Chat Transcript: Is Rees the answer at Notre Dame? Is joining a conference the answer?

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, the pre-Friday the 13th Edition. No 17-part questions and no manifestos. The queue is full, so let's get rolling. REMEMBER, please please include your name and hometown with your question. Otherwise, you go to the back of the queue.

Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric. Well, I read your excellent article on the Chip Long departure, but still have many questions. How much of the decision was "philosophical differences" with Brian Kelly and how much was that Long might have a head coach offer in hand and/or wanted more responsibility or money to stay at ND? Also, with early signing on Dec 18, is it really important for Kelly to have a new offensive coordinator named in less than a week (many of us remember what can happen when coaches are not fully vetted before hiring...)?

Eric Hansen: Jeff, thanks for the compliment. The best way to answer your first questions is it wasn't about gaining leverage for a head coaching job that was in hand. Chip could certainly land one in the days ahead, but that's not what this was about. The program and philosophical fit wasn't there anymore, so the split was mutual. ... As I stated in the article, I don't believe a new OC needs to be named, but I do think Brian needs to have a clear direction of what the offense will look like beyond Chip, and he does.

Jim from Tampa: What are the chances that Kelly will hire an outside OC and will give him true freedom to design and manage the offense? IMHO Long was hampered and constrained by having to run "Kelly's offense," which has been very predicable and underachieving for years. Quality opposing coaches, even those with lesser team talent levels, know this and have regularly out-schemed ND on game day.

Eric Hansen: Jim, an outside coordinator hire doesn't guarantee that you'll have better production than the Kelly offense. An elite outside hire would if it meshed with the personnel and what Kelly wants to do as a program. Don't underestimate "fit" in the equation. Matt Canada was a very highly regarded OC when he landed at LSU a couple of years ago. But he didn't fit with head coach Ed Orgeron, and they parted ways quickly. Joe Brady was a fit, and it worked out great for LSU. Your original question was: What are the chances? I would put them at less than 30 percent ... and that may be high. Kelly still will have to bring someone in from the outside to add to the offensive staff, and that will be a key hire as well.

Cody Sears from South Bend: Do you think Long's departure will influence his decision to return next year?

Eric Hansen: Cody, I am going to guess you meant to insert Ian Book's name in there, and I do expect Ian to return to ND for 2020, as I did before Chip Long's departure.

Will from New York: Any update on Shaun Crawford? We could really use him back next year with our lack of corners.

Eric Hansen: Will, I had that on my list to ask last Saturday and wasn't able to work that into a very small question window with Brian Kelly. I will try again Saturday with BK. We might even get a chance to ask Shaun himself after the Echoes Award Show on Friday night. Early in the season, Shaun was vehemently against the idea of a sixth year. He reportedly has softened. He would be an asset for sure if he did come back.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric. Do you think Tony Alford would be a candidate for the OC position? He checks a lot of boxes. Most importantly, he has prior ND experience. Also with regard to these Tommy Rees rumors, I feel very strongly he is not ready for the job, and I would like to know your thoughts. I think he should be tasked with improving Ian Book and developing Phil Jurkovec and Brendon Clark. I know the narrative about PJ from the coaching staff has not been overwhelmingly positive, and I think the staff should be embarrassed that was leaked to the public. It is not beneficial to anybody. Others outside the program still really believe PJ is talented and a winner, and even though Book is the likely starter next year, if he starts tanking in the Wisconsin game, PJ or Clark need to be ready to play. If Rees is made OC and it blows up next year, though I have been a Kelly supporter, my feeling will be that it is time for him to go.

Eric Hansen: Hi Marie. Let's unpack that. Let's start with Tony Alford. I know Tony would love to be a head coach, and a big reason he left to go to Ohio State was because he felt it would accelerate his path in reaching that goal. It has not as of yet. He's a great great recruiter, a really good position coach, and great guy to be around, but he has been passed over at OSU when there have been opportunities to promote him to a position that would give him a stronger voice in running the offense. Fairly or unfairly, that is viewed as not a strength. So he would bring a lot to ND theoretically except the penchant for running an offense. So I don't see that as a fit. I think there are a lot of people who feel similarly to you about Rees. I don't think Brian Kelly is necessarily one of them. Per Pete Sampson of The Athletic, Rees recently interviewed for the job of Northwestern's OC (and did not get it). So he clearly has the aspirations and thinks he's capable of moving up. I don't want to put restrictions on him because he's 27.

My first notion of Rees moving into the OC job was ... he's not ready. I think the person who fills the corresponding coaching opening is very important in whether this would work. I'm open to the idea that it could work. Still pondering, asking questions and getting more info myself as to if that idea could be a good thing — and a good thing as soon as 2020.

Jeff B from Oklahoma City: Eric, hypothetical question for you regarding the College Football Playoff Selection. If Notre Dame had beat Michigan — and that is a big if the way they got pounded — and everything else around them had played out the way it did, would they have been selected over Oklahoma for the fourth spot? They would have been 11-1 and had four wins over the CFP Top 25, which is a better résumé than Oklahoma had in my opinion. That Michigan loss proved to be more costly than it appeared at the time.

Eric Hansen: I think ND would have been right smack in the middle of that conversation. The sticky part is Georgia and its two losses. The committee had them at No. 5. Would they feel the need to keep ND behind Georgia because of the head to head? Of would they feel the Irish (by the eye test) had distanced themselves from that loss and would win a rematch? My sense is Oklahoma would have won a close vote.

Matt from KC: Multi-part (so I will get to point): 1. What was the bigger factor in any perception bias keeping us down in the Playoff Rankings (the Clemson loss last year or the Michigan debacle)? 2. Chances Alohi Gilman, Shaun Crawford (medical) and Ian Book return for another year at ND? 3. Any freshmen get plugged into starting for us next year as they are too talented to keep off the field? 4. Does Braden Lenzy move to the slot? 5. Our schedule is a beast next year — true or false, we could have a better team next year and end up 8-4 before the bowl?

Eric Hansen: 1. Clemson loss has nothing to do with this year. It's all about losing by 31 to Michigan. 2. I don't think Gilman comes back. I think Crawford might. I think Book will. 3. Not sure about starting, but Jordan Johnson, Chris Tyree, Michael Mayer, Jordan Botelho, Rylie Mills and long snapper Alex Peitsch all should have opportunities to earn significant playing time. Same thing goes with any of the CB recruits who turn out to be more finished than advertised. Maybe WR Xavier Watts too. OT Tosh Baker is talented enough to fight for a position in the two-deeps. 4. He could, but why? 5) False.

Jacob, Hobart: I think the new Notre Dame offensive coordinator should be Steve Addazio, fired head coach of BC.

Eric Hansen: I think he'll have an issue with that considering he's the new Colorado State head coach.

musicman4u2c from Columbus Ohio: Was it me or did the offensive line seem to be very soft this year? The Georgia game was the only one they played with an attitude. But the rest of the season, our running backs were constantly getting hit three yards behind the line. QB scrambling for his life on every pass play. What happened to being physical and playing with a nasty attitude up front?

Eric Hansen: I think part of that perception is grounded in reality and part of it is not. From a pass protection standpoint, Book was pressured, but here's the bottom line: Among Power 5 schools, no team allowed less sack yardage (76 yards for the SEASON) than did the Irish. From a running game standpoint, there was room for improvement. Keep in mind there wasn't someone like Dexter Williams available to run the ball and that two of the O-line starters missed the last stretch of the season. Having said all of that, ND's offensive line must be ELITE next year if the Irish are going to make a run at the playoff. They were not elite even when healthy in 2018.

musicman4u2c: is there any truth to the rumor Urban Meyer is coming to Notre Dame if Kelly decides to step down?

Eric Hansen: No fair hitting the eggnog during the chat.

Michael from Chicago: What player’s decisions/futures are most impacted by the change to the offensive coaching staff? Are you making changes to your fifth-year predictions? Any players that might have a better chance at playing time (i.e. Davis and Smith at RB)?

Eric Hansen: I wouldn't anticipate much change at all. Have to see who the new hires are. It appears the direction is going to be continuity.

Josh from Mishawaka: Rumors are circling that Tommy Rees may be calling plays in bowl game. Others are saying that it will be Kelly. Do you know who it will be? Second question to settle an argument. A lot of fans say last time Brian Kelly called plays was NC Stategame in 2016. Who called plays that game? Mike Denbrock or Kelly?

Eric Hansen: We'll get the answer for sure on Saturday, but I could see it being a collaboration. ... Denbrock called the plays in 2015, 2016 and the Music City Bowl at the end of the 2014 season.

Stan from Rockford, Ill.: Do you see any other seniors entering the portal? I'd imagine other than Jordan Genmark Heath and Javon McKinley, the others figure they're better off coming back. Thanks for these chats and keep up the good work. Your recent post on A-Z re: the Camping Bowl was filled with interesting facts.

Eric Hansen: Thanks Stan. Of the 10 seniors with fifth-year options, Jonathan Jones (LB) is in the portal now, something that happened this week. I think Alohi Gilman goes to the NFL, long snapper John Shannon moves on with his degree into the business world, and McKinley I'm on the fence with. Everyone else I would expect back. If you pressed me on McKinley, my sense is he looks hard at a new option for 2020. Genmark Heath is a true junior, bu the way.

Ron from Raleigh, N.C.: Eric, seems odd that Chip Long would leave without having another job first.Was this a Mike Elko scenario where Chip wanted a large pay raise or is he just taking the Memphis head coaching job without it being announced yet? Furthermore, please tell me that Brian Kelly isn't considering Tommy Rees as OC. He is no way qualified to run a top college offense. He should go to a smaller school first to gain that experience. I mean, with almost the entire offense coming back n,ext year could be great. I would not watch ND games next year if Rees got the job. Having Jeff Quinn as O-Line coach is bad enough. I would give the OC job to the new guy, Lance Taylor, before I gave it to Rees. Your thoughts? Does this hurt QB recruiting in 2021?

Eric Hansen: Ron, I've answered some of your questions earlier in the chat, but I'll get to the one at the end. Our recruiting writer. Carter Karels, was in touch with 2021 QB commit Tyler Buchner last night, and Buchner was fully committed to moving forward with ND without Chip Long. So that should answer that question.

Skip from Houston: I have a follow-up question to last week's discussion about a clapping cadence versus a verbal cadence. Seems to me a clapping cadence gives defensive linemen the same start opportunity as offensive linemen, whereas a verbal cadence should give the start advantage to offensive linemen? Please help me here. What do you think?

Eric Hansen: I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think it's something Brian Kelly should and will give a good, hard look at this offseason.

Alex from Jackson, Mo.: Is there any such thing as a great offensive coordinator who can come in and recruit superstar cornerbacks? All jokes aside, do the recruiters always primarily focus on their position groups, or do they recruit across the board and look for anyone who can help, no matter the position? In your opinion, who is ND’s best recruiter and why? Thanks as always. You’re a rock star!

Eric Hansen: Alex thanks and love the initial question. Ha. Notre Dame has geographical territories, where the assistants have relationships and can get the ball rolling. However, the way it is structured now, position coaches/coordinators then do the bulk of the work and establish relationships with the top targets at their position. Sometimes there's double-teaming of a position coach and a coordinator. That was the case with running back Chris Tyree. .... To your last question, I'll preface it with the fact that longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming says this is Kelly's best recruiting staff. So most of these guys are really, really good. Lance Taylor has a small sample size, but wow is he doing a great job. Jeff Quinn is on a roll with O-lineman. ... But I will say Brian Polian is the best in the initial phase and partly because he has to establish those ties in California and Hawaii. But in the final phase, I'll go with Mike Elston. Great evaluator, great closer, recruits a tough position to get to come to Notre Dame.

Chad from Denver: My question for you is where will Brian Kelly rank with other ND coaches if he continues to put up 10-plus-win seasons but does not win a national championship? How do you think he will be viewed/remembered? As always, thanks for your time, and keep up the great work.

Eric Hansen: Chad, thanks. I'd say in a category by himself. He's a guy who made ND consistently relevant again. If he wins a national title, then he gets a bump into that higher echelon of coaches.

Doug from Sunny Florida: Eric, Del Alexander has worked with Chip Long for years and came to ND when Chip was hired. Have you heard anything about him leaving also? It appears that he's still on the recruiting trail, which may translate into him staying — but it would be interesting to see if he follows Chip again.

Eric Hansen: BK didn't have issues with Del, and so I think he stays for now. He did not follow Chip from ASU to Memphis when Chip landed the OC job there. If Chip landed a head coaching opportunity and he wanted Del to be the OC, that's maybe a different story, but nothing like that seems imminent.

Sean from Portland, Ore.: I'll try not to have a 17-part question. I am not sure that Chip Long was a "problem." The offense and Ian Book did the best they could considering the fact that they were largely one-dimensional. There was no real running game. The running games manufactured by gadget plays using Braden Lenzy's speed (good job Chip Long) and Ian Book making something out of nothing (good job Ian). I know there's not any home run running backs on the roster, but they all seem versatile and well-coached, pretty consistent in pass blocking and picking up blitzes. Is the O-line coach getting scrutinized to the level that he should be? To me,- it appears that the most underachieving part of the team is the O-line, by far. Agree/Disagree?

Eric Hansen: The mutual parting of the ways wasn't about how the offense performed, and I tried to make that clear in the analysis piece that's on our website. I do think every part of the ND team should be scrutinized every offseason, including the O-line. That's how good teams get great.

Bob from Chicago: Finally ND has three 10-win seasons. What steps do you think ND has to take to compete with the Clemsons of the world?

Eric Hansen: Keep the recruiting roll going with O-linemen and D-linemen, continue the recent trend of recruiting more difference-makers at the offensive skill positions, recruit/develop cornerbacks, develop a QB who is in the top 10 — if not the top 5 — in passing efficiency.

Brian Kelly from Tulsa: While I fully support the promoting from within, I do believe the promotion needs to be warranted. That said, I believe Brian Kelly should have come out with a statement that supports Tommy but leaves the door open to outside options. IMO, Kelly bringing in Tommy to run the offense is similar to Jerry Jones having Jason Garrett coach the Cowboys.

Eric Hansen: Is your name really Brian Kelly?

James from NYC: Is there any truth to some of the rumors that the culture is becoming toxic again?

Eric Hansen: I want to be respectful to this question, but please help me understand where you are hearing/reading that?

Adam from Altoona, Pa.: Hi Eric, I love your chats! My question is regarding ND's offensive coordinator vacancy. If they are going to look in house, what are the chances Lance Taylor gets the nod? He has experience as an elite positional coach at both Stanford and the NFL (Panthers). Additionally, he is a great recruiter.

Eric Hansen: I think he would get a chance to vie for it if he wanted to do so.

Anthony from Florida: Hey Eric, Fantastic stuff chat you run! It's a healthy staple in my otherwise unhealthy Notre Dame football diet. Down to business: What's the deal with the offensive line? They clearly under-produced this year. Was it the coach? The players? Both? I'm interested in assigning culpability, not in order to simply judge or persecute, but rather in order to truly understand what happened and then with that knowledge hopefully improvements can be made. Also, why didn't they use Braden Lenzy more often in the first half of the season? He would have been a true difference-maker with his speed, as he showed us in the last several games. I understand that he was not physically healthy sometimes in the season's first half, but when he was healthy, they barely used him. Speed is the great equalizer; we had it and failed to use it. Please clarify, because I don't enjoy blaming the coaches. PLEASE keep up the great work, Eric; it's a panacea for my variegated ND football illnesses! Very best to you and yours, Anthony from Florida.

Eric Hansen: Anthony, thank you. I think the players and Jeff Quinn — and injuries — share the blame in the run-blocking area. Perhaps there needs to be more of an uncompromising emphasis on technique a la Harry Hiestand. Maybe the new tight ends coach would coach that position AND help with the O-line. You mentioned some of the reasons Lenzy didn't play early in the season. Beyond those, I'm baffled. If you listen to our Pod of Gold podcast or Weekday SportsBeat, I've been pounding the table for him. Sounds like you have been pounding the table with me.

Michael, Austin, TX: When Coach Kelly was questioned about the run game in the bowl press conference, he stated that "you need to remember we played without two starters for most of the season." Weeks 7 and 8 were when the players went down. I thought the run blocking was not very good this year, but does he get defensive when you question Jeff Quinn. I know that is his longtime friend. Your thoughts?

Eric Hansen: Brian learned about halfway though his regime (if not later) that the fan base doesn't like him throwing players and assistants under the bus in press conferences. He has conformed. So sometimes this is going to be the kind of answer you get. He's going to defend his guys publicly but maybe not in private. He knows the O-line play must improve in 2020.

Blake C. from Springfield, Ill.: Why you think, with all the questions about Chip Long's play-calling and Ian Book's deficiencies, is there so little discussion of the lack of elite skill players this year? We have one, repeat, one elite skill-position athlete on offense: Chase Claypool. And even that might be a stretch. Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, Clemson have multiple NFL wide wide receivers and at least one elite running back, more or less. We have one in total. Don't you think it is possible that the "regression" of Book is from going from three NFL skill players (Miles Boykin, Claypool, Dexter Williams — and even Dexter is marginal) to one single guy? Javon McKinley is a decent piece. So is a healthy Jafar Armstrong, but I bet big money that you add Kevin Austin, Chris Tyree, and Jordan Johnson into the exact same lineup next year and we have a completely different offense. Thoughts? It seems to me that maybe we should be praising Chip Long for doing what he has with so little (when you factor in the above and all the injuries).

Eric Hansen: Blake, it was clear after the playoff game with Clemson that was an issue, and I wrote about that here:

And here:

I don't think that is in totality why the Irish offense wasn't more consistent/explosive, but I do think it's a factor, so we are thinking along the same lines with perhaps different degrees of detail. ND did a good job of adding difference-makers in the 2020 class and they're off to a good start in 2021. ... But remember, the parting of the ways with Long wasn't about his statistical bottom line.

Dave from South Bend: The 2021 recruiting class is an example of the kind of recruiting class that ND needs to rake in every year to compete for a championship on a yearly basis. Is there any reason to believe Kelly and his staff can continue to recruit at that level consistently? Have there been changes that fans may not be aware of that have taken place that suggest that we can sustain this type of recruiting success every year? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Well, there are no guarantees, Dave, but it's the first class that truly reflects the playoff run. As I mentioned in another question, this is Kelly's best recruiting staff per analyst Tom Lemming. So there's no reason, short of a regression on the field, to think this is going to go backwards on the recruiting trail.

Pete from Connecticut: Eric, sobering to see seven other two-loss teams and three three-loss teams ranked ahead of us. The hype about another 10-win season aside, national regard for the program didn’t recover at all following the Michigan debacle. Having attended every home game, I saw enthusiasm dramatically fall afterwards. Sellout streak just one indicator, and the AD downplayed it. Lots of empty seats in the luxury boxes too. Do you think the administration is even attuned to, let alone concerned about, the program moving onto a slippery slope? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Pete. I wish I understood your question, but I'm afraid I don't.

James from Alexandria, Va.: Hello, Eric. Two questions for you: (1) Are you still grilling or has the propane given out? and (2) with Virginia's favorable placement in the Orange Bowl, have you heard any discussions about ND joining the ACC full time? And do you think doing so would be a good idea? The advantages this year would have included a chance to take on Clemson in the ACC title game for a potential signature win that might have helped us reshape our national reputation after the UM debacle, as well as a soft landing in the Orange Bowl, even if we had lost to Clemson, rather than our selection (relegation?) to what I like to think of as the Junior Varsity Citrus Bowl. Thanks for your thoughts!

Eric Hansen: James, the propane is still flowing, so I am happy, happy, and still grilling. ... I think it's not smart to take a weird, outlier season and project it as a inevitable trend, which many people are doing. Alabama didn't make the New Year's 6 either with two losses. I don't think they should join the ACC and I don't think ND should either. I think you move into next year and not get blown out by 31. If ND was in the ACC this year, they wouldn't have likely had Michigan on their non-conference schedule. I could go on and on, and I have, but trust me, it's a bad idea. ... like cooking ribs on high heat.

Mike in Maine: Eric, do you know if any ND players who will be eligible for the NFL draft will sit out the bowl game because they don't want to risk injury?

Eric Hansen: Brian Kelly said Saturday no one had approached him. I'll ask him again after this Saturday's first practice. I would be very surprised if there were.

Mike - Phoenix, AZ: Eric, love the chats and your great work! I follow regularly but have never contributed. My question is in regards to Mike Elston, especially relative to the “Matt Campbell in 3-5 years” chatter. Has Elston popped up on any drafts for other HC/Coordinator jobs, and could he be considered a “coach in-waiting” candidate for ND? I know the Holtz-Davie thing didn’t work for ND, but recently Stoops/Riley, Meyer/Day and to a certain extent even Bowden/Sweeney are all super-successful with no HC experience.

Eric Hansen: I think Mike Elston would be an outstanding head coach someday at a school committed to winning. I don't like the concept of coach-in-waiting. I do think it's better that if Elston or Clark Lea want to be the next head coach at ND that they have head coaching experience elsewhere before coming back. Even just a couple of years of it.

Jim from Cumberland, Md.: Hi Eric what are your thoughts concerning Iowa State, and I hope ND doesn’t take them lightly, because Oklahoma and Baylor sneaked by them. (YOUR THOUGHTS?)

Eric Hansen: I think they're much better than their 7-5 record indicates. I think they'd beat Virginia, for instance.

Dan from Belen, N.M.: Hi Eric! (I got your name right this time. Last time I referred to you as Chris, for which I apologize profusely. But if your profession is like mine, 32 years in public education, you’ve probably been called a lot worse!) I believe when Alizé Mack left early for the NFL he made a huge mistake. I believed then, as I do now, that he would have benefited tremendously by using his final year of eligibility at ND. I can’t help but believe that Javon McKinley would be making the same mistake by leaving early . Like Mack, he has incredible talent and ability. And not unlike Mack, he simply has not reached his full potential that another year with the Irish might finally be realized. I know these kids get a grade from the NFL, and much of their decision making is based on that grade, as well as other factors. I’d very much like to hear your take on both Mack and McKinley. Thank you so much Chris, I mean Eric!

Eric Hansen: Look Dave ... er Dan, I also believe Mack would have benefited from another year in school. I know these kids and their parents don't always get great info from the outside. Sometimes the advice they take is what they WANT to hear and not what they need to hear. I don't put McKinley in the same box. I don't think he's itching to go pro. He's deciding where best to spend his fifth year — at ND or somewhere else. At least if Javon does make a jagged left turn and enters the draft, he will do so with his ND degree.

Bob from Littleton, Colo. ND '67: Long-time reader/first-time participant. Eric, it seems as though the Irish are always a player or two away from being an elite team. After hearing this for decades now, I've grown a bit skeptical, especially combined with the inexplicable meltdowns a la Miami, Michigan, and the numerous recent failures against top programs. From your perspective how close are the Irish really to this year's top programs and what does this coaching staff need to do to avoid said meltdowns in the future? I'm kind of tired of settling for mediocre. Thanks for all you do for us fans, frustrated and otherwise.

Eric Hansen: Hi Bob. Thanks for your question and participation. Two points, ND has won some of these big games, but there have been enough flops on the big stage for it to resonate more emphatically. Changing that starts, but doesn't end with, recruiting. That gives you a better margin for error in those games. What happened at Michigan is still perplexing to me and something I plan to get to the bottom of this offseason. Georgia is better than Michigan. I think ND might be too .. that's why that one in particular is such a puzzler. Clemson was easy to see, but not this one.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Hi Eric, hope all is well with you. I am a lifetime Yankee fan, and I take it from the tweet you forwarded that you have an issue with the Cole acquisition. What is your take? On Coach Long, I hope we get a better explanation at some point. His stats are mostly good, with an issue in big-game scoring. A few weeks ago I was trying to suggest that in the directive to get Ian Book to be better at staying in the pocket the team was regressing in areas he was good at. That changed. He began to run, improvise and hit short passes. The rest builds on that. I thought this was for lack of emphasis in the desire to needed improvement in other areas. Would not be surprised if coach Kelly made that call to go back to practice fundamentals in areas that regressed. Anyway performance after Virginia Tech was much improved. How much of setting practice objectives falls on the coordinators? How much on the head coach? From your viewpoint, were Long and Kelly on same page?

Eric Hansen: Len, I was not making an editorial statement by retweeting the Gerrit Cole news. Just passing along breaking news I thought might be of interest to people. What better explanation are you waiting for on Long? It's not going to be a stats-based answer. That's not why he's changing jobs. ... As far as practice objectives, Brian Kelly has his hands all over those, but like most leaders, they listen and want input from their staff.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric. First, best wishes to you and your family for a Merry and Blessed Christmas!! Who do you think stands to gain the most from the extra bowl practices? Individually and collectively? Thanks. Go Irish!!

Eric Hansen: Tom, thanks and Merry Christmas to you and your family. From a position group standpoint, these practices are good for the O-line. They have a chance to fix things fundamentally that you don't necessarily have time to fine-tune during the season. I think Jafar Armstrong benefits, Braden Lenzy, Jacob Lacey, TaRiq Bracy. As far as who benefits for 2020: Kevin Austin, Avery Davis, KJ Wallace and Isaiah Rutherford, Houston Griffith, Paul Moala, Jack Kiser, Kyren Williams, Isaiah Foskey and Andrew Kristofic come to mind. It's too bad Cam Hart is injured. He'd be near the top of that list.

Ed from Duluth, Ga.: Several players had VICIS on their helmets over the Irish. What is this about?

Eric Hansen: It's the helmet manufacturer.

Bill 1000 Oaks CA.: False starts are killers. Are they in your opinion caused by lack of focus, concentration, or lack of a coaching priority! This late in the season pretty hard to justify! Bowl victory would be a nice birthday present for this Capricorn who will be 84 soon. Thanks for the great insights and Merry Christmas to all. Go Irish!!

Eric Hansen: Thank you, Bill and Happy Birthday. Tyler James did an in-depth look at that, and there are lots of layers to it, some beyond what you specifically asked about.

Larry from Pennsylvania. Eric – Never miss a chat; first-time contributor. Thanks for being the ND football authority! The Irish have had great success recently with the boundary receiver. In trying to fill the void next year, by any chance could Tommy Tremble make the switch from tight end to wide receiver? Does his skill set translate? Happy Holidays Eric!

Eric Hansen: Larry, that's an interesting thought and kind of a fun one to consider. I think he does more damage as a detached tight end. He'll get better matchups. I expect Kevin Austin to be the starting boundary receiver next year and a very good one.

Eric Hansen: I feel terrible about this, but I've got to cut this off here. I'll try to schedule a chat next week after national signing day. I'll keep you posted on my Twitter the day and time. Thanks for all the great questions. ... for the poll. Tommy Rees received the most votes, but there were plenty of votes for anyone but Rees for OC.

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