Chat Transcript: Sizing up Ian Book's future and present at Notre Dame
Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Bowling Green edition. PLEASE include your name and hometown with your question. Let's get to it.
Frank from Canton, Mich.: How is Jafar Armstrong doing? Will he play against USC?
Eric Hansen: So far, so good. That is the trajectory at the moment. I'll check on that again on Sunday when the media meets with Brian Kelly for the first look at USC.
Jeff from Phoenix: Hi Eric. Good win for ND over UVA, and I talked myself off the ledge. Turns out the ledge is overrated as WiFi is limited and no access to beer. But I digress. First, just a comment, I wish Daelin Hayes a full recovery and professional success comparable to Drue Tranquill and Jaylon Smith. He can do it. Second, a question, if Ian Book stays for 2020, ND will have four QBs with Drew Pyne coming in next year, and that seems like too many. What do you see as a resolution?
Eric Hansen: Ha. Love your take on the ledge, but you shouldn't have been out there in the first place. Really interesting question. Keep it mind, it's not a slam dunk that Book comes back to college, or necessarily ND. But a third of the way into the season, this is the advice he would get from NFL types. That can change over the course of eight or nine games, but I don't think it will change dramatically.
At the end of the year, he'll have three options. Head to the NFL with his degree in hand. Come back to ND to be a fifth-year starter or grad transfer a la Evertt Golson, Malik Zaire, Brandon Wimbush, Dayne Crist and Andrew Hendrix.
So let's look at your scenario specifically: Book coming back to Notre Dame. I don't think having four QBs is a bad thing. It allows Pyne to be the scout team guy and allows the two other to compete to be the backup in 2020 and the starter in 2021.
Jurkovec redshirted in 2018, so he has eligibility through 2022. If Brendon Clark redshirts this year, he'll have eligibility through 2023. The dynamic to watch then would be: Does Jurkovec get itchy if he doesn't have a chance to compete with Book and Clark for the starting spot next season. Again, this is all steeped in the hypothetical and may never happen.
Michael from Chicago: Are there any other non-first year players that are being considered for the four-game redshirt option?
Eric Hansen: Other than Daelin Hayes, I don't think there's anyone on that track intentionally that would redshirt. A quick scan of the roster and the only one we've discussed previously as a possibility is cornerback Donte Vaughn. But he's played in the past three games, and with Crawford out 3-4 weeks, I can't see that as an option — if it ever was.
Andy from San Antonio, Texas: Happy Thursday Eric, and greetings from South Texas, where it's Taco Bar every day!! I was looking at some stats through game 4, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is the leading tackler with 26 (unassisted and assisted). It seems statistically and from my armchair on Saturdays that the Irish are a better tackling team vs. 2018. Is there a way to make a comparison to last year to confirm my assumption? On the offensive side, it looks like Kyren Williams did not play the last two games. Do you think he will redshirt this year? Thank you for the great reporting!
Eric Hansen: Andy, I think San Antonio should adopt the "Taco Bar every day" as its official tourism slogan (Beats the heck out of Pure Michigan). To your question, it certainly wasn't the case in the opener with Louisville, but I think ND has improved in that area with each game since. It's hard to say they're better than last year, because ND lost four incredibly gifted tacklers in Julian Love, Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Te'von Coney. Better to say they're moving toward that high standard set by that group.
Andy, in regard to your question about Kyren, he's actually played in four games, either as a running back, kickoff return guy or both. So if he plays Saturday, which I expect him to, that'll be the end of the redshirt possibility with him.
Rick from the OC: I dislocated my left elbow playing back in the day, and the pain we incredible, but I only missed one game. I did not have full range of motion, but missing 3-4 weeks seems like a long recovery period for Shaun Crawford. Do you see him back for Michigan? I love his grit and determination. He's a baller!
Eric Hansen: Rick, not sure what position you played, whether surgery was involved, the extent to which you dislocated it, so we're probably not looking at an apples-to-apples comparison. The ambitious side of the prognosis would get him back from Michigan. Given that he decommitted from that program to come to ND, I think if he's cleared, you won't be able to keep him off the field.
Denis from Niagara Falls, Ontario: Hi Eric, you have just started up the Hansen Culinary Institute. For your new football team, you have two choices as your defensive coordinator. Are you going to take Mike Elko or Clark Lea? Also, whatever happened to Kyren at running back? Is he in the doghouse? Thanks and good luck with the new team at the institute.
Eric Hansen: Hi Denis. Mike Elko has experience and is the more flashy recruiter. Philosophically, they're so similar and remain in touch and are resources for each other. I think I'd pick Clark, because I think I can count on him to stay a while and because I think he's getting better every day. Why Kyren isn't getting more opportunities in the running game, I think, is because it's extremely competitive and I think Kyren helps you more in the passing game at this stage of his career than he does as someone who can run between the tackles.
CapeIrish: Why are the short-yardage problems the Irish have had for years in the Kelly offense not a topic of conversation at press conferences? Aren't some changes in order there?
Eric Hansen: My question to you, do you live on Cape Cod, live on a different cape, wear a cape, or all the above?
I am going to answer your question. Needed to look it up first. ND converted its first four third-down plays of five yards or fewer against Virginia, then whiffed on a 3rd-and-3 (Book no gain) and got four yards on a pass to Finke on 3rd-and-5. I think that represents improvement from the first two games of the year — dramatic improvement. I'm always fascinated by these questions. It has been asked. Maybe you don't follow every Brian Kelly media availability. And even if it wasn't asked enough to your satisfaction, does repeatedly asking about it make the problem go away?
I hope it doesn't seem like I'm biting on you, but I don't understand the dynamic of that question. Why not just ask why it's a problem, if you indeed still think it is.
Paul Latino from Parts Unknown: Why do ND’s defensive backs never turn and look for the ball as it approaches the receiver.
Eric Hansen: Paul. Never? Really? How does Notre Dame not have zero interceptions and pass breakups if that's the case?
Mike from King of Prussia, Pa.: Quick question: Bowling Green? Really? Why?
Eric Hansen: To make the math work of having seven homes games and five on the road (or in some years, six home, one Shamrock Series and five on the road), you've got to schedule a couple of teams that will come to your place without a return game at theirs. And Bowling Green typically is much better than this — under Dino Babers, under Dave Clawson, under Urban Meyer to name a few.
Bill from Worthington, Ohio: I love the Irish and will always be a fan, but the thing that I find most disturbing about this year's team is what appears to be a lack of discipline. Far too many false starts by an experienced offensive line. Ian Book gets called for two intentional groundings against Virginia, or is bailing out of the pocket and usually to his right way too early. Wasting timeouts because of player misalignments, and blatant pass-interference penalties on third down. If you agree, what are your thoughts as to why. And if not, what do you see that the rest of us don't?
Eric Hansen: I think you have a point. Even if you take out the Kelly Era-high 12 penalties against Georgia, many of which were related to the crowd noise, ND is on the high side this season of what is typical for a Kelly team. With Georgia added in, they're 111th nationally in fewest penalties (out of 130) and 73rd in fewest penalty yards. I don't think I can give you a blanket answer that addresses both the false starts and the intentional-grounding penalties. Two, very different issues. I'll address the latter. Book has been inconsistent in dealing with pressure. Georgia pretty good. Virginia not good. Now keep in mind, those are the two best defenses he'll see this regular season, but there should have been a progression from Georgia week to Virginia week, and there was not. He must improve in that area. Must. And he should get the chance to do so.
Joe from Georgia: What is the identity of the ND offense?
Eric Hansen: Sean Stires asked me that same question on SportsBeat last night, and I think it's evolving. Part of that is because you're getting key pieces back — first Cole Kmet, then Michael Young and next Jafar Armstrong. Those are three dynamic playmakers. Once they settle in, I think it'll be a more balanced offense, though not perfectly balanced, and one that can be pretty dynamic in terms of different personnel groups and formations.
Mark from Orange County, Calif.: Thank you for doing these chats. Your insights are appreciated. No talk of ND playing down to their opponent this coming Saturday. That is a positive for the program compared to previous years. How do you see this game playing out?
Eric Hansen: I picked ND to win 62-3.
Kevin Sorge from Parts Unknown: Looking at 2020-2021 what position group would be of most concern and are we moving in the right direction in the recruiting process?
Eric Hansen: Kevin, please include your hometown next time. Recruiting has to pick up at cornerback and safety. Cornerback is the most immediate concern, safety more in 2021.
Brian from Detroit: Will Phil Jurkovec play Saturday? Do you think Book will return for a fifth year? I'm hoping that he does not!
Eric Hansen: I think both Phil Jurkovec and Brendon Clark see action at QB in relief of Book. I'd put it at better than 50 percent Book returns to ND in 2020, but that's on Oct. 3. Things can change. In August, I would have given it about a 15 percent chance he'd come back, maybe lower.
Matt from St. Louis, Mo.: It’s about time to work in a short pass to Kyren to see what damage he can do, right? The drop against Louisville was a LONG time ago. And if he’s working hard in practice, let’s give him another at-bat.
Eric Hansen: He might get that chance Saturday.
Jason from Orlando, Fla.: Hi Eric. I hope you’re having a great day! Let me start by saying that I’m a Brian Kelly fan and hope he doesn’t go anywhere any time soon. With that being said, is ND’s next coach currently on the staff? I’ve heard it said that the coach at ND needs previous head coaching experience. But based on the success of the coaches at Oklahoma and Ohio State (acknowledging the small sample size), does this change your opinion? Regardless, would Clark Lea make a good head coach at ND? Thanks!
Eric Hansen: I don't think ND would hire from within. If they were going to hire a Lea or Elston, etc., those guys would have to go somewhere else and be a head coach first — then come back. I agree with that thinking. Notre Dame is different and requires head coaching experience on the college level.
Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric, as always I enjoyed your behind-the-scenes articles this week, especially the one quoting the NFL scout. Couple of questions: Do you get a chance to go back and look at film of the games after you have covered them? If so, please let me know if you agree with this: I thought that the scout's assessment of Ian Book was very accurate and kind. In looking at recordings of the Georgia and Virginia games, there were many plays where Book missed open receivers, either by not seeing them or making a bad pass.
When I say "not seeing them," I am talking about receivers that are in his sight line and not someone on the other side of the field. However, many plays had multiple receivers in the same area, and others there was just no one open. So, while Book has room for improvement, the receivers and the offensive coordinator should share some of the blame for the inconsistent passing attack, which also impacts the running game. Do you agree?? Thanks. Go Irish!!!!
Eric Hansen: Hi Tom. I rarely rewatch an entire game. Sometimes I will, just to see a play or two. Tyler James does rewatch every game in its entirety and does a film study each week. He and I usually discuss some of the points. I think both your observations are very accurate, especially Book not seeing receivers seemingly in his sight lines. This is not the Book we saw in August. Pressure (meaning pass rush) changes a lot.
Ken from Mooresville, Ind.: Because Ian book is a little shorter, would it be to his benefit to roll out to be able to see his receivers more clearly?
Eric Hansen: Brian Kelly was talking about this the other day. Against a 4-3 defense, BK says it's easier for him to do that. Against 3-4, not so much. This will be the first week he has not faced a 3-4 defense this season.
Jorge Illueca Bonett from Panama: Hi, Eric. I've enjoyed your ND football chats for several years from the highlands of western Panama. Undoubtedly, you provide the most perceptive analyses of ND football. Like many others, I am very impressed by the outstanding play of freshman safety Kyle Hamilton. The last outstanding freshman defensive back for ND that burst on the scene was cornerback KeiVarae Russell, a key member of the great 2012 defensive team that played in the national championship game. Kyle is four inches taller than Russell, but they both are approximately the same weight, with Russell weighing six pounds more. How do you compare the two, and will Hamilton have a higher ceiling than Russell?
Eric Hansen: Jorge, thanks for the kind words and the question. KeiVarae was recruited as a running back with receiver skills and was pressed into playing cornerback because of injuries to others. it turned out to be a blessing for him. Hamilton is a pure safety who has advanced coverage skills and length that adds to an already impressive skill set. I would say similarities are confidence, humility, work ethic. I think Hamilton has All-America potential. That's a higher ceiling that Keivarae had.
ND Harvey from South Philly: E, as always great job. Why did Coach Kelly defer to the second half and not take the ball on the opening kickoff against Virginia? By the way, I love his decision.
Eric Hansen: I didn't get a chance to ask him about it. My sense is he wanted to make a statement to and about his defense to put them on the field first. Didn't end up working out, but it was an interesting decision, nonetheless.
RC from Albany, N.Y.: Hi Eric. Thanks for keeping up with the chats. I think finding a third cornerback is going to be critical to earning wins against USC and Michigan. Can you provide a brief assessment (the good & the not so good) for the top candidates: Vaughn, Griffith and the two freshmen — utherford & Wallace. Griffith in particular — I heard a lot of good things about him in the spring, but his August and September have been quiet. Is this more than an August camp injury issue?
Eric Hansen: You are absolutely on point with your observation and your question. So we start with Troy Pride and go from there. I see TaRiq Bracy as the other starting corner. Elite quickness, good coverage skills, needs to get stronger in the weight room and bigger. Donte Vaughn is 6-2 and long. Houston Griffith plays the same position as Pride (boundary) and didn't seem to be a good fit on the field side. KJ Wallace has nickel skills and could also play where Bracy/Vaughn do. Looks like he's going to be pretty good, but the coaches don't trust him yet. Maybe that changes Saturday. Isaiah Rutherford has some nice skills, but is a longer-term prospect who may jump over people on the depth chart later in his career. It sounds like Kelly is going to keep Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah on the field at times in the dime (six-DBs package) instead of bringing in another corner or safety. I actually think DJ Brown would fit in that role as well.
Bruce from Dayton, Ohio: Hi Eric. With Shaun Crawford going down, I thought Houston Griffith would possibly see some playing time, but I think it was the freshman KJ Wallace seeing some time instead? Should Griffith be moved safety now, where most thought he would eventually end up anyhow? If Alohi Gilman leaves as expected after this season, I think Griffith and Kyle Hamilton would be in line to start at safety next year. What are your thoughts and projections for Griffith? Thanks!!
Eric Hansen: Building on RC's question, I do think Griffith's best position is safety, but I also think ND needs insurance at the boundary cornerback this seaosn if Troy Pride goes down with the injury. Numbers aren't an issue at safety right now. As I mentioned, I don't think Griffith fits well at the field cornerback — too much field to cover. I will say this, if he stays focused, if Gilman leaves for the NFL and if Griffith moves to safety after the season, he will start with Hamilton in 2020. That's my prediction.
Mike from Rochester, N.Y.: Eric, love your coverage of the Irish. You’re one of the best. What happened to Javon McKinley for the second straight week? Is Book just looking for Cole Kmet and Chase Claypool and then taking off? Seems like Ian would benefit from looking for a strong big-body receiver when the first two aren’t open.
Eric Hansen: One of? ... Just kidding. With Michael Young back, there are fewer opportunities for Javon, even though they don't play the same receiver position. It means Claypool is playing more boundary receiver, and that makes McKinley a backup. I thought it was interesting that Virginia chose to cover McKinley with its All-America cornerback, Bryce Hall, a few times on Saturday. He's still a valuable piece, but not one that you're going to build an offense around.
Paul from Lititz, Pa.: Chats are so informative. Thanks for all your input. Hopefully, ND is up big at the half. Does Phil Jurkovec get the second half for some extensive game time experience or does Kelly want to see Ian get more time to work on his craft?
Eric Hansen: Paul thanks. I think the No. 1 priority is to get Book right, and that takes reps. I do think Phil, provided he is healthy, will get more than a drive or two.
Andrew from Roanoke, Va.: Eric thanks for the chats. You’re world class and my dad (ND class of ‘57) loves your articles. Question: does a drill exist to help QBs with developing pocket awareness and help with reads/progressions. Did Ian do a better job last year vs. this year RE: reads/progression/awareness?
Eric Hansen: Andrew, love your question and would love to meet your dad. Yes, such drills exist, and so does film study, but nothing beats live competition. Remember, Clemson, Georgia and Virginia are, by far, the best defenses Book has faced. His predecessors faced a much higher percentage of top 50 defenses. It was a weird anomaly and yet Book only faces one team with a top 50 pass-efficiency defense over the balance of the season (Michigan at No. 40). Bottom line, between practice and those Georgia/Virginia games, he must extract positive steps forward in the areas of pocket awareness and reads/progressions.
Cliff from Battle Creek, Mich.: Hi Eric! How should we look at Book's development this year so far? If you just look at stats, he's not really different than last year where, for the most part, we were really singing his praises. Is it at simple as perception on the fans' part or is he truly struggling that much more this year? Thanks!
Eric Hansen: I think he's been inconsistent. Loved his pluck, his fire in the Georgia game. Thought he was flat after the first quarter and regressing against Virginia. Ultimately, you're looking for a guy who's going to help you get to 11-1 and win a game for you in December/January. I don't know whether we know if Book is that guy in 2019. He looked the part in August. I think it's fair to ponder what's going on. I think it's very premature to conclude this is as good as it gets.
John from Malverne N.Y.: Hey Eric. Obviously playing time for many if not all who are healthy on the two-deep. Thoughts on who you are looking forward to seeing. And also, I see Brock Wright is listed “or” on the depth chart with Tommy Tremble. Brock has not received a lot of playing time — either as a blocking back or attached. Is it route running and hands that he needs to work on?
Eric Hansen: John, the players I'm most curious about seeing Saturday beyond the regulars are WR Braden Lenzy, RB Avery Davis, DE Isaiah Foskey, NG Ja'mion Franklin, LB Shayne Simon and all the cornerbacks. And I'll take as much Kyle Hamilton as Brian Kelly is willing to give us. As far as the tight ends, Tommy Tremble is surging. He's got such an interesting skill set and he blocked very well in the Virginia game. We have him No. 2 on our depth chart. Wright is a really good blocker that doesn't have the same kind of impact in the passing game.
Steve from Bowling Green, Ohio: With the play of Kmet, and return of Young do you see the Irish even more explosive than our already nearly 40 ppg?
Eric Hansen: Absolutely, and Jafar Armstrong's return will help too. He's due back for USC.
Jim from Indianapolis: Hi, Eric. How do you explain the near-vertical development/improvement in Asmar Bilal and Drew White in weeks 3 and 4, when compared to weeks 1 and 2? And in Bilal's case, as a second-year starter, why didn't it happen earlier?
Eric Hansen: Sometimes just getting in games, having success in games and then reviewing the film and learning more is underrated. That's Drew White. With Bilal it's harder to explain. He's always been borderline freaky athletically. My sense is that he always was more suited to playing inside than outside, and once he got that chance, it clicked.
Ryan from Milwaukee: Eric, I listened to the Pod of Gold podcast with Andy Staples and was perplexed by his insistence that ND can't redshirt guys? Can you elaborate on what that means, or what he was trying to say? ND certainly has many guys that sit for a year and then have a fifth year of eligibility. Was he talking about gray-shirting practice that I've read about among some southern schools?
Eric Hansen: Ryan, Andy was a fabulous guest, but that answer I think confused a lot of ND fans. Every fifth-year candidate essentially has to be approved, but it's really become a rubber stamp process the way ND has their players on pace to graduate in 3 1/2 years. Who wouldn't approve a potential grad student in good standing. What he said was more true long ago.
Rick from the OC: Looking at 2020, if the entire offensive line comes back, the only loss would probably be Chase Claypool. With that to work with, Book would be crazy to leave. With the way the defense is working, and with what is coming back, they would have to be ranked top 5?
Eric Hansen: Rick, not sure what the ranking would be, but I think the 2020 team, with Kmet and the O-Line back, could conceivably be playing Clemson Nov. 7 at Notre Dame Stadium for a spot in the College Football Playoff. It would potentially be Kelly's best team. THEY MUST get elite quarterback play, however, no matter who the QB is.
Skip from Houston, Texas: If the Virginia coaches saw us repeatedly cheating on receiving kickoff, why didn't our coaches?
Eric Hansen: They should have.
Bob from Frisco, Texas: Any news on Lawrence Keys for the game?
Eric Hansen: He's injured. May get more insight on that tonight.
Phil from Chicago) You have been around the program a while. Is Brian VanGorder the worst defensive coordinator Notre Dame has had? Also, how does he keep getting jobs?
Eric Hansen: Is this a trick question?
Dan from the UP of Michigan: With as many highly recruited players as our offensive line has, do you believe they will become a better run blocking unit? They seem to be pass blocking pretty good. If ND were to make the playoff, I feel the O-line needs to be much more physical. Usually it is the other way around. It is usually easier for O-linemen to run block than it is to pass block.
Eric Hansen: I think it's a fair expectation, and I think Jafar Armstrong's return will make it easier for them to do so and easier for Chip Long to commit to that.
Coach from Reading, Pa. : Eric. Will Cole Kmet play in the NFL or MLB?
Eric Hansen: I think he wants to keep his options open. I think he's be amazing in the NFL.
Patrick from Indy: Has Notre Dame stopped with the "consecutive sellout streak" yet? (With due respect to ND, in 2009 there were games with thousands of empty seats.) Seems like we are facing a glut of tickets at some games. I'd like to see the "market" rear its head and start forcing some even cheaper prices (beyond just the tiered pricing we have now).
Eric Hansen: They are still promoting the sell-out streak and perhaps fostering it as well.
Len from the Jersey Shore: Can Notre Dame get all aspects on offense, defense and special teams working at the same time?
Eric Hansen: That's the plan.
GB from Wasilla, Alaska: Eric, I enjoyed the podcast with Andy Staples. ND had a great year last year. However, the 2020 recruiting class appears that it will be around No. 10 or where Kelly's recruiting classes usually end up. The last time the Irish went undefeated during the regular season in 2012, the (subsequent) class was top in the nation or close to it, depending on the service and her factors. The ranking is not the only measure of a recruiting class, but it is the best objective one available. It does not seem to me that they will be knocking on the national chamionship door without a step into at least the top five in recruiting. Why isn't ND getting a boost from winning more these past three years and especially last year? What are they doing about it? What do you think they need to do to be in the elite recruiting with Alabama and Clemson, etc.?
Eric Hansen: GB, good question with a lot of layers. I'm going to answer this as succinctly as possible. The class won't be rated as high because of quantity, not quality. It's going to be a smaller class, because ND does not have the scholarship numbers. Other than cornerback and safety (and skipping linebackers), ND really did well in terms of getting their top targets. To compete for national titles, you've got to have depth and elite talent/development on your offensive and defensive lines. Check those boxes. ND needs elite QB play. We'll see if that's true. ND needed more elite speed at wide receiver and running back. Check and check. Now they need to follow that up in the 2021 with more of the same.
Bill from Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Based on the careers of Jimmy Clausen and DeShone Kizer, do you think Ian Book should leave after this year? Appears to be lots of room for growth. Without Jafar do you think we are too limited going against USC and Michigan? How long since an ND coach has beaten USC three years in a row? Great chats. Your ability to analyze makes you stand out from the rest of the wannabes. Go Irish!!
Eric Hansen: Thanks, Bill. Book's future has nothing to do with Clausen or Kizer. Each QB is different. Each set of circumstances are different. Right now, there's no advantage for him to come out early. Jafar Armstrong is projected to be back for USC and Michigan. Will know more Sunday. Bob Davie is the most recent ND coach to beat USC three times in a row (1999-2000-2001).
JL from Saratoga Springs: Good morning, if Ian Book continues to struggle within the pocket, recognizing downfield opportunities and completing them, do you see a scenerio where Brian Kelly goes with Phil Jurkovec.
Eric Hansen: Only if A) Brian Kelly believes Book was unfixable, which I don't think is the case. B) Phil was executing at a much higher level in practice, which was not the case in August.
Michael from Mishawaka: How many more freshmen do you see getting in at least four games the rest of the year?
Eric Hansen: There are five who have played in four games ... Jay Bramblett, Kyle Hamilton, Jack Kiser, Jacob Lacey and Kyren Williams. I'd say the two who might eventually play in more than four are Marist Liufau and KJ Wallace, with Wallace being the most likely.
Joe from Reno: I sometimes tire of the repetitive playoff possibility talk for this team. I do want the Irish to “win ‘em all” but now that is impossible, can we just focus on the next game and not just be focused on the College Football Playoff?
Eric Hansen: You are free to focus on whatever you'd like. I'm just here to answer questions.
Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Good afternoon Eric! Please don't take this as Book Bashing. I realize he's only had a little over a dozen starts, despite being a senior. But why does Notre Dame not seem to be able to recruit the kind of QBs that can take the reins as freshmen or early sophomores and run the offense effectively for several years going forward? Why is the "development period" for QBs at ND so long when other elite programs seem to be able to get kids that are ready to produce by sophomore year or earlier?
Eric Hansen: Tim, I would have to research the numbers and don't have the time to with an overflow queue of questions, but your point is a fair one. I do know BK's record with first-year starters is stunningly successful. With second-year starters, not so much. I think that's the bigger mystery — why does the development stall? Now we need to give it the rest of the season to see of that's the case with Book. I think that's only fair.
Erik from Granger, Ind.: Thank you for these chats! My questions are about your process as a writer. 1) How many stories are you working on at any given time, such as waiting for interviews with sources to take place or data to be analyzed? 2) How often do story ideas fizzle out and get scrapped, because the interview wasn’t compelling or it just doesn’t come together during the writing process?
Eric Hansen: Erik. with regard to question one. I go week by week, so everything I do is within context of that particular week. I think about the path of most resistance. Is there an interview I need to line up who's going to have a very limited window to talk to me? I do those things first. I also want to be as timely as I can be. So I don't like to finish a story on Monday that's going to run on Saturday. Too much can change, and it's not fair to the reader. Once I have everything I need for a story, I completely focusing on making that the best version of it I can. The second answer should be "never" and pretty much is. If the interview stinks, you need to talk to more people. If the interview stinks, maybe I didn't ask the right questions. And if things don't come together during the writing process, that can't happen. And I can't remember that ever being an issue, to be honest.
Dan from Vernon Hills, Ill.: Eric, Really enjoy the Q-and-A. and your podcast work. This may take a whole column, but what are your thoughts on the proposed California law allowing players to profit from their likeness, endorsements, etc., and how it may affect Notre Dame?
Eric Hansen: To answer that in this format is like trying to pour the Atlantic Ocean into a Dixie cup. So here's the quick version. I'm open-minded to the outcome this could be a win-win. I do not look forward to all the legal wrangling, but realize it's a necessary evil. I'll have a much more definitive and conclusive opinion once I know what's really going to happen with this and when. There are too many hypothetical doomsday scenarios for my liking right now.
Jeremy from Goshen: It appears that ND is only using Gilman, Elliot, and Hamilton at safety this year. Do you believe that Houston Griffith's future is at safety? If so, why is he having a hard time breaking into the rotation at safety this year?
Eric Hansen: DJ Brown plays some safety. They like the long-term potential of freshman Litchfield Ajavon. Hard hard hitter who needs work in coverage. The Irish need Griffith as cornerback this year. Him playing safety next year is my idea, not necessarily the ND coaches' idea. But that's how I see it playing out. I like Houston's future at safety. A lot.
Mark from Grand Haven, Mich.: Eric. Always enjoy your work, and thank you for hosting these chats. Were you surprised that the Irish didn’t try to run the ball more in the first half last week? Taking Book’s rushes and sacks out of the equation, it seemed to me as though the offense was moving the ball on the ground, yet the ratio of pass-to-run in the first half was about 2-1. I think more focus on the run might take some heat off Book and would lead to more success in the passing game via play action. Your thoughts?
Eric Hansen: Mark. I think once you have Armstrong back and you're not playing an elite run defense team, that's an easier commitment to make. The current run defense rankings nationally for Georgia and Virginia are 5 and 21. For the remainder of the schedule, they are 117, 93, 89. 104, 55, 14 (Navy), 102 and 44. I do think balance will make the offense better. ... eventually.
Allen Sturgill from Rock Hill, S.C.: Hey Eric. My question is how do you think the offensive line is playing compares to last season. And do you think the line play has been partially the reason that Ian Book seems to be so uncomfortable ? Thanks for all you do covering the team.
Eric Hansen: I like their progress. Not yet a finished product, but I like where I think this is headed. I think it's certainly been good enough that Book shouldn't be getting happy feet. What I can't discern is when there are protection errors, is it Book not sliding the protection correctly pre-snap or the linemen not executing the protection at times. Either way, I think there's a lot to feel hopeful about when it comes to the future of the line yet this season.
Patrick from Fort Wayne, Ind.: Eric, I don't recall seeing Kyle Hamilton play during the Georgia game and I didn't see him play much during the Virginia game, although his interception was very noticeable. I think he is a game-changer and plays beyond his freshman status. I am wrong? The coaching staff seems to be bringing him along slowly. Will he play more in dime packages with Shawn Crawford out?
Eric Hansen: His primary role is in the dime package, though he spells the starters as well. Since he's already part of the dime, Crawford's absence wouldn't increase his snaps. I love to watch him play, but I understand why he doesn't play more. He'll be a starter next season, no question.
Jim from Cumberland, Md.: Hi Eric. Please continue the great job that you are doing. Question which will be tougher USC or Michigan to win?
Eric Hansen: Thank you. Jim. I will try to comply. I say USC has more talent, but the Michigan game will be tougher.
Bill from Idaho Falls, Idaho: Eric: I'm interested in your take on Ian Book. I believe the glass is half-full and firmly believe he will get better as the season roles on. That being said, the better he plays, the better the team plays. In my view, he hasn't progressed as rapidly from last year as I thought he would. Do you buy BK's explanation — trust your players, being more decisive? I get the running game is not helping him out, but honestly some of that appears to be related to his wrong reads in the RPO and blocking assignments. His failure to throw the ball down field or at least accurately, thereby excluding explosive plays, seems to be a major factor. I'm interested in your opinion? Lack of being decisive? Hasn't played enough games similar to when Tommy Rees or Brady Quinn played? Thanks a bunch, and enjoy your candid analysis.
Eric Hansen: Bill, even though this overlaps some of the questions I've already answered and many incubating in the queue, there's an element here that's a little different that I want to address. I don't buy that it's because he hasn't played in as many games as Rees or Quinn. And I liked that Chip Long challenged Book to throw deep more in the spring and fit the ball into tighter windows. I do buy into the fact that Book has faced an abnormal amount of mediocre to awful defenses as a starter. It's such a stark contrast when you play Clemson, Georgia, Virginia. I'm not shocked or disturbed by growing pains. What's important is that he learn from them and move through them.
Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Re: stalling development of QBs in year two. I agree 100 percent. It is rather odd. But I maintain that just as odd is the willingness of say a Dabo Swinney to hand the keys to Trevor Lawrence, or Nick Saban to Tua Tagovailoa, yet Kelly can't seem to find the faith to do that with talent that was proclaimed as being almost limitless when Phil Jurkovec signed up with ND.
Eric Hansen: Speaking of Trevor Lawrence, did you notice Book is 16 spots head of him in passing efficiency currently?
Dave from Kuttawa, Ky.: I know you get a lot of questions regarding Ian Book. I think he is the QB Notre Dame needs. However, after watching all of the first few games, I think he could use some help when an all-out pass rush or a blitz comes. He needs a quick outlet receiver to throw to. It's like the quick outlet receiver and the QB are not on the same page. Eric, I admire your work and thanks for keeping us crazy fans from over reacting.
Eric Hansen: Thanks, Dave.
Eric Hansen: That's all the time I have for today. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back to do this for USC next Thursday at noon EDT.