Chat Transcript: Is Ian Book better? Leaving after 2019? How about the next men in?

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Louisville edition.

Eric Hansen: Please include your name and hometown with your question. Eric Hansen: A full transcript will be available later this afternoon. Hansen: Off we go ...

Cliff from Battle Creek, Mich.: Solid work as always Eric! On the two most unsettled, as it seems anyway, positions of linebacker and the Nos. 3 and 4 receivers, what's your prediction of the starters for Louisville but also the end of season? Thanks!

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Cliff. I think the starters for Louisville will be Drew White (middle), Asmar Bilal (buck), Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (rover), with lots of rotation at the two inside linebacker positions in the Louisville game. At the end of the season, I see Owusu-Koramoah still as the starter. The other two positions are more of a guess. I'll say White hangs on, but Jack Lamb overtakes Bilal. ... Wide receivers 3-4 for Louisville? Lawrence Keys III at 3, and Braden Lenzy plays a little more than Joe Wilkins for 4. At the end of the year 3-4 are Michael Young and Keys.

Charlie from Domincan Republic: Louisville has talent. Their quarterback was highly recruited. They had terrible coaching last year (Brian VanGorder, anyone?). Now that have a coaching staff, mostly from App State that has a history of over performing expectations. Any cause for worry? We are 20-point favorites, but I am a little nervous. I think UL is a bit of a wildcard. Your thoughts?

Eric Hansen: It was a team that was completely demoralized by the last coaching staff by the middle of the 2018 season. New head coach Scott Satterfield spent the offseason rebuilding the broken confidence of those players, but there's a lot of fixing only recruiting, time, and player development are going to cure. It's not an overnight solution. What makes Louisville tricky is the buy-in of the players and the kind of blind-date effect you get facing a new staff and/or new coordinators in an opener. I expect ND to win 42-13, but I don't expect the Cardinals to roll over.

Eric Hansen: Charlie, I hope you all didn't feel the direct effects of Hurricane Dorian.

Mark from Orange County Calif: Hi Eric, Looking forward to another season. Appreciate the great coverage you provide for us. What podcast guest surprised you the most with their answer and what was the question?

Eric Hansen: Thanks Mark. We've had on so many, and I have to tell you a lot of them surprised me. The most recent was Ryan Harris' assertion this week that OG Aaron Banks could play in the NFL right now. Had it been another journalist that said that or even some of the draft analysts, I wouldn't have blinked. But this comes from a guy who has been at practice, who played at a very high level at Notre Dame and played in the NFL for a long time. Bobby Bowden surprised me last November by revealing Lou Holtz and his wife stayed at Bowden's house during the Holtzes' honeymoon. I'm sure I'll think of so many more as soon as the chat is over.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Eric, Shoulder injuries are difficult to rehab and also tough to predict a return date. Nobody wants to see any ND player go through the problems Tony Romo had coming back too early. That being said, has there been any recent update on the progress of Cole Kmet and/or Michael Young? I could see Kmet maybe by Bowling Green (Oct. 5), but I think that Young could benefit from the bye week after USC and be full go for Michigan. Thanks for all your great words of wisdom in helping us fans get through the offseason to now!! Go Irish!!

Eric Hansen: Tom, thanks for joining the chat and for the kind words. I think Brian Kelly mentioned Kmet was getting close to a point where they could check on his broken collarbone via scan soon. Will check on that Tuesday, when BK is available following the Louisville game. Kelly was kind of vague about Young's timetable when I asked him about it soon after the injury happened. I'll make sure to check on that too, but my sense is it will probably be too soon to get much detail until we're into New Mexico game week the following week.

Bob from Manchester, Tenn.: Hi Eric, I'm seeing a sort of quiet confidence, a sense of competence, and a sense of common purpose out of this team and coaching staff that I can't remember seeing at Notre Dame for a long time. That's rubbing off on me. Do you feel anything similar here, or does it appear to be more of the same opening-night jitters that we have had pretty much every year in the past?

Eric Hansen: I think it's difficult to open on the road, but this team gained a lot of confidence last season, not just on the field, but I think through Matt Balis and his staff in the weight room. That's also significant. I think the strong leadership so far also lends itself to a confident team. If the first half is tight Monday night, I would attribute it to ND having to make a lot of adjustments on the fly rather than timidity.

Tim L from Whereabouts Unknown: When will the official depth chart be released? Any surprises at running back and wide receiver?

Eric Hansen: Tim L, please include your hometown next time, unless of course you hometown is L. ... The depth chart was released Wednesday. Not a single surprise on it.

Colin from Los Angeles: Love your chats, Eric! I have a public service announcement for those who don’t have the ACC Network. YouTube TV and Hulu have the ACC Network and a free week trial that your listeners can get for the Notre Dame game. This is my plan so I don’t miss out seeing the Irish go "12-0"! With all the buzz around Kyle Hamilton, what would be your over/under for his interceptions this year and which way would you go? If you were scripting the plays for offence, what would you run for the first play? Would you want Ian Book to go deep, run a play you know he’s comfortable with, or just run the damn ball?

Eric Hansen: Hi Colin. Thanks for the compliments and for the TV info. I just recently got a DVR for the first time, so I'm just catching up to this century's technology. ... Interceptions are tough to come by, especially if you're not a starter. The most any player had in the FBS last year was seven. Only 15 players had more than four. I'm going to go with three, and that's probably a little ambitious. The scripting question would depend on the defense I was facing.

Keith from Kalamazoo, Mich.: It seems that Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem get all the hype on the D-line. Is Daelin Hayes becoming a forgotten man on this team? After all, he is former five-star recruit ... rated higher than Okwara and Kareem both coming out of high school. What can be Hayes' ceiling this season? Is it fair to say that he hasn’t lived up to the hype yet?

Eric Hansen: Tyler james wrote about this yesterday:

In that article, Kelly says Hayes has had his best training camp yet. I would not deem him a disappointment by any measure.

Pogo from Springfield, Mo.: Love the insight, veracity, and tact in your writing and chat answers. ... You are special. Seems to me that ND is strong to OK at every position group. My question is what are the weaknesses that Georgia and others can count on to expose and gain an advantage on both sides of the ball? The linebacker corps is obvious, because of lack of experience, but there are some good athletes there that have pretty good examples in Drue Tranquil and Te'von Coney.

Eric Hansen: Pogo, let me tell you, I love the name Pogo. I have six grandkids, and if I have a seventh, I'm going to ask my son to consider that name. If I'm an opposing head coach, I'm going to run the ball until Notre Dame shows me it can stop the run. I'm going to test whichever cornerback plays opposite of Troy Pride, and I'm going to see if the nickel is a mismatch. And I'm going to try to go to a quick passing game, so Okwara and Kareem and Co., don't have time to do damage.

Looking at ND's offense, I'm going to challenge Ian Book to try and beat me deep, and skew my safety help into the boundary to try to limit Chase Claypool. I'm willing to see if the outside receiver on the other side can beat me. I'm going to load the box to quash the run and see what Book does with that look. It's possible Notre Dame will have answers for all of those things, eventually. But not in week one.

Patrick from Los Angeles: Just watched USC game replay on ESPN. Unimpressive, followed by Clemson debacle. What are the key reasons for expecting improvement in 2019?

Eric Hansen: Improvement over last year's team? I'm not sure this team will be better. I think aspects of it will be. Ian Book attacked his shortcomings this offseason. I think he is better than the 2018 version, so it starts there. I think he'll have a better O-line, a deeper receiving corps and more formations and personnel groups to employ. Defensively, I believe the pass rush will be better and the safeties will be very good. Then you start to get into the areas where work still has to be done ... linebackers, boundary corner, special teams, etc.

Jeff from Phoenix: Eric, if loving these chats is wrong, I don't want to be right. ... OK, moving on. With high expectations for Claypool, would you take the over/under of 10 TDs this year for him? But for this Louisville game, will they use the running backs and Chris Finke to give Book more short opportunities and higher offensive efficiency?

Eric Hansen: You know how people overuse LOL. Well I actually did laugh out loud at your opening premise. Bravo. To your questions, I think Claypool will have a lot first-down catches. Red zone is a little harder to predict because of how Book and the offense works. He's constantly looking for the mismatch/soft spot in coverage at the line of scrimmage. So there are times Claypool is going to be the more challenging throw to make, because of the attention he'll get. Also, ND has so many weapons in the passing game, will anyone get to 10? Boykin had eight last year and Claypool four. I'll go with 10 for Claypool this year. How's that? Right at the 0/U line. Re Louisville, using Claypool is part of the efficiency quotient. So is using the entire breadth of the offense, which would include tight ends, backs and other wide receivers.

Stephen from Toledo, Ohio:Hey Eric! Tried to send this earlier today and not sure it went through or not. Ian Book is no doubt a great fit for ND, but his smaller stature and lack of a proven deep threat are usually cause for NFL scouts to pause. I’ve been hearing how this is more than likely Ian Book's last year before entering the draft pool. What is it that you see that puts him in an early round of the NFL instead of returning for another year?

Eric Hansen: Ian Book is counting on being a more complete quarterback and worked very hard this offseason to make that goal a reality. I'm not sure of his round projection, because if he is indeed a different quarterback, his round will be higher. For the record, The Athletic's Dane Brugler rates Book as the No. 9 QB among those draft-eligible yet with college eligibility remaining after this season. So that's his entry point going into 2019. I think scouts are intrigued by what/who Book can become. Now they'll want to see evidence of that evolution this season.

RJ from Chicago: What does ND need to show to increased confidence in play capable of going 12-0?

Eric Hansen: They need to address the still-lingering questions at cornerback, linebacker and special teams ... show that Book is more complete and dynamic, and win at Georgia. That's a good start.

Tom from New Jersey: Thanks for the chat! They always get me over the work week hump and ready for some Irish! A lot has been discussed about Book’s deep-ball ability. I’ve read that he has worked and improved his accuracy over the offseason. Do you see the accuracy issues related to arm strength or just comfortability being accurate with the long ball? Thanks!

Eric Hansen: I wondered if it was arm strength, and QBs coach Tommy Rees assured it was not. In the spring, I saw for myself, it was not. Saw more of that in August. So it's about confidence, timing, mechanics and play-calling. Thanks for being part of the chats.

Tom from Cleveland: Why did Brian Kelly say the bit about “not sure what kind of group the team will be until it plays game one” to the media? The he followed it up with “a couple years ago the team mentality was to dominate.” Seems like that is a private conversation for inside the family.

Eric Hansen: Tom, I'm not sure how you want him to answer that question. I didn't have any issues with the question or the answer. What trust was he betraying with that answer? What's wrong with saying the team needs to show something on the field? I probably would have said something similar if I were in Kelly's position, although probably not as polished as he did.

Mike from Sarasota: Hi Eric. Thanks for your efforts to keep all us amateurs informed. I have been wondering that with the loss of Derrik Allen if ND has explored the recently expanded transfer portal as a way to either replace him or improve depth elsewhere?

Eric Hansen: Even if the coaching staff had wanted to — and they didn't — Allen's transfer came too late in the summer to even consider it. You'd bring in a player with absolutely no knowledge of ND's defense to ... sit behind Elliott, Gilman, Hamilton and DJ Brown? There were and are internal options if the Irish need those for sheer numbers. Now, if ND closes out the 2020 recruiting cycle short of viable safety options and Gilman goes to the NFL after this season instead of returning, then I think the transfer portal is an option worthy of at least discussion next spring .. but not before.

Jack from Auburn, Ala.: With all the injuries to the receiving core, why hasn't there been any or very little news regarding Micah Jones. He had very good notices during the recruiting stages a few years ago, but he doesn't seem to a factor in the receiving plans of the team.

Eric Hansen: There has been little news, because he hasn't created news. Jones just hasn't progressed at this stage of his career to the point where he's become a factor on the depth chart. Maybe he's a late bloomer, maybe not. He is currently working with the scout team.

Bill from Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Do you think our QB would leave after this year? In the recent past it hasn't worked out too well for those who left early. Big dollars$$$ between a fourth-to-sixth round pick as compared to earlier rounds. Please keep up the great work you do and Go Irish!!

Eric Hansen: Bill, I'm going to have to call you your research. Of the 17 Irish players who left early in the last 10 draft cycles AND who did get drafted, 11 went in the first or second round and another three in the third, so that's 14 of 17. DeShone Kizer went in round 2 and so did Clausen. So if Book has his degree, meets his team goals and individual improvement, it's a hard sell to get him to stay, don't you think?

Matt from St. Louis: Hi Eric! Thanks again for doing these. First, love the new podcast intro. What was the follow-up question you asked that got such a reaction from coach Kelly? Also, with Ryan Harris on the show, I was wondering if you could list an ND all star offense and defense (11 players each, you can choose the scheme/formation) for all the years you’ve covered ND. Lastly, who do you think will be ND’s MVP versus Louisville? Thank you!

Eric Hansen: Matt, thanks for the feedback on the podcast intro. Actually, it was not my question to which he was referring. One Thursday night last year, Kelly thought some of us, including me, were not "positive enough" in our line of questioning, so he decided to tease me about it when another reporter lobbed a couple of softball questions at him. It was pretty funny, so we included it. I'll have to defer on the Hansen All-star team. There are too many years and players to consider to pop that off quickly without a nap first. ND's MVP vs. Louisville. I'll go with Julian Okwara. My surprise pick to click is Shaun Crawford.

Vern from Elkhart: When the season is over, ND will play a bowl game. Will Kevin Austin be eligible for it?

Eric Hansen: If he is suspended for the season, which I believe he is, that would include any postseason game or games.

Vern from Elkhart: Has Kevin Austin already been redshirted, so this year he is losing a whole extra year of eligibility? You are the best and we are so fortunate to have your expertise. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Vern, I do appreciate that very much! Redshirting during a suspension is not an automatic, (from ND's standpoint), so he would have to apply for a fifth year down the road. If he's in good standing, it's likely it would be granted. And no, he did not redshirt last season as a freshman.

Fred K from Richmond, Va.: Love your chats, Mr. Hansen. I do you think the scheduling of this year's squad will have an effect on their win-loss ratio. This may be the worst scheduling I have seen in some time. No breaks after tough road games, just one tough game after another tough game — on the road at Georgia then facing a tough game at home against Virginia. I will leave you with this after watching Brendon Clark in high school: Phil Jurkovec better watch out. Clark is a special talent and extremely accurate. GO IRISH!

Eric Hansen: Fred, thanks for the feedback. The 2020 schedule looks more forgiving at this point, except that Clemson comes to town and Trevor Lawrence will still be on the team. The schedule that looks most conducive to a playoff run of the next five, including this year's, appears to be 2021. Thanks for the scouting report on Clark.

Matt from Kansas: Hi Eric, thanks for all that you do. I know the general feeling is that this will be a pretty good year. I think the lowest guess somebody has picked for losses that I've seen is three. But since the world seems like a crazy place, more and more each day, what if the unthinkable happens? What if we lose to Michigan, Georgia, Stanford, and two of the three between Louisville, USC and Virginia. If we end up with 4-6 losses, will Kelly be on the hot seat? I know his contract is running out, do you think Jack Swarbick would be quick to add on more years if the season does not go how we all hope it will?

Eric Hansen: I just don't think six losses are possible, not without some strange run of injuries or players getting abducted by aliens. I think a six-loss season would put a lot of coaches on the hot seat, so I'm not sure how to answer it. I just don't see it happening.

Tony from Vermont: Is speculation Kevin Austin has been suspended from team due to his smoking pot? If so, it is ridiculous. Pot is legal in much of the country now. In Vermont, cash-strapped dairy farmers are selling their cows and planting acres upon acres of cannabis and will profit handsomely. If ND does not condone smoking weed, then a part- or full-game suspension is reasonable as is a program to help rehab the player. But a four-game or season-long suspension is unreasonable in this day and age. Work with the athlete, don’t exclude him.

Eric Hansen: Tony, only Kevin Austin or his family can confirm on the record what the infraction is. Dexter Williams and his family were willing to do that eventually. So let's live in the hypothetical unless/until there is some confirmation from Austin's camp. Here's how it works at Notre Dame. If you have an infraction that requires discipline, the world will likely never know about it. You'll get the equivalent of double-secret probation and community service, etc. The next infraction is a third of the season lost. In football, that's four games. Strike three wipes out an entire season. Strike four and you're gone. OK, let's do the pot hypothetical without including Austin. It is not legal recreationally in Indiana yet. It is in Michigan, and the border is just a few miles away. So it becomes a philosophical and legal question ... does an school (or employer for that matter) have the right to set its own rules. Legally for now it does. Philosophically, that's a debate that's going to get louder in the coming months.

Brian Sontchi from Batavia, Ill.: Good afternoon, Eric. Appreciate very much your in depth reporting of Fighting Irish football. If I am not mistaken, 1996 was the year the 85 players football scholarship limit per team was implemented. Add to that the incredible academic requirements imposed on all Notre Dame student athletes, do you really believe the Fighting Irish football program will ever be able to capture another football national title? I ask this because Notre Dame has not been able to make a competitive contest out of the games against Alabama after the 2012 season and against Clemson last season. I’m 66 now, and I do not see it happening even if I live to be 125.

Eric Hansen: Brian, more significant than what you and I think on this topic — no offense to either of us intended — is what Jack Swarbick, Brian Kelly and former and current Notre Dame players believe. I ask that question quite often to our podcast guests, many of whom or former Irish players or national media (or both). Not one has answered that question, "No." Now would it be easy? Nope, but I believe it's possible.

Paul from Stuart, Fla.: Eric, I can't understand why Justin Yoon hasn't made a connection, at least a taxi squad slot. What goes?

Eric Hansen: I think he is taken aback by it as well, as we had him on our Pod of Gold podcast recently. I think there may be some concern with leg strength. He needs to be able to kick field goals and kick off. And when you get down to the elite guys in the NFL, they tend to be able to connect from beyond 50 yards pretty consistently. I'm not sure Justin has that range. I'll say this, I love his mental toughness and would take him on my team any day of the week.

Matt from San Diego, Calif.: Hi Eric, always appreciate your reporting. Since ND’s 4-8 season a few years ago, Brian Kelly (my opinion) has a done a good job of attracting both the right coordinators/ coaches, and has recruited well. My question: is this the best three-year stretch of ND football you been a part of, and do you honestly feel like ND could win a championship within the next five years? Thanks, Eric!

Eric Hansen: I kind of gave away my answer in a couple of previous questions. If it's going to happen under Kelly, it's most likely to happen in 2021. I do believe it's possible, yes.

Dwight from central Arkansas: Of all the positions on the offensive and defensive units, is there any position where the disparity between starter and backup is more obvious than at quarterback? Is it crucial that Kelly finds playing time for Jurkovec? An injury is only a snap away, and hoping that never happens.

Eric Hansen: I would say there's a bigger gap at boundary receiver, left tackle, left guard and boundary cornerback. Phil Jurkovec had a rough spring and a rough first day of camp. Then something happened, and he's been ascending every since.

Tom from Windsor Heights, Iowa: Is Jacob Lacey the beast that he appears to be???

Eric Hansen: Yep. And getting better each day.

Bob from NYC: Hey Eric, do you think the timing of the injuries to Kmet and Young will actually end up benefiting ND, as it allows some of the younger players to get more reps, and they'll return for the latter part of the season and bowl season (or if they outplay expectations, the CFP)?

Eric Hansen: Sometimes it works that way, and that's certainly a possibility. Jayson Ademilola was a guy who took advantage of a similar situation last season when Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa went down. He's that much better in 2019 for having had that experience.

Bob from NYC: How long does it take to get a question approved?

Eric Hansen: Well first I need to run them by the Queen of England. Just messing with you, Bob. I try to toggle between questions that were submitted early and ones that are coming in now from the readers following along live. If the question is repetitive of any of the earlier ones or doesn't include the hometown, I usually shuffle it to the bottom of the deck. If someone asks a question that's going to involve me digging up something, I push that to the back burner and work a little on the research between the other questions, so there's not a long gap. Hope that makes sense for you.

Ray from Chicago: Of course I really like the rush ends on both sides and the package when Daelin Hayes comes in, but I would like to see our interior defensive line push the pocket and create some hurries. Is this a spot where some freshmen and underclassmen could help?

Eric Hansen: I think Jayson Ademilola and Jacob Lacey, a sophomore and a freshman, probably are the best fits in that package.

Barry from Beacon, N.Y.: Where is ND with regards to overall team speed? Have they recruited enough in this area to compete with Clemson, Alabama, and a few others? Family member played in ACC and said that some teams were sooo fast.

Eric Hansen: I think the areas that needed improvement in that regard were running back and wide receiver. Not just one speed guy, but getting it in abundance. That was an edict in the 2020 recruiting cycle, and the staff responded by getting commitments from its top-of-the-board running back target (Chris Tyree) and wide receiver (Jordan Johnson). Now they need to do it again in the 2021 class.

Erik from Granger, Ind.: Thanks for being here! Who will be better the better safety duo in their second year starting together? Elliott/Gilman in 2019 or Hamilton/Griffith in 2021?

Eric Hansen: Wow. That's tough. Elliott and Gilman set the bar very high and turned that position group around. But I think the 2021 group will be better.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric. Greetings from the other side of the Cheddar Curtain. A bit off-topic, but last year we went to L.A. for the USC game and were kind of shocked that they didn't bring the band for the perfect regular-season grand finale celebration. I asked you about it at the time, and you said you'd ask and get back to me. No big deal at this point, but just wondering what the reasoning was.

Eric Hansen: Tim, I eventually ran down the answer, and then have forgotten it since. I believe it had to do with budget, but it's so far out of my lane, I don't even know if that answer makes sense. Not a bad question. You're just asking the wrong person. If you ask me about sushi, fine fashion, opera, flowers and how to rewire your bathroom — all legit topics — you'll get the same vacant look from me. I'm just not that well-rounded.

Matt from Augusta, N.J.: I read your interview with Jack Swarbrick and his comment on writing a book on the other coaches who were interested in Notre Dame when he hired Kelly. It really made me think of who he could be talking about? I remember Kelly being the front-runner. Besides the usual, remember any other names?

Eric Hansen: Matt, I'd have to go back and look at my stories, since I covered that search. It was a long. long time ago. Might be fun to do after the next coaching search starts.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric, well the season is finally here!! My questions are about the QB position. I read somewhere this summer where Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long indicated they were changing their priorities in QB traits to put more emphasis on accuracy and less on running ability. With the QBs who ND is recruiting over the next couple of years, how will that impact Jurkovec if Ian does not come back next year? I think on Media Day, coach Long and coach Rees indicated they were working with Book to become more of a pocket passer and get his reads quicker so that he did not have to throw on the run so much. This was tried with Everett Golson, DeShone Kizer and Brandon Wimbush, and in my opinion was the main reason they all had poorer second seasons as a starter than their first. Please tell me why Ian Book won't fall prey to the same result??? Thanks and here is hoping for a great season. Go Irish!!!

Eric Hansen: Tom, there's a lot to unpack in that question(s). The gist of the story Carter Karels wrote (and I talked to Chip Long about this) is that the RPO game for ND means there's less of an urgency for a true dual-threat guy.

Here's what Long told me: "They just have to be able to run out of their shadow, because at the time the RPO wasn’t very big, and you were looking for the great 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 just 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."

Robb from Colorado: If Jonathan Doerer struggles on kickoffs and/or extra points and field goals, is the coaching staff confident in Harrison Leonard? Or is Doerer pretty much their only choice at this point?

Eric Hansen: Leonard has had a nice camp. Punts a bit too. Doesn't have the leg strength of Doerer, but showed the ability to adapt to some tweaks in his mechanics.

Terry Mehan from Munster, Ind.: Given the injury bug that seems to hit every year, the depth at receivers will be tested for sure. Just curious, over the Kelly Era, how many players have left or been asked to leave the program? How many were offensive players? Thank you and go Irish.

Eric Hansen: That's a tough ask even with extra time to research. I don't think it's an inordinate amount and only Kevin Stepherson would impact this team on offense of the players who fit in that category.

Frank from Canton, Ga.: With Kmet out, who will replace him on short-yardage packages?

Eric Hansen: Brock Wright if it requires one tight end on short yardage. If they went to three TEs, you'd see Wright, Tommy Tremble and either George Takacs or a backup O-lineman like Josh Lugg or Cole Mabry.

Jeff from Oklahoma City: Eric, with the loss of Kmet and Young for an extended period of time and the lack of experience behind them, how much do you think we'll see of these two-back formations that have been shown some in practice and we were supposed to see last year and really did not? How well will this team be able to run the ball this year? Even though Dexter Williams had a great year last year I thought they were very inconsistent establishing a good running game most of the season.

Eric Hansen: I think we would have seen more two-back formations this season even if Young and Kmet had started the season healthy. The skill sets of Kyren Williams and Jafar Armstrong make that particularly attractive to use (in tandem with other backs or each other). I think we would have seen more of it last year, but there were very few games in which both Dexter Williams played and Armstrong was fully healthy. How well will ND run the ball? I think the offensive line is better. If Armstrong stays healthy, I think it'll be a more consistent running game, though probably not with as many home run plays.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Re; USC game and band: Thanks for the response. Just odd that, of all the years to worry about the "budget" travelling to USC, that that would be the year with everything that was on the line. I know that annoying USC band seems to always make the trip here.

Eric Hansen: I understand why you'd be curious. It would seem like budgets at ND would be stretchable.

Dave: No questions, just big thank you for a job well done. Thanks for letting us see a real pro at work!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eric Hansen: Dave, I don't know where you're from, but that's awfully nice of you to say.

Phil from Litchfield, Conn.: Hi Eric. I don’t think the band travels on Thanksgiving weekend to the west coast. The kids go home for the holiday.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: To Phil - Litchfield: That makes sense except they USC game is always Thanksgiving weekend, is it not? So they never go there?

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Tell Tony from Vermont that this isn't a Libertarian podcast....

Eric Hansen: OK, that looks like a good place to end things for this week. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll take a bye next week, as the Irish are, and then be back chatting Thursday, Sept. 12 for Bob Davie and New Mexico.