Chat Transcript: Turning the page on Book's performance — or not — and lots of Georgia talk

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, New Mexico week. Sorry for the delay. We'll start rolling now.

Eric Hansen: And a reminder. Please include your name and your hometown with your question. Violators will be subject to some one-on-one time with Quenton Nelson ... in an opposing team's uniform ... when he's angry.

Eric Hansen: OK off we go.

Kyle from Orlando, Fla.: Which running back will get the most carries this week?

Eric Hansen: I still think it's going to be Tony Jones Jr., who had 15 carries on Sept. 2 in the win over Louisville. But with Jafar Armstrong out until likely late October and a game that isn't expected to be close, I think the coaching staff will want to get a good look at freshman Kyren Williams and perhaps position-switcher Avery Davis as well.

Bill from Idaho Falls, Idaho: Long-time reader of your work and really look forward to your insightful reporting. Question: Your column following the Louisville game concluded that ND's biggest need was to fix its run defense. Given that the statistics show approximately 45 percent of the total yardage gained by Louisville was their first two drives; following which they were held to under 4.0 yards a carry; combine with ND outscoring them 28-3 thereafter; first time ND had seen the new coaching staff with no appreciable film review; Louisville had a hyped up crowd and team; which team has some talent; do you still feel stopping the run is the most critical thing ND needs to fix? Thanks for all your great work. Enjoy your analysis.

Eric Hansen: Bill, I absolutely do feel that way, though I enjoyed your analysis and feel you made some good points. Here are my counterpoints. Run defense is one of the most critical metrics to excel at in college football. Teams that play for championships and win them are always at least very good at it and usually elite. I do think it was encouraging Notre Dame improved in that area over the course of the game, but keep in mind Notre Dame will see much better running teams later on the schedule, including next week. Also, once Louisville got behind a couple of scores, running the ball wasn't going to get them back in the game quickly. The sacks late in the game also distorted the yards-per-carry average late as well. I think you'd be fun to watch a game with.

Manny from San Pedro, Calif.: Eric!!!!!!!!! My Brother from another mother! How are the taco bars this season?!?!? Eric!!!!! Was our offense vanilla against 'Ville or are we just bland and predictable? Last year I loved some of the creative plays but didn’t see it last week

Eric Hansen: Manny!!&*)%$#@~~++ A double dose. I love it. We are way behind on the Taco Bars. In fact, we haven't had one in over a year, so we're overdue. You're welcome to join us. The closest thing we had to one was me bringing in pumpkin donut holes last week. .... To your question. I don't think either of your choices regarding the offense is what reality was on Sept. 2. Playing against a new coaching staff is kind of like a blind date. And rarely does everything go well on one of those. Jafar Armstrong leaving the game early, I think, hampered creativity. And Ian Book's uncharacteristic antsiness bogged down the offense as well. I think having a bye week allowed the coaching staff to retool formations and personnel, knowing they won't have Armstrong for a long stretch. I'm not sure how much of that creativity will show up Saturday, but it will show up this season, I believe.

Steve from St. Louis: With so much talk about Ian Book and the deep ball, were you surprised ND didn’t attempt at least one against Louisville? Should we expect to see that this week?

Eric Hansen: I am surprised. And I would be shocked if we didn't see multiple attempts downfield against the Lobos.

Tom from Pittsburgh: Hey Eric, great chats and better articles. I just read an article where Chase Claypool talks about getting 100 yards weekly. Coupled with coach Kelly’s talk of him being the best player on the field, what do you think is Claypool's ceiling?

Eric Hansen: Thanks Tom. I actually asked offensive coordinator Chip Long that very question about Claypool this summer for the magazine piece I did for the ISR Preview. His response? He can be as good as he wants to be. I expect Chase to be an elite receiver that garners national attention by season's end. He's always had the athletic ability to do so. Now he has the drive, the maturity and the understanding of the big picture to go with it.

Mike from Rockville, Md.: Thanks for the chats, Eric! Ian Book looked shell-shocked against Louisville. Why do you think he didn't perform better? How would you rate the offensive line performance?

Eric Hansen: The newness of Louisville's schemes and personnel, and not having reliable film to study, hurt Book initially. What surprised me was that he was jumpy in the pocket all game long. It reminded me very much of the Pittsburgh game last year, when he was antsy with his footwork when the Panthers threw him some new looks. Why I don't expect it to be a trend is that he learns very quickly. He isn't a guy who gets his feathers ruffled very often. I've seen too much good football from him in games last year and in practices this past spring and in training camp to believe this will be a trend. ... As far as the offensive line's performance, I thought they had some good moments and I think they'll string many more together this week.

Bill from Idaho Falls, Idaho: Read your chat all the time, but this is the first question I have submitted. Love your analysis and enjoy your work!

Eric Hansen: Thanks so much, Bill.

Steve from St. Louis : Has Derrik Allen’s scholarship been awarded to anyone yet? What is the rule in regard to number of players allowed on the sideline for a home game vs. away game?

Eric Hansen: Steve, Allen's scholarship has not been given away, and there are a handful of worthy candidates. I don't think it's a bad idea to let that play out a little bit. The second part of your question is that ND can have its entire roster of 105 players, including walk-ons, on the sideline for home games. For games away from Notre Dame Stadium, they could theoretically take everyone, because they're an independent. Conferences set the limits for road games. I believe the Big Ten's limit is 70. ND has taken large contingents to some of the Shamrock Series games. In general, they limit the travel squads based on the seats on the plane/travel expenses.

Rick from Grandville, Mich.: Eric, great podcast. Sorry I didn't follow the rules last time. I am going to try and re-ask the question, since I cannot see the first one I asked without my hometown attached to my name. Do you think Brian Kelly is hesitant to sit down Asmar Bilal, because he extended him a fifth-year opportunity? I only ask this, because if I were in BK's shoes, wouldn't this be similar to asking a girl to prom just in case the better-looking ones don't want to go with you? Is there really nobody that has more upside? Mr. Bilal is a great player and made plenty of plays in his time at ND, but he didn't look nearly aggressive enough. Drew White looked pretty good at times, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is undoubtedly going to be a star as long as he stays healthy. Are Shayne Simon, Bo Bauer, Jack Lamb really at a lower level of skill compared to Asmar? I find it hard to believe, but I want to hear it from you. Thanks!

Eric Hansen: Rick. thanks for the nice feedback on the Pod of Gold podcasts. I think all that was promised Asmar in coming back for a fifth year was an opportunity to compete. And he has received that. It's not like some of the other fifth-years, in which the choice involved a sure-fire future as an NFL draft pick. I think some of the allure for Asmar Bilal was a chance to build a résumé that would lead to that.

Kelly has coached too many players who blossomed late to give up on a guy with Bilal's athleticism, which is pronounced. The question now is whether someone can or will overtake him based on a balance of athleticism AND play diagnosis. If there is not improvement from Bilal over the next few weeks, I believe one of the other linebackers (Simon, Lamb or Jordan Genmark Heath) will eventually overtake him.

Rick from Orange County: Finally got connected to your chat! Do you think Jarrett Patterson's problems last week were mental or physical? Seemed like he got run over a couple of times. Thinking too much?

Eric Hansen: I think it was typical first-game growing pains, particularly with the lack of game film for him to study, with Louisville's personnel running that 3-4 look. I expect him to be much improved this week.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric. It's hard to ignore the number of points being racked up by top 25 teams so far this season. Almost without exception, these teams have been putting up point totals in the 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s on the mostly far lesser opponents (or better yet, pigeons) that so many of them typically play early in the season. My question is twofold: 1) How much weight do you believe the playoff selection committee (forget the AP and coaches polls) gives to the importance of the lopsidedness of victories such as these when considering "all other things being equal" scenarios, and 2) If these huge margins of victory are in fact a plus in the eyes of the committee, why do we rarely (if ever) see Brian Kelly run up scores this way? Is he unable, or unwilling? Or is it because the Irish never play teams of such low (FCS) quality, so it's not as easy as all that to score that many points?

Eric Hansen: Tim it's an interesting question, but one with a lot of tentacles in producing an answer. Let me try to simplify it. Big wins over bad teams don't mean much. The committee watches the games and has a lot more info than just scores. Let's look at Alabama last year. Beating LSU 29-0 on the road ... the No. 3 team at the time ... and 16th-ranked Mississippi State 24-0 the next week meant a lot more than a 57-7 win over Arkansas State or a 50-17 win over Citadel. If you struggle against mediocre teams late in the season, as ND did in 2015, it'll hurt you. Strength of schedule matters. Beating good teams matters. 90-2 blowouts against FCS schools don't matter.

Jeff from LaPorte: I believe the game this weekend will be a track meet, so to speak, for ND. Just not enough firepower for the Lobos to even hang in there for long or at all. Backup QB, their "star" NG is out with injury, etc. They were like 1-12 on thirrd down against Sam Houston State in their opener. I think Chip Long and Kelly should keep their foot on the gas throughout the entire game, merely because of the lackluster performance at Louisville. Your thoughts? I know they won by 18, but there was not much eye candy in that game on either side of the ball. This game needs to be used as a confidence booster for ND heading into the buzz-saw between the hedges next week. I'm nervous that the Georgia game will be a severe disappointment.

Eric Hansen: Jeff, I'm not sure what your definition of keeping their foot on the gas means? Play the starters the whole game? Throw deep passes and run reverses with a 40-point lead? Not sure what that accomplishes. I think the most important things are to improve overall from where ND was last game, fix your issues and don't get anyone injured in the fourth quarter when reserves should be playing. I haven't studied the ND matchup with Georgia yet in detail, because it's not time to and I'm still learning about both teams. Georgia will be favored, I do know that. I don't think ND has a problem with confidence. I think its challenges are with execution at certain position groups. Eye candy means nothing. If you beat Georgia and Michigan, no one will care what the Louisville score was. Same thing happened last year. Ball State and Vandy were not impressive wins, yet ND made the playoff.

Rick from Pasadena, Calif.: If the linebackers continue to struggle, can you see can you see a scenario where safety Alohi Gilman moves closer to the line of scrimmage like a hybrid, and Kyle Hamilton starts in his spot?

Eric Hansen: I don't see that happening in base defense. The Irish do that, however, in their dime (six-DB) package. I think 13 of their 75 defensive snaps were in that look. I also think some of the other players got out of position, including Gilman at times, trying to compensate for some bad run fits early by the linebackers. I think you'll see more trust from the safeties and others this week with more players staying with their assignments.

Tom from Hillsdale, Mich.: Did you think the Irish defense looked slow? I had that comment made to me, and that was the thought I had during the game, especially at linebacker.

Eric Hansen: I think a defense can look slow if it plays slow. Early in the game, I thought that was the case with ND. There were a lot of surprises from the Louisville offense that contributed to that. Louisville did have some speed, particularly WR Tutu Atwell. I would expect ND to play faster this week, not just because it's New Mexico, but because there's a better understanding overall about how to function as a defense.

John from Elkhorn, Neb.: Hi Eric. Have you heard any news on Tyler Newsome and chances of getting picked up by another NFL team? Also, any knowledge of what Trevor Robinson is up to these days? Thanks .

Eric Hansen: I have not monitored Tyler's prospects. I would imagine it would take an injury to an NFL punter to get an opportunity like that to materialize. ... Trevor Robinson is out of football and into management. He works for a company in the area (Elkhart) called Lippert Components.

Chris (& Liam) from Newmarket, N.H.: Following up on a conversation you and Darin had on Sportsbeat on Wednesday, with Shaun Crawford saying he won't be applying for a sixth year of eligibility, do you think ND should and might explore the option of using a four-game redshirt for Donte Vaughn similar to what they are doing with Jamir Jones this year? Thinking he could be the boundary corner next year with TaRiq Bracy at field. Thanks for all the great ND coverage including the chats, Sportsbeat and Pod of Gold.

Eric Hansen: Hi Chris. Thanks for tuning in. If the cornerback group stays healthy, that's not a bad idea. I do think the designs the coaching staff had were a larger role this season for Donte. But that could change based on his health and the performances of the other corners. I'll keep an eye on that.

Chris from Grand Valley State University: WHY do they still insist on running a dive play up the middle on third or fourth and short?! After several years of doing this with little, if any, success it seems to be the only short-yardage play in the playbook.

Eric Hansen: Chris, I have to be honest with you. I get a lot of questions about short yardage. Some of them are the exact opposite of yours. "Why doesn't ND just line up and use its superior size and manhandle people?" I kind of think this is a question that is more rhetorical than one you're expecting an answer for? If short-yardage situations this season become either problematic or wildly successful, I'll be sure to take a deep dive as to why. Right now the sample size is way too small to derive any worthwhile conclusions.

Joe from Georgia: The "It" factor was evident for both QBs in Austin last Saturday (LSU vs. Texas). It was not in evidence at Louisville on Labor Day, despite everybody's assurance — media observers inclusive — that it would be. Ian Book had months to develop since the Cotton Bowl and worked his behind off. It did not take. Why will it take going forward? Or, alternatively, do you believe it never really will?

Eric Hansen: Joe, you sound bitter. I think what it will take for Book to live up to your expectations is patience. Not the worst game in the world. No picks. Had a career high in rushing yardage. If you're going to have a game with happy feet, better to do it against Louisville than Georgia, don't you think? Keep in mind, Book was statistically better than both the LSU and Texas QBs last year — 18th in passing efficiency vs. 65th and 32nd, respectively. Give it time.

Steve from Toledo, Ohio: Hi Eric, in your opinion is it time to turn over the QB duties at least half the time to Phil?

Eric Hansen: I knew it was a mistake to do the chat without coffee today.

Eric from Bristol: Hello Eric! Although the vantage point on TV is somewhat limited, it seemed like Louisville was bringing extra pressure, which in turn seemed to rattle Ian Book. I haven't been able to watch/read all of the coverage since the Louisville game, but has Brian Kelly addressed the apparent limited number of deep balls, screen passes, etc, that maybe could've helped soften up the defense?

Eric Hansen: I think the bigger problem was Book overreacting to pressure. He gave up on routes too quick. His footwork was all over the place. Brian Kelly did address those aspects and expects a much different version of Ian Book, moving forward.

Collin from Denver: If we knew right now that Louisville will win eight games this year, would that change our perspective on ND’s performance the first game? We’ve all just assumed that Louisville is terrible, hence the possible overreaction to ND’s performance so far (only in one quarter, really). I’m feel sometimes that the media’s and fan's/alumni's overreactions to ND’s performances all the time sometimes leads to added pressure to our 18- to 21-year-old players, leading them to play tight on occasions. Could this be the answer to “Why ND never wins the ‘big game" or “plays up/down to competition”? That they feel so scrutinized all the time, every game, every year?

Eric Hansen: Collin, when you come to Notre Dame, you sign up for the scrutiny. The same holds true at places like Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, USC, Texas, Florida State, etc. And I don't agree with your premise that ND never wins a big game or that they always play up/down to the competition. But let me get to your original question. That was about Louisville possibly winning eight games and how that figures into big-picture perspective. Only minimally. My biggest concern for ND coming out of the game was its run defense. Still is. Doesn't matter of Louisville wins eight games or two. Lots of missed tackles. Lots of bad run fits, especially early.

Phil from Chicago: Do you see Michael Young or Cole Kmet coming back before next week? Our chances are bleak between the hedges with them, but I don't see any way we win without them, given the loss of Jafar Armstrong at RB and others.

Eric Hansen: We'll have a chat with Brian Kelly tonight, so there should be some clarity with Kmet. I don't think Michael Young will be back in time for Georgia, but we'll address that with Brian on Monday.

Will from Maryland: Eric, love your work. Just curious. I know coaches focus on the next opponent and try not to look ahead. But with a bye week in the second week and Georgia on the horizon, would the team have done any work on Georgia over the past two weeks? Or is that going to be reserved for Monday morning. Thank you.

Eric Hansen: Will, I do think ND had multiple purposes going on during the bye week, and I think prepping for Georgia was included in that agenda. That's not uncommon. ND often does some triple-option work for Navy during the byes as well.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric, hope you have a good time down here next week. Lots of good Bar-B-Que and peach cobbler to had. Everyone is taking shots at Asmar Bilal. I'm not sure it is all fair. Comparing to soccer, playing in the middle is a LOT different than playing on the outside. He may be better suited to playing outside. That is not his fault. That may be the coaches for recognizing it and put the best players in THEIR best positions!! Your thoughts. Also, with Claypool now in Miles Boykin's slot, I would not be surprised to see Tommy Tremble in his old slot when Kmet returns. TT is a difficult matchup according to everything BK has said. Thanks and Go Irish!!!

Eric Hansen: Tom, thanks for the question ... and also the info next week that the ND Club of Atlanta is doing. I'll share those next week with the readers. ...To your question. I think you're asking me if Tremble might end up in Michael Young's outside receiver spot on the wide side of the field? I don't see him filling that role, but he does give you a lot of flexibility when comes to formations and play-calling. I think he'll play detached most of the time. I think that's where he's at his best, but I don't see his role shrinking when Kmet comes back. I think they can be used together. As for Asmar? He probably is a better fit outside, but Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a much better fit at rover and you could say that about Paul Moala and Jack Kiser too, so Bilal's best opportunity is inside.

Joe from Indianapolis: Hi Eric, if Brian Kelly quit at the end of this season for whatever reason, and you could only hire Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, or Charlie Weis, who would you hire?

Eric Hansen: Joe, what a twisted world you live in. I'd hire Weis and demand he keep Clark Lea as his defensive coordinator.

Joe from Georgia: Not to be argumentative, yet you made my point for me in your response. The Texas/LSU lads displayed major improvement from a decent/solid 2018 baseline. Ian did not. In football, as in life, you are who you are, until you are not. Ian is a Snoopy with happy feet until proven otherwise. Kelly QBs regress as they matriculate through the program, until they don't.

Eric Hansen: Joe, it's one game. One game. Now take a deep breath and step away from the ledge.

Paul from Lititz, Pa.: Eric, I was quite surprised to see Ian Book so jumpy in the pocket last week. Can they practice him not allowing him to leave the pocket at all and just wait for his receivers to get open? Would it help the receivers to recognize they need to run better routes or just end up with multiple sacks in games? Worried about that Georgia line and him getting rid of the ball quickly going thru his reads.

Eric Hansen: Paul, it was not his best game. But it doesn't constitute a trend. Last year against Pitt, he made corrections in the second half when he had happy feet and then he was even better then next game — a career-high 82 percent completion rate to go along with 330 passing yards, at that time a career high.

Matt from Augusta N.J.: I like Avery Davis on offense. I remember Kelly loving what he brought to the RB position when he changed from QB. I now question if it was lip service, since he was moved to defense, and then back to offense. What is Davis’s best position, and will he stay at RB now?

Eric Hansen: Matt, there was a need in the spring at cornerback, and Davis wasn't going to beat out Jafar Armstrong at RB. Remember in the spring, there wasn't a guarantee Shaun Crawford or Donte Vaughn would come back 100 percent healthy in the fall. As skilled as Davis is, he couldn't push up the depth chart at cornerback even when there wasn't as much competition. When Crawford came back (and Vaughn to an extent) and freshman KJ Wallace came in competing, it limited Davis' opportunities. Suddenly Armstrong is gone for a significant stretch of the season. Davis has very good speed. He's more comfortable on offense. You want to find a way to put your best athletes on the field. I think it was smart to try him at corner. Didn't work. That happens sometimes. Chris Stewart was a lousy nose guard once upon a time. I think Davis' best position is quarterback, but he's not going to play that position at ND, and I think he can be pretty good at RB/WR.

Jonathan from Hideaway, Texas: Clark Lea’s D has yielded just one passing TD in 31 of the last 32 quarters of ND football. Of course that’s excluding the Cotton Bowl’s three TDs in the second quarter when Julian Love was in the (injury) tent and Donte Vaughn was unable to lift one arm. Still, giving Lea the benefit of the injury-induced doubt, is that eight-game stretch as impressive as I’m thinking? I see ND is in the top 4 in pass-efficiency defense again already after sitting near the top of those rankings pretty much all last season. Am I drinking the Kool-aid to think even the Dawgs will have trouble passing against these Irish?

Eric Hansen: I really don't want to get too deep in analysis for Georgia, because I frankly haven't studied the Bulldogs in depth. I do know Jake Fromm is on another planet as a passer than Louisville's Jawon Pass. I also know a lot of ND's success last year against the pass was because they could get most teams in unfavorable third down-and-long situations. Can ND's run defense do that this season? Having said that, the stats you quoted are impressive. But are they sustainable? There are a lot of good elements to think so (pass rush, safeties, Pride and Crawford), but there are other facets that still must mature and grow to make this a long-term thing in 2019.

Jacob from Versailles, Ohio: After a below-average showing (despite what PFF says), do you expect Asmar Bilal to see a reduction in playing time this week? What linebackers do you expect to see more of this week? I feel like there will be a lot of different LB lineups, considering the quality of opponent, to see what certain players have in the tank. Thanks again for the chats. You do a great job and keep fans involved/updated.

Eric Hansen: Jacob, thanks. Let's take the rover out of this and just look at the snaps of the two inside LB positions from Louisville. Here's how they broke down: White 52, Bilal 40, Simon 22, Lamb 13, Genmark Heath 10. All 13 of Lamb's snaps were in the dime package. My sense is you'll see more of a rotation this week at buck (weakside linebacker) unless Bilal is tearing it up early and often.

Steve from Toledo, Ohio: Hi Eric, do you feel USC and Georgia are now are two biggest obstacles to the playoffs?

Eric Hansen: I think Notre Dame's challenge to improve at key positions and overcome key injuries is its biggest obstacle to making the playoff and the one that it can control.

Stancakes from Chester, Va.: Greetings to the source. Never failed to enjoy your articles in the Trib. Any inside information as to how the linebackers are jelling? Do you know which group is emerging as starters?

Eric Hansen: Hi Stan. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is entrenched as the No. 1 rover and has star potential ... but has a lot of growth to do as well. Will be fun to watch. I think Drew White is going to be hard to displace as the No. 1 middle linebacker. I think the buck linebacker is still very fluid.

Scott from Muskegon, Mich.: Can anything from this game make you feel confident we'll beat Georgia?

Eric Hansen: I don't know how to answer that. What I think Notre Dame needs to show in the New Mexico game, regardless of the next team on the schedule, is improvement. Get better each week.

Toledo Johnny from Georgia: Eric! I thought that Chris Finke has been one of Book's favorite targets. Is Finke healthy? Was he hampered at all last game? He is a heck of a receiver and makes good yardage after the catch.

Eric Hansen: I think Book gave up on the plays to Finke (and others) too early last week. I also think Finke will be more effective once he moves back inside to the slot.

Eric Hansen: i'm out of time. There were a lot of great questions I couldn't get to. Thanks for all those submitted. We'll do this again next Thursday at noon, and hopefully I can think and type faster to fit more in.

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