CHAT TRANSCRIPT: Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino answers your questions

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman talks to JD Bertrand during Notre Dame’s spring football practice on Thursday, March 17, 2022, inside the Irish Athletic Complex in South Bend.

Mike Berardino: Good morning, Irish followers. Appreciate you stopping by for another round of Live Chat fun. Here we go.

Frank from Royse City: It is evident that ND needs help at receiver, do you see anyone from the Defense moving to the Offense? Ex Nolan Ziegler or a CB!!

Mike Berardino: Hi Frank, you raise an excellent point after the loss of Joe Wilkins Jr. to foot surgery. Combined with Avery Davis being on the shelf until August following a torn ACL, new position coach Chansi Stuckey definitely has to scramble to fill out his practice plan for such a young/thin group.

Keep in mind that four-star signee Tobias Merriweather arrives in June. He's talented enough to catch up in a hurry.

It appears you can forget Xavier Watts as an option for now. He shared recently that he was asked his preference after last season and opted to remain at safety, where he appears quite comfortable.

We asked Marcus Freeman on Saturday about the need to augment WR numbers, and he made a veiled reference to having another WR on the way. Ostensibly, he was talking about Merriweather.

Freeman also praised senior Braden Lenzy for his spring work, which now includes some special teams duty. Styles, Colzie and Thomas are getting a ton of reps, Matt Salerno is on scholarship and Chris Tyree has experience in the slot.

Mike Berardino: For the record, here's what Freeman said after Saturday's practice No. 8 on the subject of WR numbers: "We've still got a guy coming in. We’ll look after spring at our roster and see if there’s something we need to go into the (transfer) portal and look for somebody. We’re always looking to enhance our roster. If we don’t feel like we’re efficient at the wideout position in terms of depth, we’ll have to find ways to make sure we bring guys in that can help us."

Bottom line, even with Merriweather on the way and Brandon Joseph stumping for his old College Station HS teammate, speedy Harrison Wellmann of Johns Hopkins, it wouldn't surprise in the least if WR was top of mind when the Irish go portal shopping after the spring game.

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Jeff: Hi Mike, Welcome to the SBT ND FB beat! I'm a Domer, 30+ years subscriber to Irish Sports Report/ND Insider and a life-long ND fan. I follow a few media outlets covering ND sports and check in on each for new content a few times a day. For convenience, I prefer to read this and other news content on the phone app. I also prefer to read the chat transcript than participate in the live chat. I've noticed an extraordinarily frustrating development on the NDI app in recent weeks that I would like to see change. The NDI app no longer presents articles in descending chronological order. When I check in, I want to quickly see the most recent articles at the top of the page, not have to scroll down past 20-30 articles I've already seen in the previous 3-4 weeks to find any new articles recently posted. For example, last week your chat transcript was lower than 20-30 older articles just 3 hours after being posted. As a loyal, long-time subscriber, I ask SBT to correct this bad business practice. Thanks. Go Irish!

Mike Berardino: Morning, Jeff. Thank you for your loyalty and for that helpful feedback. In this competitive marketplace, we realize we need to be as user-friendly as humanly possible. Your concerns are duly noted and we'll do our best to fix that problem ASAP.

Ryan, Mars PA: Mike how has Bo Bauer looked so far in practice go Irish can’t wait for the season to start soon.

Mike Berardino: Hello, Ryan. In our limited looks thus far -- one full practice and two abbreviated viewings -- the super senior looks like the same reliable piece he's proven himself to be. He wasn't among the LBs brought in to visit with the media a week into spring practice, but with JD Bertrand still limited after left wrist surgery, that's meant more reps in the middle for Bauer and freshman early enrollee Junior Tuihalamaka.

New DC Al Golden has noted his philosophy of not overloading veteran defenders with practice reps, and I'd imagine Bauer falls under that umbrella for sure. Freeman, by the way, took note of Junior's rapid assimilation when asked about the four early-enrolled linebackers on Saturday.

Jersey Jeff: Great job so far covering ND football!  I'm interested in your insight on some players we haven't seen much of yet due to injury or youth.  What are you seeing or hearing re: the following players possibly emerging as key or regular contributors this season: Estime, Colzie, Bauman, Schweitzer, Rubio, Osafo-Mensah, Ehrensberger, Botelho, Riley and Tucker? Estime, Colzie and Botelho have been getting some coverage lately and should be contributors this year.  Every team needs a few new players to emerge. What can you tell us about the players I've listed?  Thanks.  Keep up the great work!

Mike Berardino: Thanks, Jersey Jeff. Appreciate you stopping by. You're right about the player-development piece of this. All those names you mentioned have come up at some point already this spring in our interviews with Freeman, his position coaches and the players themselves.

New D-line coach Al Washington, for instance, offered praise for all three linemen you mentioned above. In particular, here's what he said about Rubio, in case you missed my tweet about this on Tuesday: "Gabe Rubio is a guy this spring that’s really come on. You see him after every practice get better and better and see their eyes light up" in the position room.

Notre Dame’s Jordan Botelho (12) during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

Mike Berardino: As for Jordan Botelho, the talented edge rusher is listed at rover but is essentially a hybrid of two hybrids: rover and Vyper. Maybe that makes him a Roper?

Here's what Freeman had to say about him on Saturday after practice No. 8: "He’s a guy that you live it up, he shows up. He’s learning how to practice. The biggest problem with Jordan is he just goes as hard as he can, and sometimes that’s not good. We have to learn how to practice under control. What you’re seeing is a big improvement on how to practice. Sometimes I’ve got to get after him, but I’m happy with what I’m seeing."

Mike Berardino: Thanks to everyone that stopped by. We'll do this again next Wednesday (April 13). Mark your calendars now!

Staff writer Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and Email him at and follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.