Chat Transcript: Talking recruiting, Instant Pot, season scenarios and more recruiting

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Hello and welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat.

Eric Hansen: In case you missed them, here are a couple of stories I published in the past couple of days ... the first a Q and A with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick:

Eric Hansen: The second is a story based on the wide-ranging interview Darin Pritchett and I did with ND head coach Brian Kelly Wednesday evening on Weekday SportsBeat:

Eric Hansen: I'm hoping this can be a bit of a fun diversion to what's going on in the world. So if you have some questions off topic, I'll try to answer them as well. But keep in mind, I may be a little slow when I get out of my lane. OK,let's get things rolling.

ND Harvey from Philadelphia: E, Hope all is well. The "Gang from Grays Ferry" is making the road trip to Dublin. In your opinion do you think the game will go on? We (America) will overcome....Stay Safe....Go IRISH!!!!

Eric Hansen: OK, I'll start with America will overcome. We are so blessed to live in a country with so many strong, intelligent and resilient people. I am very optimistic about that we'll not only overcome this, we'll be better on the other side because of it. ... As far as the ND-Navy game being played in Ireland, the two schools have talked about some what-ifs, as Jack Swarbrick alluded to in the recent Q-and-A. But as of now, the game is still on as scheduled in Dublin. I think, if needed, the game could be moved to Annapolis on short notice, but it will really come down to whether playing football and travel are both safe at that point in time. I sure hope that is the case.

Tim from Atlanta: With regard to committed recruits, do you think ND coaches keep enough contact or recognize which ones need more hand-holding?

Eric Hansen: I do. And colleague Carter Karels had a nice piece this week in which a source very close to decommitted WR Deion Colzie dismissed the notion that ND didn't push hard enough. There may have been lapses in past year with certain recruits. I don't think there's a pattern or hint of that in this cycle.

Pat from St. Paul, Minn.: Hope you are surviving the apocalypse! This is a great diversion for sure! Wondering if you think the early recruiting optimism is waning or just on hold with everything else? It seems like a large number of the high offensive line targets will end up elsewhere, and there doesn't seem to be a ton of momentum on defense in general. Overreaction? Boredom and looking for things to nitpick?

Eric Hansen: Pat, during our interview with Brian Kelly Wednesday night, he acknowledged there are some extra layers of challenges during this time that are affecting Notre Dame more than other schools. ND's trump card has been getting kids on campus. When they can't do that (and won't until at least June), it makes it easier for kids to get impatient to get the process over and just stay closer to home. Kelly told us they are preaching patience with the recruits. I do think the momentum has slowed way down, but if ND can pick things up in the fall with visits, I think there's a chance to regain it.

Chris from Sugar Grove, Ill.: With the shelter-at-home orders in place, how's it going with the your Instant Pot?

Eric Hansen: I am stunned that you know I had one. I have made a list of goals that I want to accomplish during this time of social distancing. Mastering the Instant Pot is actually on the list. Grilling is still my favorite.

Denis from Niagara Falls, Ontario: Hi Eric. Strictly from a personal, professional and journalistic viewpoint, what would you like to see regarding a camp, fall practice, etc., to allow you to enjoy a full opportunity to "catch up" on the new season should that happen? I guess I mean what would be your ideal schedule?

Eric Hansen: I would love any semblance of football at this point or in the summer. Anything. Because if football is back, that means people are safe, they're back to work and I can hug my grandkids again. But in practical terms, I don't think we'd need to see a lot when the team is conditioning. As the season got closer to a starting point, that's when access would be the most valuable.

RC from Albany, N.Y.: Hi Eric. I hope that you are holding up well. I am really looking forward to your article on last year’s Michigan game — what occurred in the preparation and on game day that resulted in such an unexpected and frustrating outcome. And more importantly, what can be done to help avoid a repeat in the future? For some reason the Michigan loss bothers me more than the meltdown in Miami and the playoff loss to Clemson. Any preliminary insights you can provide on today’s chat? When do you expect to publish? Thanks. Stay safe

Eric Hansen: RC, I do hope to do that story when it's relevant and feasible. Right now it's on the back burner. I have gathered some info, but there are still a lot of holes. When we know when football is back and can talk to people in person, it's going to make for a much more complete picture.

Justin from Philadelphia: With the all-time lists becoming popular to fill the void in the absence of sports at this time, let's hear yours. Best assistant coach you've covered at ND, favorite interview, favorite player, and the player who surprised you the most in exceeding their potential?

Eric Hansen: OK, since we're chatting live, I'm going to go very much off the top of my head, so keep that in mind. Best assistant of the Kelly Era: Mike Elston. Best assistant since I've been covering football? Urban Meyer. Favorite interview? So many. Louis Nix III jumps out at me. Dayne Crist was really, really good. Corwin Brown, when his world was right, was a fascinating guy. Non-sports figure would easily be Father Hesburgh. Player who surprised me the most? Two of them are on the team now: Drew White and Ade Ogundeji. If I really thought long and hard, those answers might change. I like the questions.

Kent from Indy: Keep up the great work. Question: At what point would you feel comfortable going into a stadium with 80,000 strangers after being isolated for so long? Even if an all-clear is sounded, and the season resumes, do you envision half-empty stadiums? Thanks!

Eric Hansen: Kent, thanks. From what I've read, and I try not to overdo that, available/quick testing and a vaccine are the game-changers, So if you can tell me when those things will appear, I can answer your question.

Jim from Raleigh, N.C.: Eric, Just read your interview with Brian Kelly. Would love to know what the approach is for proper nutrition. When I played two sports back in the '80s, our "nutrition" was the South Dining Hall if it was still open after practice. Or box lunches on the team bus. Now it is a science. I am sure there are more than a few players who cannot afford proper meals or will possibly revert to poor meal selections (fast food). Can the program ship food, provide funding for local purchasing or delivery? I would think that this is just as important as physical training. Maybe even send a personal chef for each guy!

Eric Hansen: Jim. that's something I will look into. I'm sure they're given guidance as to what to eat, but they may lack either the discipline or the means to eat the way they're supposed to. Training table, which started at the beginning of the Kelly Era, was a game-changer. The cost to do what you suggest, though, may be prohibitive. Again, great question, and I'm going to chase it in the coming days. I have heard that some of the players are having trouble maintaining their ideal weight. You have to do the best you can in these times.

Erik from Granger: What possible reason could Phil Jurkovec have for immediate eligibility waiver at BC? And do you think it will be granted?

Eric Hansen: Erik, he's keeping that very close to the vest, and I think that's smart. There's no advantage to making that a public debate. I'm not sure why anyone would be opposed to it, including the Notre Dame coaches. If he has a lawyer, I think he'll get immediate eligibility.

Alex from Jackson, Mo.: Eric! Greetings from a fellow St, Louis Cards fan. I pray all is well for you and your family. I don’t really have a question about ND, for a change. I have more of an observation. I miss Major League Baseball so much. I love the game, but didn’t realize how much until it was taken away. I assume you feel the same. I truly hope for a full college football season. I hope every fellow fan on here is staying healthy. Wanted to say thank you for what you do, and being one of the true good guys in the business. You taking your time on here means more than you realize. Thank you, sir!

Eric Hansen: Wow, Alex. You just blew me away in a good way. Thank you for every word of that. And prayers to you and your family.

Joe from Georgia: Dr. (Anthony) Fauci was asked last night if it should be a requirement that there are zero known/ongoing cases of the flu before he would recommend allowing sporting and concert events to resume. He notably refused to accept that as the standard and spoke of some variability. Do you believe it should be the standard and/or will it be the standard set by the NCAA?

Eric Hansen: There are things we can learn from countries with flatter curves than we have, and also the ones that are ahead of us in moving through this. ... Ultimately, I think there's a governmental layer that's going to supersede what the NCAA or individual schools and conferences want to do. Keep in mind, there's no frame of reference here, so we're very much learning as we go.

Jack from Strongsville, Ohio: Eric. Hope that you and your family are safe during this crisis. That was a nice interview with Jack Swarbrick. This is an inside baseball question. Is your job easier when the ND football team is having a great year or (God Forbid) a terrible season?

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Jack. I hope you and your family are well. I am BUSIEST when Notre Dame is either very good (2005, 2006, 2012, 2018 for instance) or struggling big time (2007, 2016 for instance). If they're 8-4-ish, there's not as much interest ... from the fan base or national media demands. It's easiest when they follow a bad season with a good one (2017). People are excited. They're in a good mood, and they don't want to take out their frustrations on me. Very minimal whining.

Matt from Los Angeles: Do you have any intel on what players and coaches are able to do while waiting out this virus? Are players able to find places to get in workouts? With no spring ball, are coaches and players able to watch video and go over the playbook in one-on-one meetings or in position groups (via teleconference)?

Eric Hansen: Matt, all those answers are here:

Pat from Springfield, Ill.: Does ND have an agreement with the MAC to schedule its teams? I'd really like to see some Power 5 teams instead. Also, who is ND looking at to complete the 2022 schedule?

Eric Hansen: There is no agreement with the MAC, but you do need teams that are willing to come to Notre Dame Stadium without a return trip in order to make the financial math work. If you're going to play seven home games or six and a Shamrock Series game, you need a couple of opponents each year that will take a paycheck instead of ND coming to their campus down the road. Cal in 2022 is a rare exception of a Power 5 team willing to do that. ND has one opening in 2022, and it could be a Power 5 team that will play home and home. Yet it would likely have to be a split series. like Arkansas, in which the games are split by several years. You don't want to add another elite team to that schedule. It already includes Ohio State and Clemson, as does the 2023 schedule.

Denny from Beaverton, Ore.: Long-time admirer of your articles and hope you and your family are well and safe. Have I missed it or what did you learn about the story behind the Michigan game debacle?

Eric Hansen: This isn't aimed at you, but I regret publicly committing to that. We're in a mode right now where we need to produce a lot of timely, daily content, because there aren't national sports to help out in that regard. The people who would make great sources for that Michigan article understandably have different priorities at the moment. As a fan, it's a story I'd want to read and I'd ask about it too. When we get back to a point in which I can gather the information I need, I will put it on the front burner. And when it's ready, I promise I will let you all know. Thanks for being patient.

Joe from Georgia: The SEC coaches have been granted permission by the SEC for up to two hours a week of virtual face time with each player, excepting workout/conditioning. Film review would be one permitted use. Is Kelly ready for such an opportunity and is he/will he be pursuing such? Would he even need ACC permission?

Eric Hansen: I wrote yesterday about a lot of the details ND is doing. For football, they don't need NCAA approval.

Jeff B from Oklahoma City: Eric, with no spring ball or spring game and assuming Brian Kelly's best-case scenario of getting back at it by the middle of June, how much is this going to affect Tommy Rees installing of his new offensive philosophy/structure, since it will be somewhat new/different from what they were doing under Chip Long?

Eric Hansen: I think that's one of the fortunate bounces in naming Rees, in that you're not overhauling the offense. You're fine-tuning and tweaking it. Having an experienced QB back is a fortunate bounce as well in this circumstance. When I spoke with Brian Kelly Wednesday, he was confident ND would be able to put the X's and O's in place quickly. His biggest concern was the conditioning piece.

Justin in Philly: The quarterback sneaks utilized in (December's) bowl game gave me hope that going forward we won't try to get cute when we have a brawn advantage up front. Is my hope well-placed or misplaced?

Eric Hansen: I'm not sure where you draw the line when it comes to cuteness. I think having several strategies/plays that are effective in short yardage/goal line is what would be truly ideal. I did like the QB under center in those situations.

Doug from Sunny Florida: Eric, since you're taking off topic items today and we both have a love for food/cooking I'm going to give you a recommendation, assuming you don't have this already. 36' Blackstone griddle. This has changed everything for us whether we're cooking for two or 20 people. Smashburgers and Philly Cheese steak/chicken sandwiches are just a short list of items. Ever cook breakfast for 10 or more? On this griddle, you can cook a pound of bacon and 12-15 pancakes at the same time. Everyone eats at the same time, as you can cook so much at once and no kitchen mess to clean other than plates. Fifteen smashburgers and grilled buns all ready at the same time. Even cook a pound of bacon for the burgers! Eric, this is life-changing! Pizza? Done it! Stir-fry or hibachi? Easy! I've even done a "tube" of biscuits with icing. Get one NOW!!!

Eric Hansen: I will put it on my to-do list for the weekend. Thanks for the suggestion!

Joe from Asbury Park, N.J.: If you had to put odds on the Navy game being played in Ireland, what would you put them at?

Eric Hansen: I am not smart enough to figure out odds under normal circumstances, let alone these. I'm a man of deep faith and believe in the talented people we have in the medical/science field, so that would skew my odds.

John from St. Petersburg, Fla.: Hi Eric, thanks for the chat. In this new world in which we all live, hope you and your family are safe and well. In early March, it felt like ND was really building toward a special 2021 recruiting class. Greg Crippen backed off his commitment, but at the time everyone was pointing to the big recruiting weekend later in March with five or six highly ranked O-linemen. Since that time at least two of those have committed elsewhere, and it does not feel like ND is in the driver’s seat with the others. Did ND misread some of these recruits intentions, in light of Crippen’s departure?

Eric Hansen: John, the Crippen recruitment was strange from the start. It always felt like an open relationship after the initial verbal commitment, where both sides were just looking for a reason to end it. I think the 2021 class can be special, but recruiting nationally becomes more difficult in uncertain times like these. It would have been interesting to see how that March 20-22 weekend would have affected the trajectory of this class. I think the sooner visits can resume, the better it is for the Irish. But if it's not soon, they will have to work hard to overcome that, and the coaches know that. John, I hope you and your family are safe too. We're going to get through this — TOGETHER.

Tom from Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eric, I hope you and all your family are well during this time of the unknown. How does ND make up for lost time with their development in the defensive backfield? Are all 12 of ND’s opponents under the same restrictions currently, i.e. not being on campus?

Eric Hansen: Tom, thank you and the same to you. All colleges to my knowledge, with the exception of Liberty (not an ND opponent) are not on campus at all. All teams are going to be a little behind in some areas, so they'll all have challenges. For ND, it's cornerbacks, but they have five starting O-linemen back and a three-year starter at QB. They just have to manage as well as they can. Again, conditioning is going to be critical and ND is focusing on that as we speak.

Erik from Granger Thanks for being here! BK said he wanted the offensive coordinator to also be the QB coach, but that the tight ends suffered when the offensive coordinator was the tight ends coach (due to focusing on so many other areas). If that’s true, why wouldn't the QBs suffer now like the tight ends did under the previous offensive coordinator?

Eric Hansen: I'm not sure that came out the way Brian wanted it to at that press conference. He almost tried to pack too much into that answer. I do think it's intriguing that for the first time in Kelly's career, the offensive coordinator, QBs coach and primary play-caller are all the same person. I like that alignment. Brady Quinn once told me that the play-caller relationship with the QB is the most important. He said he benefited greatly from Charlie Weis being the play-caller/OC/head coach and de facto QBs coach.

Pat from Parts Unknown: Why is it that ND is struggling to recruit four-star-and-above talent at cornerback lately? Even when Troy Pride and Julian Love were manning the positions, Clemson threw all over the Irish secondary. I’m concerned about that position group for the next few years with the lack of depth.

Eric Hansen: Pat, please include your hometown next time, buddy. To be fair, cornerback development has been  really good, even if recruiting has not been at the expected standard. ND's national standing in pass-efficiency defense the past two years (sixth in 2018, fifth in 2019) are the two best showings in school history. Yet recruiting doesn't reflect that. The hiring of Mike Mickens, and Terry Joseph before him, are Brian Kelly's response to changing that. You concerns about depth are well-founded. It's got to be an area of emphasis moving forward.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, Thanks for holding the chat and hope you are staying safe. My question concerns recruiting, I know ND really wants to start recruiting top 5 classes, and I think it is great that they are going all out for the top-notch players, but it seems that they tend to put all their eggs in one basket, and the recruiting effort drops off for the non-top-notch kids. For example, if they don't get Will Shipley, who have they recruited hard for the running back position. The same for the O-line? At one point they were poised for an incredible haul, and now it doesn't look so favorable. Who have they pushed for hard behind these top guys? Do you think this is reality or perception? Also how is Mike Mickens doing on the recruiting trail? Thank for you insight.

Eric Hansen: Marie, I enlisted Carter Karels to answer your question. Here is his answer: I think that varies year to year but is certainly the case for the 2021 running back class. The Irish cooling off on four-star running backs Camar Wheaton, Corey Kiner and Donovan Edwards puts them in a bind if they don't land Shipley. In the 2020 class, Notre Dame had a lot of promising options beyond Chris Tyree last year and even turned away some running backs.

I'm more concerned with Notre Dame putting all of its eggs in one basket in terms of visits. The Irish like bringing in all their top guys on one weekend. Why not host them on campus as much as possible? The March 20-22 recruiting weekend was a great idea. But why didn't offensive lineman Landon Tengwall visit Notre Dame once during the season? He publicly said Notre Dame was his top school after visiting South Bend in March of 2019. He never visited Notre Dame again. Will Shipley has only visited Notre Dame once: the Oct. 12 USC game. Why? Typically, you need Top 100 guys to visit your school at least three times.

I'm impressed with cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens. I already believe he will do a better job recruiting than Todd Lyght, who did not put him in a great position to succeed this class. With nine months until the early signing period, I doubt Mickens will land a blue-chip cornerback in 2021. But I like what I see from him. He's energetic, understands the game, works hard, has an eye for talent and develops well. I talked last night with Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard's Ryan Barnes, a defensive back recruit in the 2021 class. He was amazed at how much Mickens understood his game. Mickens taught him about how to improve in ways no other coach at another university had. If the Irish push hard for Barnes, I expect him to sign with them.

Erik from Granger: Even though Brain Kelly wouldn’t comment (word salad!), in your estimation: what specific ways will the new three-headed coaching collaboration between offensive line, running backs and offensive coordinator impact O-line play this year?

Eric Hansen: I think there has to be cooperation between the play-caller and the offensive line coach. I think Lance Taylor's promotion to running game coordinator helps that. He and John McNulty both have big-picture understanding of the offense, and that's going to allow offensive line coach Jeff Quinn time to focus on technique as well as people who can communicate well with. I think that's properly oversimplified, but a healthy Rees-Quinn relationship would be a very good sign for the offense.

Greg Bell from Parts Unknown: Is it possible, in your mind, to have a season but perhaps push it back to the beginning of October?

Eric Hansen: There are many athletic directors across the country who are looking at that model — and others.

Coach from Reading, Pa.: Eric. How is Notre Dame looking in recruiting the big lineman from Warwick High School in Lancaster, Pa.? Thanks a lot.

Eric Hansen: Again, I enlisted Carter Karels for this answer: I don't see Notre Dame leapfrogging Penn State and Clemson for Nolan Rucci. Both schools have recruited him much better. I expect Notre Dame to sign Blake Fisher, Rocco Spindler, Pat Coogan and another offensive tackle to be determined. Just because the Irish aren't signing the nation's best O-line class, that doesn't mean their haul won't be great. Spindler and Fisher could be five-star players. People weren't happy about the idea of Coogan landing at Notre Dame, because of his three-star rating. Since he landed his Notre Dame offer, he garnered offers from Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma.

Greg from South Bend: Hi Eric, Can we elaborate more on Carter's answer about Nolan Rucci? "Both schools have recruited him better." Brian Kelly said that he was going to change the recruiting and wants to start getting top 5 classes. You need to start landing the five- and four-stars. And I understand the stars don't mean a lot here and there. But I continue to see high ranked recruits not even have ND in their top 10? I saw a high four-star have Maryland in his top 5? A team that went 3-9 last year, I believe. So why isn't Notre Dame recruiting better?

Eric Hansen: Carter said Penn State (where his dad played) and Clemson got earlier starts on him. I don't think it's indicative of ND lacking as much as Rucci wasn't as high on their priority list early as those other schools. Fisher, Rocco Spindler and Landon Tengwall were. Tengwall picked Penn State. Fisher is all Irish. Spindler probably will end up at ND, but we'll see. Carter believes the recruiting shift BK spoke about is real and eventually will pay off.

Eric Hansen: OK, that's the last question in the queue. Thanks for all the great questions and kind words. We'll do this again sometime later this month. I'll let you know via Twitter.

Chat shades