Chat Transcript: Breaking down ND's matchup with Georgia, short-yardage shortcomings and more

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Welcome to the chat to end all chats. Well, not really, but I've been getting Georgia questions since January, it seems.

Eric Hansen: AND remember to include your name and hometown with your question or, at the very least, your planet. Let's get right to it.

Dave from Cary, N.C.: Eric, simple question but perhaps a complicated answer: I am afraid Georgia will run the ball down our throat. What options do we have if the D-line is struggling?

Eric Hansen: Dave, it's not just the defensive line that has to step up, it's the linebacker corps as well. Certainly there are schematic wrinkles and packages that could enhance what ND has in its front seven. But if the Irish can't slow the Georgia running game down, there are very few — if any — scenarios that could lead to a Notre Dame win ... I do think this is an Irish run defense that will be better in November, which is great for the long term, but not particularly helpful in the context of this game.

Calhoun from Cincinnati: Hi Eric. Other than Chase Claypool and Chris Finke, what other wide receivers do you expect to make a contribution if ND has a chance to beat Georgia.

Eric Hansen: I think Javon McKinley has to be on the field a good amount of time, because we now know he can catch, but overlooked perhaps is that he's a punishing blocker in the run game. Way more physical than Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III, Chris Finke. etc. However, I think ND is going to have trouble sustaining long drives, because it will have trouble running consistently even with McKinley, so you're going to have to get some big-chunk plays. ND needs to sprinkle in some deep threats such as Lenzy and Keys from time to time to accomplish that. Now that I kind of zigzagged through that answer, to summarize, a heavier dose of McKinley, with the burners mixed in intermittently.

Jim from Hot Springs, Va.: Eric thanks for all you do for the ND fans. I think this game is down to two things: ND being able to run to keep Georgia off the field. Second ND stopping their run. Meaning, if they run the ball, they can take time off the clock, they score. If we can’t run and have to throw to score, not much time comes off the clock. The defense goes back out with no rest on a hot night,. That's not good. Am I wrong or am I missing something, Eric? Always listen/read all your ND stuff. Keep up the great work and, always and forever, go Irish.

Eric Hansen: Jim, thanks. I think you nailed it. A few things that could mitigate Georgia's advantage in those areas that could help ND — big-chunk plays in the passing game, big special teams plays (think return for a TD or blocked punt) and most importantly, the Irish are the No. 1 team in the FBS in turnover margin. They need to leave Athens still the No. 1 team in turnover margin.

Michael from Chicago: Which one player who had remaining eligibility would most help this year's team?

Eric Hansen: From the 2018 team? It's easy to narrow that down to four players really quick. I'd go with defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.

Ryan Lesch from a VW van outside O'Neill Hall: Where has Chris Finke gone? Was it a bad idea to move him out of the slot after Michael Young got hurt? Was expecting more of a Hunter Renfrow type year from him this year (but just three receptions through two games). Seems like he could/should be part of the answer for the third-down conversion problems.

Eric Hansen: Javon McKinley's emergence and ND's commitment to that surge being sustainable makes it easier to give Finke more snaps at his natural slot position. There's no question that move outside doesn't suit him. And Michael Young is on a trajectory to return in a couple of weeks against Bowling Green if not next week vs. Virginia. So that creates even more slot opportunities for Finke.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga: Hi Eric, I hope that you have an enjoyable time down here in the Peach state. A win would be nice, but I am not optimistic. What do you think ND needs to do to get off to a good start? Kick off or receive? Scripted plays for the offense to overcome the crowd noise? If the Irish have a slow start, like their first two games, Georgia may put us away early. Also, Drew White reminds me of Joe Schmidt. Is that a fair comparison and how are they different? Thanks again for all of your great work to get the story and info beyond the headlines. All of us fans really appreciate it. Go Irish!!!

Eric Hansen: Tom, thanks. You're right about the slow starts and how that might translate this weekend. If I'm Brian Kelly, I'm putting my offense on the field. Kirby Smart is 28-5 in games when his team scores first, 7-5 when they don't. He's 30-3 when leading at halftime, 5-7 otherwise. Taking the ball first doesn't mean ND will score, but I'd take my chances. I do see some Drew White/Schmidt comparisons when it comes to instincts and not getting a lot of recruiting hype. Each played for one of the top high school programs in America. I'm sure Drew would like to borrow one trait from Joe, and that's having Jaylon Smith playing next to him.

Iris from Whereabouts Unknown: At the beginning of each season I print out a roster of the team members. When I was on the Notre Dame website, I noticed they had also had a coaching roster. And when I opened it, it appeared that some of the coaching position titles have been sponsored by what appears to be families or family foundations. This struck me as being really odd. Can you shed any light on this?

Eric Hansen: There are positions that are endowed, but not all of them are. Because people are opening their checkbooks, you have things like the Dick Corbett Head Football Coach and the Bob Hinton Defensive Coordinator, for example. Nobody but Notre Dame calls them by those titles, however. It's not a common thing to have the positions endowed, but it's not unique either.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric. I was at the game last weekend, so I was unable to watch the NBC coverage, but I have heard the new camera setup and the resulting angles used to cover the game were anything but favorable. Do you have any idea if NBC has listened to the criticism and decided to either rework the camera angles or abandon the new setup altogether?

Eric Hansen: I plan to chat with them next week about it, when it comes back into play (CBS has this weekend's game). From what I've read, they anticipated a pushback from their audience. It reminds me of "New" Coke.

Brian from South Bend: Hey Eric, How did Notre Dame end up with such a lack of true talent at the running back position for 2019? Jafar Armstrong is good but wasn't recruited as a running back. It's striking how much better Georgia is at that position than ND.

Eric Hansen: Recruiting. Not that there wasn't good development. Recruiting. That's why Lance Taylor is here and that's why Chris Tyree's verbal commitment is so significant.

Tyler D. from Cleveland, Ohio: After all the chatter about Jarrett Patterson and his move to center I have been disappointed in his play. Doesn’t seem to be able to generate any push against lesser competition, nonetheless — specifically the QB sneak we had where Brock Wright essentially hugged Book into the endzone. Patterson got blown back and almost blew the play. Is it just a product of growing pains or technique or both? Still have faith in Jeff Quinn to turn the unit around?

Eric Hansen: I do, and wrote about that very topic earlier this week:

Cliff from Battle Creek: Hi Eric, thanks as always for doing this! What is the biggest culprit in Notre Dame's failures on short-yardage situations? If your answer in part is unimaginative play calling, do you think the coaches have been holding back for Georgia?

Eric Hansen: I think there are several layers to it. At Louisville, in particular, QB Ian Book had opportunities to check into better plays. And did not. Overall, a combination of that, growing pains by the interior offensive line and play-calling. All fixable. How soon? Not sure it'll be by Saturday night.

Bob from NYC: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah looked much worse last week. Asmar Bilal looked much better. Drew White looks better to me with every snap he plays. Do you think they’re trending positively or negatively overall and would loading the box be enough to stop Georgia's run game or should we just call it a loss now?

Eric Hansen: Not sure I like my options in your last either/or question. Can I come up with my own answer? If you're defensive coordinator Clark Lea, you can load the box, but then you have to deal with the No. 2 active passer in the FBS when it comes to passing efficiency, in Jake Fromm. Having said that, I think you need to do that some, just not a steady diet of it. You have to get Georgia to third down, where ND's dime package can get on the field. I think your read on how the linebackers played vs. New Mexico is accurate. I think JOK can and will bounce back. I still think he's the furthest advanced of all the linebackers. He's certainly athletic and versatile.

Doug from Norfolk, Va.: Thanks for the chats! Love your work! If ND stacks the box on defense on early downs to prioritize stopping the run, and Georgia turns to play-action to counteract that, do you give the edge to the Georgia wide receivers or the ND secondary?

Eric Hansen: Doug, thanks. Let me start with this stat from my colleague, Carter Karels, who charted this:

In their 25 snaps using the dime package this season, the Irish have four pass breakups, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The combination of quarterbacks between Louisville and UNM are 4-of-15 for 29 yards against that defensive look.

Now Jake Fromm is in a different universe than the QBs ND has seen so far. Georgia's wide receivers are really talented, yet inexperienced. If you're picking your poison, that would be my preference. But you have to mix it up defensively. You have to give Georgia different looks.

Sam from Delray Beach, Fla.: Eric, when I look at the depth charts for teams like 'Bama, Clemson and Georgia, it appears that ND is still undersized, especially on defense. The average weight of our starting linebackers is under 225 pounds, and the average weight of our top eight defensive linemen is 275 pounds. Compare those figures to Georgia, whose starting linebackers average 240 pounds and top six defensive linemen average 300 pounds. Forgive me for being simplistic, but I believe that this is the No. 1 reason why we've struggled against elite teams in recent history. I fear that Georgia is going to run the ball down our throats and give Fromm all the time in the world against our undersized front seven, while Ian Book will have no time and our running backs will struggle to get past the line of scrimmage. Please tell me that I'm wrong. Are you concerned about our size as well?

Eric Hansen: Well, with Alabama and Georgia, you're comparing apples and oranges. Those two teams run 3-4 fronts, so the defensive linemen are going to be bigger in that structure. ND runs a 4-3. And in today's football you need to cover, so ND isn't looking for 245-pound linebackers. I think you can be 225/230 and still be really good against the run. I think the programs you referenced have more depth at linebacker, have more experience and have more difference-makers at that position.

Steve from Canton Mich.: Great reporting as always. Question for you: If ND loses this game and with the deteriorating lack of class teams left on the schedule, do you see any route that ND makes the playoffs?

Eric Hansen: Steve, thanks. But no, I don't see it. I wrote about that very thing in my Gameweek column earlier this week. We also chatted with Gary Danielson this week about that very thing on the Pod of Gold Podcast. Not biting on you. I need to do a better job on Twitter of promoting these stories, I suppose.

Daniel Kalamazoo, Mich.: Eric, This game has me concerned we will be watching a similar game as to what we saw in Miami in 2017. Our inability to extend drives on third down, coupled with our inability to stop the run, has me very concerned. Have you seen anything to this point that leads you to believe we will be able to do either of those things Saturday night?

Eric Hansen: Daniel, I think ND's problems against Miami in 2017 had more to do with not handling the moment on the big stage than X's and O's. And Miami's play the balance of that season kind of backed that up. The Hurricanes weren't that good. Georgia 2019 would devour Miami 2017.

Jay Weir from Huntington Beach, Calif: Thank you Eric for all of your insightful and interesting work. The line this weekend is ND +13.5. Let's say this game is another recent Clemson-like blowout. What does that mean for Notre Dame and its overall reputation? Will it be the 'overrated' come true, or, will there be a chance to redeem yet this year?

Eric Hansen: Jay, thank you for the kind words. I actually think Notre Dame has little to lose in that respect Saturday night. So many people in the national media and even within ND's own fan base expect an annihilation. So anything short of that buys the Irish some brownie points. This wasn't a team that was projected to play for a national title this year. The high-end expectations was New Year's Six. Still is, win or lose on Saturday night. When you look at where Notre Dame is headed with regard to recruiting and player development, the wheels aren't going to come off with a two-TD loss. The important thing if that happens is to come back and handle a ranked Virginia team that next week. I think when Clemson comes to Notre Dame Stadium in 2020, there will be a higher expectation for the Irish and they'll be held to a higher standard in that game by the outside world.

Barney from Garden City, N.Y.: What has happened to Khalid Kareem? I mean only one tackle against Louisville and one against the Lobos and no sacks? Where is the guy who played so well in last year's home opener?

Eric Hansen: Barney, some of the modest individual stats two games in from ND's edge players, including Khalid Kareem, are a product of Louisville and New Mexico trying to get the ball out quickly, come hell or high water. Where that shows up, in part, is in ND's No. 3 national ranking in pass-efficiency defense. I still consider Kareem to be an elite player.

Chuck from Brigantine, N.J.: Eric, you are "the bomb" and my absolute source about our beloved Irish! My perception is that Chip Long tightens up in big games from a play-calling perspective. His offense becomes predictable and dull. Understanding that he expanded the playbook a bit last week and that the O-Line is underperforming and that the defense cannot sustainably stop the run, can we expect to see more offensive fireworks on Saturday to "rescue" the D? How about stretching the field with Keys or Braden, tight ends over the middle, some misdirection and a screen pass if the rush becomes unbearable? I know the Dawgs are fast, but fast teams overpursue. Also your thoughts, oh wise one? My prediction is Irish WIN ONLY if the O-line dominates.

Eric Hansen: Chuck, thanks, you are the bomb when it comes to thorough questions. I think in most of ND's games during Chip Long's time here, the Irish defense has been its strong suit, and the games unfolded and were steered by Brian Kelly with that in mind. In 2019, the offense is ahead of the defense, and the offense is going to have to play that way at Georgia. Ideally, you'd like to have Michael Young, Jafar Armstrong and a unrusty Cole Kmet to deploy if you're Chip Long, but some of the concepts you mentioned need to be part of the game plan. And yes, ND's offensive line must take a step forward in its development in this game.

Rick from Grandville, Mich.: Eric!!! Now this is where we want to be! National TV, huge underdog, backs against the wall. Dare I say people (including our own fan base) are sleeping on what has been building over the last three years. Our guys are going to be ready. Brian Kelly is clearly downplaying confidence in his squad. Is that because he doesn't like his team's chances or he wants his guys to hear FROM EVERYONE that his team is not good enough to compete? Thoughts?

Eric Hansen: Rick, I'm not sure he's downplaying confidence in his team, just staying away from kicking the big dog on the porch.

Jeff from York, Pa.: Tell Chuck from New Jersey that he's dreaming. We are going to get an embarrassing loss at Georgia. Will we recover to beat a pretty good Virginia team on September 28th? That's the only question I have. If not, then people should be calling for a coaching change.

Eric Hansen: Seriously? I specifically mean that about the coaching change part. Jeff, come on, you're better than that.

Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, any chance we will see Avery Davis returning kickoffs this week or in the future?

Eric Hansen: I would not rule that out. Lawrence Keys looked pretty good in that role last week. Perhaps using Keys and Davis together makes sense.

MoxieBravo from Chicago: Eric, love your work. Question: When and if ND wins vs. Georgia does that put them in the driver's seat for the College Football Playoff? Where do you suppose they would be ranked if they narrowly win?

Eric Hansen: Thank you. If Notre Dame wins, and Georgia goes on to play for the SEC championship, then yes, the Irish have a trajectory that would put them in the CFP. But they must keep winning.

Tal from Valley Center, Calif.: Eric, thanks so much for being the go-to source when it comes to Irish football. I believe that from a national perspective it is essential that ND put forth a strong effort, if not in a winning effort then at least in a highly competitive one. A blowout loss or an uninspired performance will continue to feed the narrative that the Irish just don't measure up when the stakes are at their highest against top-flight competition. I believe this is statement game for both ND and Kelly and will go a long way in defining their season. In your opinion, how damaging would another disappointing defeat in a high stakes contest be to the program as a whole? Thanks for all you do!

Eric Hansen: Tal. I kind of touched on this in an earlier question. I think this particular game isn't going to change the perception of Notre Dame long term. It's already a narrative. ND has to continue to build through recruiting, and getting elite speed at RB (Chris Tyree) and elite skill at WR (Jordan Johnson) is another step in the right direction. They need that in volume now.

Gil from San Juan: Read your article on the football players that have left ND in recent years, and they are not doing well even in the weakest programs. This does not seem to speak well of the judgement of the recruiting group. What is your opinion?

Eric Hansen: Gil, that's a strong question that I wish I had more time to explore with you. The answer isn't either short or uncomplicated. So let me give it a stab. You're not going to bat 1.000 in recruiting. Most players transfer because they're not playing and want that chance elsewhere. Unless they left for some other reason (violation of university rules, for instance), their attitude or skill set or off-the-field problems aren't going to transform at the new school in most cases.

Dave from Kuttawa, Ky.: I vividly remember the fiasco in Miami. Do you have a sense that this is not something we have to worry about?

Eric Hansen: Not from an atmosphere standpoint, though that facet isn't going to be easy either to manage. But 2019 Georgia is a better team and a tougher matchup than 2017 Miami.

Sue Kovensky form Parts Unknown: “The Game” is finally here on Saturday night! Do you expect Chip Long to finally open the ND offensive playbook in the hopes of keeping Georgia on its collective toes? As a longtime fan in central Pennsylvania, I have not been impressed with the play calling thus far in ‘19. By the way, kudos to you for your exemplary sports journalism skills!

Eric Hansen: Sue, you are awesome. Yes, I think especially with some of ND's best playmakers on the sideline, Chip Long has to be creative. You can't depend solely on offensive wrinkles, though, but I think they need to be sprinkled in to help level the playing field. Now the important thing is executing them.

Dwight from Central Arkansas: I listened to the Pod of Gold audio on Tuesday with guest Gary Danielson. His summary, "Jake Fromm (UGA QB) could play at "B" level and Georgia wins. Listening to DawgNation (Georgia football), "Bulldogs open as a two-TD winner, but it will be much greater than that." ESPN analyst, Greg McElroy, "Georgia will win decisively. Given the rushing yardage allowed by ND's defense in the first two games, Georgia could rush for over 300 yards, which only opens things up for Fromm." He went on to say that ND doesn't really have a running game. (Georgia's O-line averages 6-5 & 328.) ND is a decided underdog just about anywhere you look/listen. Is there any scenario where you could see the Irish shocking the football world?

Eric Hansen: I don't expect them to, but I do think those kind of scenarios exist. if it's going to happen, the Irish have to have an advantage in turnovers. Start from there and then you can build some possibilities. But I am not predicting an ND victory.

Jonathan from Hideaway, Texas: Last year Georgia went 2-3 against teams finishing in the top 25 (Bama, LSU, Texas, Florida, Kentucky). ND 3-1 (Clemson, Michigan, Syracuse, Northwestern). Georgia lost seven players to the NFL Draft this summer. ND six. Georgia returns six starters on defense; ND seven (counting 2017 starter Shaun Crawford). Georgia’s top receiver is a 6-3, 190-pound true freshman with nine catches and a TD in three games. ND's is a 6-4, 229-pund senior with the same numbers in just two games. Is there any objective measure that suggests advantage Georgia here? Because I think we're mostly hearing a bunch of unjustified, SEC-style hype.

Eric Hansen: Johnathan, I think on the surface, your argument makes sense. What's overlooked is that Georgia has recruited so well, they have more plug-and-play players, have more quality depth, have more margin for error. This is a big game for Georgia, too. You could argue they've been on a part recruiting with Alabama and Clemson, but don't have the big wins as a payoff yet.

Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric- Recent press coverage of the DAWGS, say they are zeroing in on Ian Book. How does ND use Georgia's apparent defensive strategy to turn the tables and win this game?

Eric Hansen: They should be zeroing in on Ian Book. He's the most pivotal player in the game for Notre Dame. We'll learn something about his ability to cover up — or not — deficiencies elsewhere on the team.

Manny from San Pedro: Eric!!!!! I am excited for the game. I know people would rather play Ball State 12 times and go undefeated, but I believe this is what makes ND special and fun. Who needs to lead the Irish in rushing if they hope to pull the upset. I think it has to be Book, but Book because he ran for 150!!!!!!!

Eric Hansen: I think Book and Avery Davis need to be ND's top two rushers in this game to harbor those hopes. How's that for an answer Manny??????!!!!!!! I do love your attitude about playing in these types of games is what makes college football great.

Bill from St Joe, Mich.: Chase Claypool is quite the stud receiver, but I’m wondering if you think he has trouble adjusting to a ball thrown straight over his head on a “fly” pattern, similar to a ball hit directly at a center fielder. I noticed it twice last week, and I don’t believe looking back at the sun was a factor. He adjusts very well to the ball on a slant route. Continue to appreciate your expert coverage of ND both in print and the radio!

Eric Hansen: Bill, I'll have to give that a closer look in reviewing games, but I hadn't noticed that when I watched him in practice. Wish I had a better answer for you.

Keith from Kalamazoo: What are a couple areas where you feel confident that ND can have some success against Georgia on Saturday?? I hope this isn’t a repeat of 2017 Miami, where the team looked shell-shocked in that environment.

Eric Hansen: Third-down defense with the dime package, and passes to Chase Claypool.

Brent from Elkhart, Ind.: Thanks Eric for these great chats and your offerings to ND Football. What are your thoughts on coach Kelly's reluctance to play more freshmen? It seems others around the country are utilizing their freshmen class very successfully, yet, here at Notre Dame, they don't get much of a shot, or are redshirted.

Eric Hansen: Brent, he played 16 Saturday against New Mexico. With the new redshirt rule, it's easier to do that. I don't think there's a reluctance. If someone like Kyle Hamilton or Jacob Lacey or Kyren Williams warrant it, you'll see them on the field.

Eric Hansen: Just a quick note, if you're question is about shortcomings on short yardage or Georgia's obvious advantages in run offense/run defense, I think I've answered those two questions — which are very good questions — as thoroughly as I can at this point. So I'm not ignoring you, just trying to provide more of a variety of questions at this point.

Charlie from the Dominican Republic: Is our secondary good enough to load the box on almost every first and second down and still be safe from Jake Fromm? I don't see any other way to stop the Georgia running attack. Relatedly, are there any defensive formations where we have with Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes on the field at the same time?

Eric Hansen: Charlie, in ND's dime package Kareem, Okwara and Hayes are on the field at the same time. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa slides over to nose guard. Jack Lamb is the lone linebacker in that formation. Ther six DBs are Kyle Hamilton. Alohi Gilman, Jalen Elliott, Shaun Crawford, TaRiq Bracy and Troy Pride Jr. Love that look on defense, but you have to get teams in third down for it to be most effective.

Matt from Atlanta: Eric , I know you are high on Kelly, but the talk in Georgia is pointing out that he has never beaten a top 5 team , has only beaten top 10 teams a very few times in his career and ,contrary to when he was at Cincinnati, has a hard time getting ND to play up. Do you disagree? Thank You.

Eric Hansen: A couple of points. Notre Dame under Kelly has played four top 5 teams. Just four. And the Irish are 0-4. Certainly not impressive, but kind of misleading. None of those games have been at Notre Dame Stadium. In fact, until the Irish beat a No. 8 Stanford team by three TDs last September, every top 10 team Kelly faced had been away from Notre Dame Stadium. So there's that. Georgia is 3-6 against the top 5 during the Kelly years. Two of those wins were by the 2017 Bulldogs, who won by a point in South Bend.

Ed from Palm Beach, Fla.: Listening to so-called experts you would think ND was playing the New England Patriots this weekend. While Georgia is a very good team, this season's early games are no indication of each team's status this year. The team that stops the run is the winner. Unless ND did not showcase any running diversity in opening games I would be concerned..My question is do you think Book can finally breakout against a top defensive team?

Eric Hansen: We're about to find out. Coming into this season, he had faced one top 50 defense as a starter — Clemson in last year's playoff. That doesn't mean he won't perform well. it's just there is a very small sample size.

Rob from Oakville, Canada: Hi Eric, really appreciate your work! Any chance the Irish will get caught looking ahead to Virginia? Just kidding. I think coaching could make a big difference. How do you think coach Kelly can outsmart coach Smart?

Eric Hansen: Ha. I think Kirby Smart is a really good coach. Not sure there's a lot of room for outsmarting him. Better execution on the field would be the thing Brian Kelly needs to hope for. Again, start with turnovers. ND HAS to have that advantage.

Doug from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: Hey Eric, In 2017, when the irish played the Bulldogs, was that the first game after a full S&C program under Balis. If so, do the players now look to be in better condition? ND must win the turnover battle.

Eric Hansen: Doug nice to hear from you. Absolutely, the Balis hire has made an incredible difference, not just in strength but in the areas of sports science that help with injury prevention and recovery. Drue Tranquill would have missed multiple games last year under the old regime.

Don from Phoenix: I realize as a reporter you need to be objective and not "root" for a team, even though you are with them throughout the year. That said do you find yourself rooting for players and, if so, who on past teams?

Eric Hansen: I think journalists tend to root for noon starts, enough outlets in the press box that you can plug in your laptop, great angles for replays, grub that won't give them food poisoning (it happened once), and a great story. There are people you come to admire and respect for who they become and what they overcome. But when the game's on, you're an observer, not a cheerleader. I'm not sure how you'd have credibility otherwise. And I certainly don't want that when I'm reading about my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. I want insight, not gushing.

Mike from St.Louis: Tommy Edman is to the St.Louis Cardinals that _____________ is to the Notre Dame football team?

Eric Hansen: I want to say Kyle Hamilton, but I'm not sure Edman has that kind of upside. ... But I can't think of another blend of youth, impact,etc.

Sam from Philly: When ESPN Gameday is at an ND game, do you ever partake in the circus of it all? Or is it all business and game prep on your end? Also, any wild card players for ND on offense or defense you could see making unexpected impacts? Thanks for all you do to keep us informed!

Eric Hansen: Sam, thanks. We usually have a news side reporter do something with that if we do anything. It does conflict with my pregame radio commitment, and generally the games when they show up are so big on their own that the Gameday angle gets kind of lost. ... Might be fun if I could do a behind-the-scenes kind of thing with them at some point. ... Wildcard offense: Avery Davis. Wild card defense: Daelin Hayes.

Jay from Chicago: Eric, despite consistent top-10 to top-15 recruiting classes, my gut feeling is that ND has trouble recruiting at a level on par with the nation's very elite (i.e. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, etc.) Can you point to particular roadblocks, other than geography and academic standards, that ND faces on the recruiting trail? I am struggling to understand why the unique benefits of ND, specifically their unmatched national appeal, cannot overcome these difficulties with the nation's top players. Do you think ND can ever return to a level of preeminence that they once held?

Eric Hansen: Jay this is an excellent question I can't possibly get into in this setting. Too much depth. Too many details. I did write about how this trend was starting to change in the big magazine piece I did on Kyle Hamilton for our mag. If you're an NDInsider Premium member, you can read it, and it will answer a lot of our questions. Here's the link:

Tom from Virginia: Did Greg move from Oakland and change his name to Jeff?

Eric Hansen: Now. Now.

Eric Hansen: I sincerely apologize, but that's going to have to do it for today. I still have more content to produce and can't extend the chat. Thanks for all the great questions, including the many I just couldn't get to. We'll be back to do it all over again next Thursday at noon EDT.

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