Notre Dame football chat transcript: Talking Dante Moore, Tommy Rees and transfer portal
Mike Berardino: Hello football fans. Thanks for joining me for Wednesday's Live Chat and thanks for leaving those early questions. Let's jump right in.
Jonathan P.: Sioux Falls, S.D.: Thank you for your energy, effort and time. I was just wondering what wide receiver do you think we will get in the portal and do you think Deion Colzie will step up this fall and summer? Do you think Avery Davis and Joe Wilkins Jr. be ready to play, on Sept. 3. I think both will be ready because Lisfranc recovery timeline is three to five months and it will be five months Sept. 1.
Mike Berardino: Hey Jonathan, thanks for the question. I'm blessed to cover sports and write about interesting people for a living, so you'll get no complaints here. The rumor mill on wide receivers in the transfer portal has been strangely silent so far this month. Early reports had suggested Arizona State's Ricky Pearsall might be a fit for Notre Dame, but he recently narrowed his focus to two schools: Oregon and Florida. It's possible the Irish will be able to flip one of those "committed" grad transfers, a la ex-Harvard DT Chris Smith, but the pickings appear slim when you factor in fit, both in terms of culture and academics.
There's a couple names I'm monitoring, but nothing to report here yet. It helps that Avery Davis (November ACL) and Joe Wilkins Jr. (March foot) should both be back in time from surgery. Davis is a better bet to round out a thin receiving corps than the star-crossed Wilkins, and don't sleep on four-star signee Tobias Merriweather, who leads a strong group of June arrivals.
As Jadarian Price and Jaden Mickey showed this spring, inexperience won't matter with this regime if you can play. And Merriweather, from all accounts, should be ready to play. As for Colzie, here's what new receivers coach Chansi Stuckey had to say this spring about a sophomore with just four catches last season, one who had to overcome an early-spring concussion:
"I just want him to turn into someone that's kind of feared. He can run a slant, he can run deep, but he’s also really quick at the line. I think he does have some short-area quickness for his size that I just want to get him to understand that he has. He’s big, but he doesn’t realize how big he is sometimes."
Jamie: Given a shortage of receivers, why not use a few of the most talented tight ends as possession receivers? That would give the defense a few mismatches. Will the offense be more open this year? Five (receivers) spread with a mobile quarterback? Also, with the talented/deep (group of) running backs, maybe more dump downs, flats and screens? Maybe even using a running back in the slot?
Mike Berardino: Hi Jamie. Don't worry, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees didn't get all that attention from LSU, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams because he likes to call fullback dives. Michael Mayer said this spring he expects to be split out wide as well as in the slot as Rees seeks ways to free up his All-America tight end from what promises to be suffocating coverage all year.
Chris Tyree, as I wrote recently, is another field-stretching option with his speed and versatility. As for Rees' offense being "more open" this year, perhaps you missed the Fiesta Bowl. You know, the one where Jack Coan had a program-record 68 pass attempts. That was Rees' first game as OC without Kyren Williams at his disposal and Brian Kelly in his ear. I'd look for more balance under Marcus Freeman, but with no drop-off in creativity.
By the way, under Rees the Irish have finished 30th in scoring offense (2020) and tied for 19th (2021). They ranked 13th nationally in 2019, Chip Long's third and final season in South Bend. They were 42nd in 2018.
Pat from Sanford, Fla: Thank you for giving us Subway Domers your take on our questions. What do you think is a realistic win/loss number for Marcus Freeman’s first year? Unproven QB, shallow WR depth, and (in my opinion) a terrible CB corps outside of Cam Hart are big hills to climb. With Ohio State in the Horseshoe, plus Clemson and USC, I am having a hard time seeing better than 9-3. Your thoughts, please.
Mike Berardino: Hi Pat. Nice to hear from Sanford, Fla., home of two of my favorites from covering baseball — Hall of Famer Tim Raines and two-time World Series champion David Eckstein. Schedule analysis in May is a tricky proposition, especially in the era of the transfer portal. However, as I've mentioned in this space before, history points to a transitional season of sorts in 2022. The last time a first-year Notre Dame football coach made it through with fewer than three losses was 1964 (9-1 under Ara Parseghian). The average loss total in Year 1 for the past seven Notre Dame coaches is 4.6. Here's the breakdown:
2010 — Brian Kelly 8-5
2005 — Charlie Weis 9-3
2002 — Tyrone Willingham 10-3
1997 — Bob Davie 7-6
1986 — Lou Holtz 5-6
1981 — Gerry Faust 5-6
1975 — Dan Devine 8-3
Bob Rodes from Manchester, Tenn.: Hi Mike. I see a lot of fans getting anxious, pessimistic or whatever about Dante Moore. He posts a picture of a duck, and all of a sudden he's NEVER coming to Notre Dame, Oregon is paying him to go there, etc. Seems to me that Moore is sort of a Cardale Jones-type and is pulling the collective chain of all the fanbases out there at once. What's your take on Moore?
Mike Berardino: Hi Bob. You have to hand it to the young man: The duck tweet was classic. At last check it had generated 1,866 likes, 193 retweets and 217 replies. Not bad for a kid yet to finish his junior year of high school and still pushing to reach the 10K mark for followers.
I have yet to speak directly with Dante, but all indications from those who have is that Moore and his family are just being thorough. His transparency and willingness to engage throughout this public process has been admirable. It seems to make him an even better bet to be ready for the field (and the spotlight) from Day 1, wherever he lands.
I did find it interesting that he told 247Sports recently that he bonded during his unofficial visit with rising Notre Dame sophomore RB Logan Diggs, currently rehabbing after labrum surgery. Diggs has been one of the most public examples of current Irish players with an eye toward NIL. Striking the right balance in that regard figures to be key for any program hoping to land this 5-star quarterback.
Denny from Liberty Hill, Texas: After reading about Eli Raridon's remarkable speed and athleticism, why not line him up as a wide receiver? His ability might be even better utilized at that position moving forward.
Mike Berardino: Hey Denny. Thanks for the question. You raise an interesting point. No doubt, Raridon is a physical freak. His speed is going to be a weapon for the Irish and a problem for opponents. The trouble is at 6-7, 240 (and still growing), he's already massive for a tight end, much less a wide receiver. Maybe he gets some snaps in the slot, but coming off December ACL surgery the priority figures to be just getting him up to speed with the playbook and letting him compete in a very deep tight end room.
Thanks again for all the questions, everybody. See you again next week for another round of Live Chat.
Staff writer Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.