Chat Transcript: Assessing the O-line, Book's next steps, Notre Dame's RB recruiting and more

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Thanks for joining me today for the chat — Virginia week. Please remember to include your name and hometown with your question. Please no questions that require calculus to answer (I only got a C-plus in that class). Off we go.

Tom from Toronto: Hi Eric, While a fan of the game, I am not a student of the game. A question or two about the offensive play calling in the Georgia game. How would you rate the play calling? And if your rating is average or lower, in your view, what things should the offense have been doing that they weren't doing? And what things should they have avoided? Always enjoy your insights. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: The game plan surprised me to a certain extent with only 14 runs and not all of those were even planned runs. I give offensive coordinator Chip Long credit for knowing his personnel and how it would match up. I thought Avery Davis and/or Kyren Williams would get a little more play, but the coaches didn't trust them in that wild environment. I loved the use of Cole Kmet — thought that should have been a big part of the Clemson game plan, too. I agree with the announcers that in the third quarter, the Irish should have taken some deep shots, especially with the Bulldogs hobbled at cornerback. Georgia's safeties were cheating up too much, and it made moving the ball almost impossible. With a Virginia offense that's also very good against the run and overall, Chip Long can't just cut and paste last week's game plan into this week's matchup. There needs to be some new wrinkles.

Keith from Kalamazoo: Eric ... love the chats and all your hard work for us fans. Any chance Notre Dame can trade for Wisconsin's offensive line for the rest of the season? In all seriousness, why does the O-line struggle so much to fire off the ball in the run game. All these O-line recruits and players ND has are four-star prospects who most major football powers wanted. Is Jeff Quinn not the answer as offensive line coach?

Eric Hansen: It's an interesting question, and one with more layers than you might imagine. Let's start with Notre Dame. With only nine plays called for the running back position in the game and using one of its slower backs, do we really have a large enough sample size from that game to determine whether there was improvement or regression in that area from the New Mexico game? I don't think so. I feel like the biggest problem in that snapshot is that subpar running back recruiting has caught up to Notre Dame. Virginia should tell us a little more about run blocking. But I felt going into the season, beyond Ian Book, the player Notre Dame could least afford to lose was Jafar Armstrong, who by the way was recruited as a wide receiver.

As far as Wisconsin, they pump out outstanding linemen — who play well together — with impressive regularity. But they also pump out All-America running backs. They have Jonathan Taylor now. They had Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball before him. The longest position drought without an All-American at Notre Dame is the running back position.

RC from Albany, N.Y.: Hi Eric. Great podcast last week with Gary Danielson. Question: I have been surprised by how quiet our starting defensive ends have been. How much of an impact is the graduation of first-round NFL pick Jerry Tillery (and Jonathan Bonner’s graduation) having on Julian Okwara  and Khalid Kareem? Did we underestimate the impact of losing Tillery and Bonner? Or are opposing coaches doing a better job of "scheming’' Okwara and Kareem out of the play (example, New Mexico's focus on getting the ball out quickly). Thanks for all the great work.

Eric Hansen: RC, thanks. I hope you enjoy this week's podcast with Rocket Ismail. ... Louisville and New Mexico were bound and determined to get the ball out quickly, whether that meant turnovers and a low percentage or not. And that's exactly what happened. Georgia had a stellar offensive line and one of the best — if not the best — QBs (Jake Fromm) in the nation both pre-snap and dealing with and defeating pressures. I do expect the production to pick up this week and in subsequent weeks. But if you're 10th in the nation in pass-efficiency defense, then your pressure — or other teams' fear of it — is working to a large extent. I will say this, if Brian Kelly could reclaim one player for last year's team and put him on this year's team, I'd pick Jerry Tillery to be that player.

Clancy from Sheboygan, Wis.: Javon McKinley doesn't show up in the Georgia box score after being the best receiver on the field against the Lobos. Can you shed some light? I only recall one ball thrown his way (the overthrown end zone fade). Was he tasked with blocking rather than receiving? Did Book never look his way? It seems a bit odd, especially when you lose Braden Lenzy with a concussion, not to have Javon be more involved.

Eric Hansen: Because Notre Dame did anything but commit to the run, it lessened that urgency to get Javon McKinley on the field. They instead opted for more speed rather than his physicality. It surprised me, but again I thought ND would run more. Michael Young's return will also lessen Javon's opportunities some, even though they don't play the same wide receiver position. There's a domino effect. But I do think he's much more than a one-game wonder.

John from Springfield: Hi Eric. You have said previously that if Notre Dame loses to Georgia that they would not be able to climb back into the playoff chase. Do you think with the close loss that changes your mind or do they not have enough marquee games left on the schedule to get in at 11-1?

Eric Hansen: I think it's an extremely difficult climb back for this reason: Notre Dame's November schedule. Not one of the five teams (Va Tech, Duke, Navy, BC, Stanford) received a single vote in this week's AP Top 25. If that stays that way, and it's unlikely to change much, that's a bad look when the teams ND is competing with are playing big games and winning them in November. We've learned from the College Football Playoff committee big wins count more than good losses. Notre Dame's best path to getting back into that discussion is dominating its October and November schedule, Georgia ascending to the No. 1 spot in the CFP standings, and parity producing a lot of two- and three-loss conference champs.

Mike from Brownsburg: Asmar Bilal's recent performance — aberration or a sign of things to come?

Eric Hansen: Brian Kelly is convinced it's for real. His performance this week will tell us a lot. If he can string together consistency, he's always had the athletic ability.

Cliff from Battle Creek: Hi Eric! I appreciate your quality content every week! I'd like to give a shout-out to my grandpa, Loren, who reads your column every week. Man, seems like we're always the bridesmaid right now. Coach Kelly and the players seem to be saying all the right things after the loss looking forward to Virginia. Does that match the tone and feeling you're getting being around the program this week?

Eric Hansen: Cliff thanks. Grandpas are special. My grandpa, Pasquale, was my hero. Still is, even if he's not here with us. Sounds like you have a great one in Loren. Since we're not in practice at this time of year, it's difficult to see the physical impact of that Georgia game and how it's playing out. Mentally. I think this group still believes there's a lot to play for. They also know Virginia is really good, especially on defense, so I wouldn't expect there to be a mental hangover from Georgia.

Barney,Garden City, N.Y.: If Ian Book has not corrected his proclivity for bailing out of the pocket prematurely by now, can we really expect him to ever correct that unfortunate habit? The very last play of the Georgia game is only the most recent example.

Eric Hansen: Barney. You and I aren't watching the same game. He ran three times against Georgia. One of them was a planned run. On the last play, the blocking was not good at all. What was he supposed to do? I've seen a lot of QBs in that situation end up getting sacked. He was at least able to unleash a prayer. I will say the next step in Ian Book becoming an elite QB is to recognize pressures faster and counteract them more decisively, but I hardly think he had happy feet against Georgia or was bailing on plays too early.

Dan from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Hello, Eric, why do you think there has been such a lack of talent recruited at running back recently?

Eric Hansen: Keep in mind Chris Tyree is on the way in 2020. I'll just come out and say it: I think Autry Denson is an amazing person and did a good job of developing players. I do not think he did a good job of recruiting running backs the way his predecessor, Tony Alford, did. In fact, he had trouble getting elite running backs to even visit campus. It pains me to be that blunt, because of how classy Denson is, but that's my unvarnished opinion.

JL from Saratoga Springs: Brian Kelly has had two top 10 quarterback recruits in the past four years, and by the time Brandon Wimbush left after four years he was unable to consistently complete a 10-yard out pass. Supposedly, Phil Jurkovec is nowhere near being a starter. Is this a case where the quarterbacks have been grossly overrated or is it Brian Kelly's inability to develop or work with young quarterbacks. It's just not adding up. Thank you for your time.

Eric Hansen: JL. I think it's way too early to write an epitaph on what Phil Jurkovec's career turned out to be. And if you're going to criticize Kelly for Wimbush and Jurkovec, shouldn't he be lauded for Tommy Rees, DeShone Kizer and Ian Book? The fact that Wimbush got beaten out by a freshman at UCF suggests maybe it's not a BK problem in his case.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric. Not sure about everyone else, but I'm tired of hearing "We have to coach better." I understand Brian Kelly does that so as not to be overly critical of the players and their execution, but what does it really mean? Does it mean that they, as a staff, have to explain things better? I mean, these players were admitted to ND. I would assume they have little trouble understanding what they have been taught. What's the real problem or meaning behind this hackneyed phrase Kelly keeps using?

Eric Hansen: Early in his time here, Kelly was blasted with regularity for being too candid about players' faults, so this is what is has evolved to. For a lot of the fan base, this is what they prefer. In some cases, the coaches do need to coach better.

Erik from Granger, Ind.: Your discussions on SportsBeat about the Virginia defense has me a little worried. What, if anything, is their biggest weakness, and what do you expect the offensive game plan to look like this week?

Eric Hansen: Erik, Virginia has faced only one team that has a pass efficiency ranking in the top 100, and Florida State's James Blackman had some success moving the ball, particularly late in a very close game. That's even with Virginia's blitzing and having the best cornerback in the country, Bryce Hall, on their team. They're still very good overall on defense. I think Notre Dame is going to have to be more balanced this week than it was against Georgia. And Book has got to be very good at the line of scrimmage pre-snap in terms of getting out of a bad play and changing it to a good one.

Bill from St Joe, Mich.: Eric, is it just me, but not only NBC but other networks very often pull away from the tackle so you can't see who actually made the tackle or was in on the tackle? It wouldn't be so bad, but the play-by-play announcer and color guy often do not advise the viewer who made the tackle. Often the "truck" chooses to move back to the quarterback or one of the head coaches. It is quite frustrating.

Eric Hansen: Bill, even though I wrote a piece this week on NBC's SkyCam this week, that kind of technical broadcasting question encompassing multiple networks is a bit out of my lane. Maybe the solution is watching the game with the volume down and listening to the radio broadcast, which would tend to give you that kind of information?

Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric. What's happened to Chris Finke? For someone so sure-handed, why hasn't Book targeted him more often or have teams tried to take him out of the game?

Eric Hansen: In very general terms, I think playing outside receiver as much as he has, with Michael Young out, hasn't been an ideal fit. With Young back, I expect him to spend most of the time back in the slot. As far as the Georgia game, I think Chris would tell you it was not a good day at the office.

Chuck Perkins from New Hampshire: Hi, nice to be able to text a question. My question is IF the Irish win out the balance of the schedule, would they have to have Michigan and USC win out too (except the ND games) to have any chance to make the playoff? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Hi Chuck, touched on it earlier. It's going to be very difficult to do so. They'll need a lot of help. USC or Michigan cratering wouldn't help that cause.

Jacob from Versailles, Ohio: I will keep it short and sweet this week. Do you think ND will lose another game this season if the defense plays like it did at Georgia last weekend? Does the team have some sort of punishment system for false start penalties? (In my high school football days, the whole offense had to run down and back, 200 yards, for each false start the following Monday). Like always, keep up the good work.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Jacob. If the defense holds opponents to under 60 plays and to 23 points or fewer, I would love ND's chances of finishing 11-1. Not sure about what the punishment is. Not sure if it was their fault most of the time.

Johngipp from Lititz, Pa.: I am looking at a missing person report. Male 6-4 1/2 inches, supposedly plays defensive end?. Missing since being touted as a first-round draft pick. Do you have any information?

Eric Hansen: Still projected as a first-round pick. The NFL scouts love Julian Okwara, and so does Brian Kelly.

Brandon from Goshen, Ind.: ND has been on the verge of joining college football's elites since 2012, but seven years later and they're still not over the hump. And yes, I know there have been some good wins in that time too, but they never do it against the biggest and best teams (2012 Alabama, 2014 FSU, 2015 Clemson, 2018 Clemson, 2019 Georgia). Is there more Brian Kelly can do to bring this team to the next level, or has ND climbed as high as it can with him?

Eric Hansen: I think they're closer than they've been since the Holtz Era. I've written about this a lot and did so right after the Clemson game. The next step is improving overall team depth and recruiting elite speed at running back and wide receiver. They did both in the 2020 cycle. Now they need it in volume.

Ron from Raleigh, N.C.: I have asked this in the past, but I am still wondering if there is any information on what specific technologies Under Armour and ND have worked on regarding player improvement. When the contract was first announced, I was hoping that over time ND would gain some sport science advantages working with UA over say a Nike, etc. But I have never seen any data if this agreement isn't anything more than just sports equipment. I also hope ND is taking money and not stock because the stock has been dropping since July. Gguess I have to work past age 65. Sad face.

Eric Hansen: When I did a Q-and-A last November with athletic director Jack Swarbrick, I asked that very question. Here was the exchange:

Eric Hansen: Q: Some of the advancements in sports science that the Notre Dame football program is using today are impressive, but I remember when the agreement with Under Armour was announced, there was a thought that they would be contributing to that in some form or fashion. Has that ended up being the case?

Swarbrick: “A little bit, but not perhaps the way either of us might have hoped. I think there’s still that potential, and we need to work on it. What I’ve been pleased with is how much they’ve used us in product development.

“So they had a new soccer shoe they brought out to our team. Had them test it, give them feedback. We wound up having a significant impact on the design. So I love the partnership. I can’t point to a lot of sport-science innovation that’s come out of it, but we haven’t given up on it.”

Louie from Delaware: Hard to tell on TV but looked like the blown flea flicker could have resulted in a modest gain if QB had run. I think the cornerback had blitzed.

Eric Hansen: The corner did blitz. I'd have to rewatch it to see what the running lanes looked like, but the corner definitely blitzed.

Jeff from Wellington: Eric, September 28th is an important date in Notre Dame football history. This coming Saturday will be the 101st anniversary of Knute Rockne's first game as a ND's head coach. ND was 0-0-1 on September 28th prior to Rockne and including the 26-6 win in his opener, the Irish were 4-0-1 on that date until 60 years ago, when I was born. Since then the Irish are 1-6 on my birthday. Hugh Devore was 0-1, Ara was 0-2, Faust was 0-1, Kelly is 0-1. Only Lou managed a win in his two attempts. No coach has more than one win on September 28th and no coach has coached more than two games on that date. Having a game on September 28th coincided with Devore's, Ara's and Lou's last year at Notre Dame. Without a running game, I am concerned I will shed tears once again on my birthday. Right now the Irish have to win every September 28th until I am 88 to get to .500 on my birthday. A loss will mean I have to hang in until 99 to break even. How will ND overcome the odds and win?

Eric Hansen: Jeff, I don't have time to double-check your math, so I'm going to trust you on both that and the details around it. I'll wish you a Happy Birthday before Facebook asks others to do so. And good news for you? Notre Dame doesn't have to overcome the odds this time. The Irish are favored by 12 points.

Megat Muzaffar from Malaysia: Hybrid linebackers are part an integral part of Clark Lea’s defense. How do you defend that TD pass from Fromm to Lawrence Cager, though? Hybrid corners maybe? Didn’t we have an “ideal” corner in Pride covering him on that play?

Eric Hansen: Between Cager being really good and being 6-5 and Fromm being as good as he is, it's pretty hard to do. I'm not sure if Troy Pride could have stopped it if he were taller. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge a great play.

Jonathan from Hideaway, Texas: Jay Bramblett had as good a night last week as I can remember from a Notre Dame punter: Four punts, 190 yards, three inside the 20, two inside the 10 (including the muff). And I thought punting was supposed to be a weakness this year. Can you get me up to date on this kid, expectations of him, and whether the Irish have a special-teams star in the making?

Eric Hansen: I was extremely impressed with this kid at Georgia. He has come light years since spring and even since the early days of fall camp. He is the son of a high school coach, and played quarterback as well as punting for his high school team (Hillcrest) in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He was also a really good baseball player (C, P, 3B, CF). He was a highly rated punting prospect nationally. I'm impressed with his hang time and his ability to direct his punts so that they don't all end up rolling into the end zone.

Gil from San Juan, Puerto Rico: I really enjoy the chats and the Pod of Gold. Thank you and continue your thorough reporting. For ND to run the table and reinsert itself in the conversation, a reasonable running game has to be developed. I notice that none of the tight ends and only Chase Claypool of the wideouts are doing an acceptable job of blocking, is this recognized and being addressed?

Eric Hansen: Gil, thank you. I agree with you on the running game, and there needs to be some strides in that direction even before Jafar Armstrong returns in mid-October. I can assure you that any deficiencies in blocking are being addressed.

Brian A  from Osceola: Hi Eric! First of all, thank you for all your insightful coverage of the team, I enjoy listening to your sports talk on my drive home from work! I have always been a big fan of Brian Kelly. I really feel he is the best man for the job, and I think he has done a great job building a top-notch program. With that said, I have one concern. For as long as I can remember, there always seems to be a player or two in a prominent role when there are arguably more talented players on the bench (i.e. Tommy Rees, Cam McDaniel, Joe Schmidt, and now Chris Finke as examples). They are great stories and should be commended for maximizing their God-given talent, but I have a hard time believing we wouldn’t be better off going with a player with more talent and less experience/smarts. Is Kelly too committed to these types of players or am I underestimating their talent in comparison to younger, more highly recruited players who seemingly aren’t given a chance? I was wanting to see Braden Lenzy last week in place of Finke. I heard he was hurt, but somehow I don’t think it would have mattered.

Eric Hansen: Brian, I understand your point, and it's a really good question and very fair with the way you presented it. I don't think those examples all have the same answer, but let's address the larger question of whether Kelly is putting the best players on the field. Based on what I saw from Chris Finke in practice, both in the spring and in August, he would also have been my choice. That doesn't mean someone can't or won't leapfrog him in October. Michael Young is back, and Chris can go back to playing slot. I think that will help his performance. If it doesn't, I think Kelly/Chip Long would make a change. I truly believe that.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Eric, with more teams going to bigger receivers in the red zone and with fade routes into the end zone, do you think Clark Lea may put Hamilton man-to-man on some of the bigger guys down in those areas? It's tough to expect Troy Pride to cover a 6-4 guy on that kind of play. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Tom, as you know, it's not just about height or else there would be tons of 6-3 and 6-4 corners who can't necessarily run with elite speed or cut and move like a corner needs to. And not all red zone situations call for man coverage. I think that's one reason ND toyed with the idea of using 6-3 Donte Vaughn situationally. It hasn't happened yet, because of the strong play of Shaun Crawford/TaRiq Bracy/Pride and because injuries put Vaughn behind again.

Matt from Augusta N.J.: Will we ever see a rotation at linebacker again? I would like Simon to see the field. Jersey guy

Eric Hansen: I think you'll see less of it. Maybe against a team that runs 80 plays or more. Shayne Simon is a great athlete who hasn't yet been able to translate that into consistent playing time. Don't give up on him for down the road, but right now, ND is playing its best options.

Ken from South Bend: Ever since my first experience with fans wanting a coaching change and hearing chants of "Oust Faust," I've been intrigued by the demands for change. Right now, there appears to be four, maybe five, elite coaches out there, and one or two are not active. I don't think ND has a chance at pulling any of them here if a decision to change was implemented. So, I've arrived at the best chance we have of getting over the next hump is for Brian Kelly to grow into being an elite coach. That said, what do you think he has to do to improve to the next level?

Eric Hansen: He has the best recruiting staff he's ever had, two really good coordinators, and an elite strength and conditioning guy. I think he's on a trajectory to get there. And when we do our podcasts, I often ask our guests the same question ... can/will Notre Dame win a national title in the next five years. I have not gotten a single "no."

Don from Cincinnati: Eric, I'm a first-time caller. In watching Saturday night, it seemed there were times when Tony Jones Jr. tried to break runs outside for big gains rather than cut up inside for three or four yards. I just don't feel he has the speed to break something outside against a big-time defense like Georgia. I also feel like Ian Book needs to be a threat to go downfield more if the short game is going to be consistently effective against big-time defenses. I know it would help if he had all his weapons available, especially against teams like Georgia. What is your opinion?

Eric Hansen: Don, you are a mind reader. It's impressive and scary. Maybe you can help me with the next chat?

Matt from Bridgman, Mich.: With the Georgia game in the books, what are your thoughts about deep passes down the field and Ian Book's ability to make them? It seems with how close Georgia's defense was playing to the line of scrimmage, that there would have been more opportunities. I do appreciate the tight end seam route and the occasional pass interference on a pass to Chase Claypool?

Eric Hansen: With Michael Young and Braden Lenzy back this week, I like that option more. Beware this week of Bryce Hall, though, the top cornerback in the nation. My sense is he'll line up against Claypool into the boundary most of the time.

John from South Bend: Hi Eric. I’m really not buying in with Chip Long as offensive coordinator. I know how memory can paint a different picture than reality but I always thought of Brian Kelly as only a good defense away from a great team. Now it seems like the opposite is true. We really miss Dexter Williams, but the defense lost what I thought was its heart and soul in Drue Tranquill, Julian Love, Te’von Coney. They have had their struggles, but you can see the evolution from great coaching (pay the man!). I never thought they would be able to contain Georgia’s run game like they did. I just don’t see good play calling or any real progress from Long’s offense. The training is apparent — especially when they play elite teams. Could a great offensive coordinator be the missing piece for the Irish to be a legitimate contender every year?

Eric Hansen: John, let's revisit this conversation at the end of October. You don't sound like you're of the mind to budge. Let's give it seven games (this season) and then we can debate. I, for one, have warmed up to Long as being an asset.

Bill from Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Tough loss. Not blaming anyone. I think Book is a much better passer in the pocket. Do you think he would benefit from a pedigreed QB coach? QBs seem to top out and no growth! Tired of Kelly saying he has to do a better job of coaching! With Book muscle memory seems to dictate.You're the best, so would appreciate your comments!

Eric Hansen: Bill, thanks. Your assessment of ND QBs in the Kelly Era isn't an unfair one. I think it's too early to put Book in that same category, and my belief is he won't end up in that category.

Newt from Midlothian, Va.: E Hansen ... just checkin in. No question. We have to take care of UVa. Thanks for all your work!

Eric Hansen: Newt, awesome to hear from you. Thanks for saying hello. Easiest "question" of the chat so far.

Joe from Reno: Great interview with Gary Danielson last week. It was nice to hear him say that ND is only a few players away, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. That seemed true against the Dawgs. For next year is Chris Tyree one of those guys that will put the Irish over the top, or does a fifth year for Ian seem to be in the cards (that is if he has one)? Keep up the great work.

Eric Hansen: Thank you. Gary was a great guest, I thought. I think Chris Tyree is going to help. I think he's a big piece to the puzzle, but ND needs to keep getting other players with that kind of impact at running back and wide receiver. Book does have a fifth year. Too early to tell if he'd come back. My sense is that he won't. The potential for the entire O-line to come back and tight end Cole Kmet is there to. If that happens, that would be a big boost to the fortunes of the 2020 Irish.

Jay from Chicago: Hi Eric, in seemingly every game that ND has played in for as long as I can remember against elite opponents, the broadcasting team will say something to the effect of ND having to play a near-perfect game to pull off a victory. Do you anticipate this margin-of-error issue (or lack thereof) evaporating for ND over the next couple of years as team speed and depth continue to improve?

Eric Hansen: You are correct in your assessment of what has been said, and I think that's reality. And yes I do anticipate exactly what you laid out as to where this is headed.

Stancakes in Chester, Va.: Tell Newt that our church has a breakfast this Sunday where Stancakes will be served!

Eric Hansen: I will do so. I think it's national pancake day today, as a matter of fact.

Stancakes in Chester, Va.: A rant, if you will: I cannot fathom the basis for all of the "chuck Kelly" sentiment out there. What he has done at Domerville is quite remarkable when you consider all the obstacles he has before him. How many "elite" coaches could survive at an institution that doesn't have an academic curriculum design specifically for athletes, or lower SAT requirements for sports-related admissions? Not many, I'll bet. Brian Kelly has taken a middle-of-the-road program and transformed it into one that is the national championship conversation each year. Not bad in my humble opinion. Now for the question: Aside from our local phenom, Chris Tyree, what other speedsters are in the future for next year's class, and how soon will they be able to impact the team? (Sorry for the verbosity.)

Eric Hansen: I like wide receivers Jordan Johnson and Xavier Watts a lot, and tight end Michael Mayer in terms of dynamic playmakers. It's too bad this class is going to be a smaller one. I think Notre Dame was well-positioned to add to that talent base, but they needed to fill other positions.

Frank from Canton, Ga.: Eric, will Jahmir Smith play and is any player from Virginia going to miss Saturday’s game?

Eric Hansen: Brian Kelly said early this week that Jahmir Smith was probable. I emailed Virginia beat writer Mike Barber about the injuries, and here was his response: The big question marks are the starting center (Olusegun Oluwatimi) who missed the last game with an injury to his snapping hand, and backup QB Brennan Armstrong, who missed the last game and was in a boot. Armstrong should be out this week, but Oluwatimi is a gametime decision.

Bob from New York City: While I love the longevity of the ND support, is there any chance that ND can become the imposing venue that they saw at UGA?

Eric Hansen: I don't think in our lifetimes.

Javi from Parkland, Fla.. Long-time reader. I think you are the best ND beat writer. Keep it up! My question has to do with Avery Davis. I realize he just switched back to offense, but his "re-debut" vs. New Mexico was very encouraging. Why didn't we see him versus Georgia, even as a decoy? What does he have to do to get playing time? Davis has great speed and is a good open-field runner, seems to me he can be a good weapon, specially since we are so limited at the running back position. Your thoughts?

Eric Hansen: Javi, he played a little bit. The coaching staff was skittish about him in that Georgia environment not having practice on offense for very long. I'd expect him to get more opportunities these next two weeks. I hold a similar opinion to yours as to what Davis could become on offense.

Conrad from Tokyo: How concerned are you with Jeff Quinn and the O-line, especially in the run game where they catch blocks and don’t get as much of a push as guys like Aaron Banks and Tommy Kraemer should? I love Quinn and his recruiting, but the on-field product, in my opinion, hasn’t been up to par. Thanks Eric!

Eric Hansen: I think that's a fair concern, and you're right to acknowledge the stellar recruiting. Let's see how the line looks against Virginia and Michigan, and let's not dismiss the pass blocking. They gave up zero sacks against Georgia and only 12 pressures — period.

Robbert from Windermere. Will Young and Jafar play on Saturday?

Eric Hansen: Young very likely. Jafar no way.

Ron from Dover Del.: First time submitting. It is clear that our running backs are an issue without Armstrong. They are fine for three yards but seem to lack the speed need for today’s game. I get it is tough to recruit against 'Bama, Clemson, and maybe a Georgia, but other schools should not be an issue. What are the coaches looking at and doing that doesn’t seem to work. Even next year's recruit is one guy. We just don’t get multiple high-level high school backs which you need today . Your thoughts? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: I think Notre Dame is moving in the right direction. Jafar Armstrong's long-term health is a big factor. Avery Davis' development is another. I'm intrigued to see what Jahmir Smith can do.

Dwight from central Arkansas: I must admit that I was one of the many who expected a large margin last Saturday, in Georgia's favor. To hold Gerogia to 152 rushing yards is impressive. I'm sure working in the press box you were surrounded by writers/reporters who expected a big Bulldog win. Did their responses postgame change from pregame?

Eric Hansen: I think Notre Dame gained a lot of respect nationally from that game. Now the Irish need to earn it again this week.

Matt from St. Louis: Hi Eric, thank you for doing these. My question is about perspective. No one seemed to think ND could hold with Georgia. After the game, most of the coverage from the Tribune seemed to focus on how ND failed instead of what was impressive about how they played. Perspective on this?

Eric Hansen: That may have been a ball that fell between the outfielders. I'll take the blame for that. I did try to write about the positives, but I also was spinning forward to this week on what the next step for this team needed to be.

Tom from St. Pete Fla.: Who do you think will be ND's starting QB next year? There seems to be a belief among some of the scribes that follow ND that Ian Book will not be around as a fifth-year senior. What do you think?

Eric Hansen: If he has a great year and the pro scouts like him, he'll leave. Then Phil Jurkovec and Brendon Clark with battle it out.

Allen Sturgill from Puerto Vallarta Mexico: Eric this is my first time on, and I am on Vacation. Wanted to ask what you expect from the current running back group moving forward?

Eric Hansen: Jafar Armstrong being healthy changes the picture. The Irish must continue to develop Avery Davis, even when Jafar comes back. Tony Jones Jr. knows his role. Interested to see Jahmir Smith on short yardage,. I like Kyren Williams in the passing game.

Eric Hansen: That's going to have to do it for today. I wish I didn't have other assignments I have to get to. Too many great questions I wasn't able to get to. Thanks for your patience. We'll do this all over again next week, Thursday at noon EDT.

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