your questions. Love it. Love it. Question 1: Yes, I do think Phil had a fair chance to compete. Question 2: I believe the staff has to take part of the responsibility in Jurkovec not developing more quickly and decidedly. You can't trumpet him as the best QB in a class that included Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, as Brian Kelly did, and then two years later act like he arrived in South Bend as a long-term project.
Jay from Chicago: Eric, while I am hopeful ND can beat both Wisconsin and Clemson (among others) in 2020 and go on a College Football Playoff run, I am not optimistic. Too many questions at too many position groups to navigate the always-ambitious ND schedule. My question is whether you believe it would have been better to run with Ian Book against the 2020 slate or get Phil Jurkovec experience with a view toward 2021 and what appears to be a more manageable schedule?
Eric Hansen: I always believe you play for the season in front of you and give it your best shot.
Mr. Stones from South Bend: Are you surprised Phil Jurkovec is in the portal? Will he come back or leave? How ready is Brendon Clark to fill in if Ian Book is hurt? Is Avery Davis a QB again?
Eric Hansen: Yes and no am I surprised. I just did a story on Clark last night. It's here:
I don't think Avery Davis will ever be a QB again, but I'm not certain he'll be a running back in 2020, either.
Scott from Muskegon, Mich.: Any news on flipping Ohio State commit Cameron Martinez? He's a great player and overall kid. Hopefully, the staff is pushing hard for him.
Eric Hansen: I've heard rumblings about it. That's more in Carter Karels' wheelhouse than mine. I texted him, and Carter thinks it's possible. He's actually working on that story and gathering info as I type this.
Floyd from South Bend: I don’t believe Ian book can win big games next year. He's very limited on what he can do! Do you think Brain Kelly made an mistake letting Phil Jurkovec go! I do.
Eric Hansen: Brian Kelly had no control over Phil leaving.
Marie from Atlanta: Happy New Year Eric! Do you honestly think serious consideration will be given to an outsider for the offnesive coordinator position? If so, who would be some realistic candidates and who would you like? Are you at all concerned Brian Kelly is reverting to his habit of comfort hires? I realize he has made the tough choices, but that was much closer to 2016 when he had no choice and presumably Jack Swarbrick had significant influence. Comfort hires (Jeff Quinn for example) seem to have been much less successful than outside hires. (Chip Long, Mike Elko and really Clark Lea was and outside hire coming with Elko). How involved do you think Swarbrick is in the current hiring process?
Eric Hansen: I think the biggest mistake Brian Kelly could make going into the hiring process for his coaching vacancies is doing so with less than an open mind. That also means automatically eliminating a worthy internal candidate or someone Brian Kelly has worked with before, just because of the optics that his fan base will reject. The jobs should go to the best candidates period. I know at the Tribune, we've had equal success in hiring former interns as we have had with national searches. I think the "comfort hire" concept has been overplayed. I think coaching chemistry has been underplayed. Yes, Brian VanGorder was a huge mistake. But Mike Elston is an example where familiarity has paid off in a big way. How involved do I think Jack Swarbrick is? If I'm BK, I hope quite a bit. I think he'd be a great sounding board, and I'd want to get his opinion. Happy New Year, Marie.
Matt from Augusta, N.J.: Thanks for the chats. From the practices you saw, did you think Brendon Clark was pushing Phil Jurkovec for the backup QB job 2019 and would he in 2020? We really didn’t get to see enough of Phil to get a real understanding of his potential, as a fan. He didn’t really play in pressure situations when he got in, but I thought he looked good from the limited time he got. The chatter has always been about him being a player who plays big in games, but not in scripted situations, a la the Blue-Gold Game, which seemed to be a low for Phil. His throwing motion, fixing his throwing motion, and finally letting him throw how he wanted was also topic, and I believe you have discussed it in the past. Was Phil ready? And did ND fail in developing him? I read your article on Clark’s coach in Virginia, and he could not have said better things about him. Is Clark Ian Book 2.0 —a three-star player who will make the most of his chances but has limited pro potential?
Eric Hansen: Thank you. Matt, lots of good questions there. Let me try to get to them all. We didn't see a lot of Clark in practice, so it was hard to tell. The buzz from those in practice regularly was that the gap was larger between Ian Book and Jurkovec most of the time than the gap between Jurkovec and Clark. Was Phil ready? I think he was ready to be the No. 2 option. Did ND fail in developing him? I think they share responsibility in that regard, and it will be interesting to see how the Chip Long piece fit into that equation. I talked to some folks beyond Clark's coach that I didn't use in the article. The general feeling is that of ND's current/future QBs beyond Book, Tyler Buchner (a 2021 commit) is the most talented and Clark is the most likely to be the starter in 2021 on opening day.
Hank from Las Vegas: Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night. Well, while it has been obvious to mostly everyone who follows Notre Dame football, Phil Jurkovec made it official and has decided to enter the transfer portal. This question is not meant to be a joke, but what would make a highly recruited quarterback come anywhere near a football team coached by Brian Kelly? His list of quarterback failures, now including Phil Jurkovec, must have the attention of anyone ND is attempting to sign. So seriously how can Kelly go into a recruit's home and convince the recruit and his parents that he, above all others, can bring the best out of them?
Eric Hansen: Hank, I don't think it's unfair to scrutinize ND's quarterback development model. But just because Phil is transferring isn't evidence it's broken. If that's the case, then why would anyone go to Georgia (Jacob Eason and Justin Fields transferred)? Or Ohio State (the Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow transferred)? But to your question, that's why this offensive coordinator hire is so very critical for Brian Kelly to get right.
Stan from Chester, Va.: First of all, thanks for a season of great coverage in all things Irish. You would think that once the season is over the news would sort of fade to black, but this seems to be the exception. Did you have inside information before you wrote the article about the six to watch or was it just logical intuition that told you than Phil Jurkovec would enter the portal? Was it just because Ian Book is coming back, or do you think he was looking ahead to 2021, when Tyler Buchner, who seems to be the "anointed one,' hits the campus? Why do you think PJ never lived up to the hype? Was he oversold or what? Thanks again for your columns.
Eric Hansen: Stan, thank you for reading and for being a part of the chats. Before I wrote the story on the six most compelling players, I wanted to get to the bottom of where Phil's mind was. As I first looked at sources who would provide the best read on that, their silence got my suspicions up. Tyler and I had actually divided up a list of people to follow up with shortly before the news broke, Phil's going to have to answer just why he left, but I think it had more to do with things other than Book's return and Buchner's impending arrival. I think the biggest reason Phil didn't live up to the hype is that the hype swallowed him. It took on a life of its own and magnified every flaw and growing pain, which in turn made those things worse. Now there are other factors, and I think those will become apparent in the days ahead. There's a lot of revisionist history going on about what people thought of him coming out of high school. I still think in the right situation, with the right frame of mind, he can be pretty good.
Lawrence from Denver: Won’t Phil Jurkovec have to sit out a year after transferring? So if he’s upset about spending another year as a backup where he may not get to play, how does it help to go to another school where he definitely won’t play? Presumably, he would get the keys to the offense for two years after Ian Book. Any chance PJ decides to stay after testing the waters?
Eric Hansen: He may or may not have to sit out. It depends if he gets a lawyer and how good that lawyer is. By rule, he would have to sit out. And knowing that, you can see this is not all about Book coming back. From what I've been told, this isn't about Phil testing the waters and maybe coming back. His intent is to transfer.
Brian from Simpsonville, S.C.: First, thanks for always bringing A-game. Second, I agree with your Smoking Pig observations.
Eric Hansen: Brian, your first sentence means a lot to me. Strangely, your second one does, too.
Brian from Simpsonville, S.C.: I actually am posting a question for the first time, because I figured there would not be many questions or things to talk about (ahem). My question really boils down to, "What the Hell?" I'm not a big Brian Kelly guy, but I think he has done enough and continues to do enough to have earned the right to keep his position. But I can't help feeling (emphasis on the emotion) that other teams/systems seem to integrate young players and play them sooner than we/BK/ND do. Talk me down. Are my facts (of other programs' success) not accurate or did ND and BK (and recruiting services) just whiff on Phil Jurkovec? Either way, I think it will take a while for me to get over this one (emotions, again). But, finishing on a high note, I will bring you Smoking Pig grub in November, if you like.
Eric Hansen: OK Brian, I love the way you finished strong. Well done. Let me get to the core of what I think you're asking me ... and that is why does it seem other high-profile programs have more plug-and-play freshmen? In some cases, they have to. They have so many players leaving for the NFL as true juniors, there aren't as many opportunities to bring those young players along more slowly. Some of it is because ND's recruiting at wide receiver and running back, two positions where young players tend to get on the field faster, have lagged when it's come to elite prospects (and that might be changing). Thus, you're having to develop players who are much more incomplete than at other programs. Braden Lenzy, for example, as a freshman was too skinny and didn't come in as an established route-runner, though he did have top-end speed. I'll agree with you that he should have played earlier and more often this season. Where ND has excelled at recruiting — O-linemen and D-linemen — tend to be more developmental positions by nature.
Isaiah Foskey would have played a major role on a team with less talent and depth. Instead he developed at a more deliberate pace and should be on track to become a major factor this coming season.
Mary Helen from Portage Mich.: Eric, I am sure I am one of many wanting to get your thoughts on Phil Jurkovec entering the transfer portal. When he signed, he seemed to be the answer to all of ND’s problems. Did Kelly just not give him a chance or did he really not live up to the hype? Thanks for all you do! You’re the best!
Eric Hansen: Mary Helen, thank you. I think it's easy to blame things on Chip Long, because he's gone. In this instance, some of the dynamics I spoke/typed about earlier in the chat were influenced by a less than ideal relationship between Long and Phil.
Stan from Rockford Ill.: Great article on QB Clark. https://www.ndinsider.com/football/hansen-who-is-brendon-clark-and-what-does-his-football/article_a0b3fd53-6409-5bb1-9bfc-bbba35712ace.html
Refreshing take on all the gloom and doom re Phil Jurkovec's exit into the transfer portal. Just as Ian Book came out of seemingly nowhere to become a productive QB contributing to back-to-back, 11-win seasons, here's hoping Clark can even better with his opportunity if/when given his chance. Do you think there was any discussion between Jurkovec and Kelly before he decided to enter into the transfer portal? Are you as optimistic about Clark's potential as his advocates in your piece are? Keep up the excellent analysis we've come to expect from you.
Eric Hansen: I can't imagine Brian and Phil not having conversations before he made his decision. ... I like what I have seen so far from Brendon, which admittedly isn't a lot. The fact that he was named Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year is not insignificant. I love his mindset. What I hope to see more of in the spring is how he reads defenses and how accurate he is on his passing at different route depths. I'm optimistic I will like what I see.
Lee from Lancaster, S.C.: Hi Eric, some ND fans are blaming coach Kelly for Phil Jurkovec entering the transfer portal, or they are criticizing Phil for not sticking around for one more year. However, I think that's unfair to both men. Coach Kelly has the right to decide which QB he thinks give his football team the best chance to win games, and Phil J certainly has the right to transfer to another school if he determines that's in his best interest. Do you agree? Also, will BK need to recruit an additional QB or will Drew Pyne in 2020 and Tyler Buchner in 2021 be enough?
Eric Hansen: I agree with your opening statement. To your question. I think barring a long-term injury in the spring, there are enough QBs on the roster and coming through recruiting. If there were an injury, especially it it were to Ian Book, ND could look at the transfer portal for a grad transfer.
Jolene from Nashville: What do you make of the Mike Leach hire at Mississippi State, and how do you see the coaching dominoes falling around the country impacting the current openings in South Bend?
Eric Hansen: Honestly, it happened while I was chatting, so I haven't had time to really process it. A quick thought, with Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss and Leach at Miss. State, football in that state is going to be a carnival ride. Also my first thought off the top of my head is that it wouldn't impact the hiring process in South Bend.
Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric. Happy 2020!! I kind of remember reading an article by Tyler around preseason camp about how the ND staff had changed their evaluation of QBs. The bottom line was that they were going to put on a higher premium on accuracy than athleticism. Ian Book over Brandon Wimbush is a prime example. With the QBs that are in the pipeline, how much do you think that this change in philosophy impacted the development of Jurkovec? Also, how close do you think Brian Kelly is to finalizing his staff? Is there someone already in the extensive ND vetting process? Thanks and please keep the chats alive in the offseason. Your chats are like a sunny day in the middle of a dreary South Bend winter!!!
Eric Hansen: Tom, Happy 2020 to you. Here is the quote from Chip Long last summer on the philosophical shift:
“They just have to be able to run out of their shadow,” he said. “(Before), the RPO wasn’t very big, and you were looking for a dual-threat guy. The RPO game allows you not to run your quarterback as much.
“If they have speed, great. Then you can add another dimension. They have to be able to run out of their shadow. They have to be able to evade the rush, get what they can and get down and what-not.
“But I think accuracy, decision-making, anticipation, being a great leader and what-not and arm strength is the most important right now. Be good at something. And we’ll work around it.”
I don't think there's any question it affected Jurkovec, if nothing else, how his assets were valued. Mike Sanford was the one who recruited Phil. not Chip. ... and I don't think we're to the point of the protracted vetting process. I still think there's still some legwork to do.
Eric from Akron: Do you believe there has been regression in the O-line play under the current position coach compared to the former? Twenty-six games seems to be enough sample size to say yes. What does Kelly do to fix this regression if it isn't to remove the current coach?
Eric Hansen: Eric, I'm not sure regression is the right word. Certainly not across the board. Analytics-based Pro Football Focus recently graded out Notre Dame as having the 13th-best offensive line in 2019 and the second-best pass-blocking unit of the 130 FBS teams. That's with two starters out for a third of the season or more. ND was 12th nationally in sacks allowed and tied for first in least sack yardage allowed among the 65 Power 5 schools. That's not to say there isn't room for improvement in run blocking and penalties committed. And certainly the disagreements between Chip Long and Jeff Quinn didn't help foster the best environment in which to improve. I do think Quinn's approach needs to include more attention to detail when it comes to technique.
Mario from Whereabouts Unknown: If the Irish lose four games next year, will the wheels come off and everyone will be screaming for Urban Meyer to be the next head coach? Actually this can be a question for today, tomorrow and beyond.
Eric Hansen: If Brian Kelly led Notre Dame to a national title next year, cured world hunger and sent flowers to your wife from you when you forgot your anniversary, there would STILL be fans clamoring for Urban Meyer to come to South Bend as ND's next head coach.
Kyle from Orlando Fla.: Eric what are you hearing about Joe Moorhead as offensive coordinator?
Eric Hansen: I hear wonderful things about his time at Penn State that make him sound like a great fit at Notre Dame and disturbing things at Mississippi State as to why he was let go as the head coach there that completely cancel out the pluses from the Penn State experience.
Tom from Evanston, Ill.: When a player enters the transfer portal, do potential landing spots contact the coach at the school the player is leaving?
Eric Hansen: The beauty of the portal from the players' standpoint is that the interested school can interact directly with the player. There's not a need for a release. There's no need to talk to the coach.
Mike from Reading, Pa.: Hi Eric, love the chats and podcasts. Now the question: What is the latest on landing a transformational offensive coordinator? Someone really innovative that can out-gameplan opponents on a weekly basis and not become overly predictable? Any names in the hopper? Thanks for taking the question.
Eric Hansen: When you say innovative, I supposed you're suggesting a candidate who is outside the program and who will radically change the Kelly offense? Right or wrong, that's not what Kelly is looking for. Innovative? Yes. Revolutionary? No. I think I can understand why continuity at this juncture makes more sense than teaching a new system this spring to a third-year starter at QB and two young backups.
Mike from Santa Barbara: Hey Eric, thanks again for the superb coverage this past year. Your quantitative focus is really appreciated. My question is how quickly you believe that Brendon Clark can be a contributing backup to Ian Book. Does coach Kelly’s system have room to bring Clark along next year in what could be a playoff run? Thanks for the Chat!
Eric Hansen: Mike, thank you. Clark does come off as a quick learner. That Drew Pyne is already on campus means the freshman also will need to get a look this spring. My only question regarding Clark and some of the other ND quarterbacks is this: Is having him on scout team last year more valuable than learning the Notre Dame offense and thus not getting many real-time reps,
Jack from Strongsville, Ohio: Hi Eric. Happy New Year. Why does Oklahoma and the Big 12 get so much love from the CFP Committee? Two blowout losses in their playoff appearances of four and no advancement beyond the initial game. When ND stinks it up, the stench seems to stay for a decade while Oklahoma seems to skate. There is no defense — nada — played in that conference, and generally their out-of-conference games are putrid.
Eric Hansen: Jack, I think it's valid to question the Big 12 relative to how they fared outside their conference. Other than Texas' bowl win over Utah, what did they do out of conference that justified the high rankings for some of their teams? I'm on board with you.
Peter from Provo, Utah: What changes in recruiting strategy will Brian Kelly need to implement to get ND to the upper echelon of recruiting, as he intends to do?
Eric Hansen: Peter, I plan to address those in a story ... once I get a chance to talk to Brian Kelly about them.
Dan from Vancouver, Wash.: These chats are a winter lifeline to Irish fans way out here on the west coast. Keep 'em coming, and thanks! When should we expect an announcement about Notre Dame’s new offensive coordinator? Are there advantages to getting it done sooner rather than later?
Eric Hansen: Thanks, Dan. I would expect the news breaking — which will be earlier than the official announcement — within this month on all the hires, including the cornerbacks coach. I think the advantage of getting it done sooner than later is that the pool of outside candidates is larger now and you can get on to planning for spring ball, which starts in less than two months.
Dwight from central Arkansas: I'm sure the Phil Jurkovec transfer will be a hot issue today. I expect it will be two years before we know if that is a big whiff by ND or not. Some have pointed out that even higher rated QBs like Dayne Crist and Gunner Kiel never made an impact at ND or after they transferred. I believe there's some merit to that. I think what irritates some fans is Kelly's hyberbole of praising potential quarterbacks and their great talent. Picking Jurkovec as better than Lawrence or Fields a couple years back was great hyperbole and excited ND fans, but then it fell flat when he didn't see the field. Perhaps Kelly will prove to be right, and Jurkovec's move to another school doesn't help his career. But it does question why Kelly and his staff can't read a QB's ability and future potential better. The question will (and has already) come up, does Kelly (and staff) know how to develop a quarterback? Good luck to Phil J. Hope for a good season for Book and Clark. Truthfully, I see losses to Clemson, Wisconsin, USC for a 9-3 mark.
Eric Hansen: Dwight, your question reads more as rhetorical, and I think I've addressed some of the elements of it earlier, but wanted to give you your chance to vent creatively and intelligently.
Dave from Cary, N.C.: What do you see as ND's greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses for 2020? Thanks for the chats. Always entertaining and informative.
Eric Hansen: Greatest known strengths in 2020 are five offensive linemen returning, a deep and talented D-line, two really good linebackers and some nice options for a third, Kyle Hamilton at safety, solid special teams, experience at QB, untested-but-exciting talent at wide receiver and tight end. Weaknesses: Cornerback depth and definitive answers at running back.
Mike from Rochester N.Y.: Happy New Year, Eric. Does the unexpected departures of Tony Jones and Phil Jurkovec open up a couple of spots in the incoming class to maybe add another cornerback or running back? Or were these already included in the “stuff happens” category of recruiting calculus?
Eric Hansen: There is a spot open, and ND may fill it with a defensive back.
Tony from Dallas, Texas: Was Chip Kong’s departure his decision, a mutual agreement between him and Kelly, or was he essentially “fired”. Same question regarding Todd Lyght, even though I know it was stated he stepped down. Was he encouraged to do so? Thanks for taking my question.
Eric Hansen: Chip's departure was less mutual than it was first presented to me. ... As far as Todd Lyght, he had other priorities and opportunities at this stage of his life, and yet I think Brian Kelly was fine with him pursuing those and moving on with someone else.
Roger from Desert Hot Springs: What is your analysis of Jafar Armstrong? Did the last injury make him tentative in attacking the running lanes or are their lasting medical reasons for his regression?
Eric Hansen: He didn't look to me like the same guy I saw in August. There seemed to be hesitancy after the injury that I hadn't seen before. This is a big spring for him, and we'll get more answers as to whether that was a passing phase or not. He has got to stay healthy. He really hasn't had a sustained stretch of that since he has moved from wide receiver.
Ken from Pensacola: Eric, you are GREAT and love this opportunity to communicate with you! What sort of letter grade would you give this year's team and what can we expect from next year in terms of a letter grade. Mucho thanks and go Irish!
Eric Hansen: Ken, thanks. I'd give them a B. The Michigan game was awful, but their recovery from it was impressive. Next year it's too early. I need to see some spring football first.
Baxter from Milwaukee: The year is 2023. Tyler Buchner just led Notre Dame to a national championship on the back of his Heisman Trophy-winning season. Brian Kelly retires, and a statue is erected outside of Gate E in his honor. How long does it take for P.J. Fleck to win his championship at ND, and, more importantly, where do we put his statue?
Eric Hansen: I think P.J. did a very good job with Minnesota this season. However, I do not think he'd have that kind of success at Notre Dame.
Coach from Reading, Pa.: Eric. Can you share the negative musings on Moorhead please. Thanks.
Eric Hansen: My radio partner, Darin Pritchett, gathered these from a newspaper in Mississippi:
From the Clarion-Ledger.....
Mississippi State AD John Cohen said firing Moorhead went beyond wins and losses. The athletic director said the next head coach will have to be big on discipline.
Before the Bulldogs' bowl game, quarterback Garrett Shrader was ruled out after being involved in a fight with another teammate. Cohen said a "series of events" led to the coaching change at an unusual time.
Cohen said there were some "other issues at stake" that he had to consider when making the decision to dismiss Moorhead. Multiple times Cohen mentioned a "series of events" that he took into account.
When your starting quarterback misses a bowl game because of an injury suffered in an altercation with a teammate, that doesn't scream discipline. Neither does the suspension of 10 players suspended for eight games each because of an academic scandal.
Jeff B from Oklahoma City: Eric in the last four or five games of the season Book was more involved in designed QB runs that seemed to help the offense overall. Do you think going forward next year now without Jurkovec, as a somewhat proven backup, that they will dial back Book in the QB run game for fear of injury?
Eric Hansen: I don't think they can afford to.
Eric Hansen: That's going to have to do it for today. One of these days I'll try to structure the chat so we can go longer than three hours. Thanks for all the great questions. Check my Twitter for the next chat. I'm sure we'll have another before the end of the month. Thanks again.