Chat Transcript: Talking Notre Dame football testing, transfers, tiebreakers and 2021

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, post-debate edition. Just a reminder, we will not go there today. Everything else is on the table. Please, please remember to include your NAME and HOMETOWN with your questions. Let's get started.

Michael from Atlanta: Love these chats. Just read your article on ND transfers. Anything we should read into the large number of transfers from ND program-wise? Or is this just the way things are these days? Keep up the good work!

Eric Hansen: Michael, thank you. It's interesting, because during the latter part of Lou Holtz's run as coach at Notre Dame, then-athletic director Michael Wadsworth really hammered Lou for attrition. There's been a slow, but decided, evolution away from that kind of thinking, especially with the advent of grad transfers. A large number of ND's defections, if you will, are grad transfers who leave with an ND degree in hand. But even conventional transfers are more accepted as part of roster management. A player buried on the depth chart, who leaves, opens a spot in a recruiting class ... or for ND to import a grad transfer. Sometimes a scheme change can cause multiple players to go elsewhere, and that was the case when Brian VanGorder was replaced by Mike Elko at defensive coordinator after the 2016 season. A lot of players who were recruited as safeties were no longer schematic fits. There have been talented players who have left the roster for various reasons, but there hasn't been a talent drain or a disturbing trend that is tripping the dives into the transfer portal, as I see it.

Joe from Toledo, Ohio: Eric, thanks as always for the outstanding work. Three-part question: With all the depth at running back this season, do you think Kyren Williams gets to 1,000 yards rushing this season? Will he even get enough carries to reach that mark? And last, if the O-line health remains intact, do you believe that this is a top 3 O-line — possibly No. 1 in college football?

Eric Hansen: To get to 1,000 yards, Williams needs to be healthy for all of Notre Dame's games and they need to play 12 (11 regular season and a postseason game) or 13 (reg. season, ACC title game, postseason). Even then, because of the other options in the backfield, the number of carries in some games might not be there. But here's the math: He needs to average 83.3 yards a game if ND plays 12 games and 77 if the Irish play 13. He has averaged 87 in his first two games. My sense is there's too much balance to produce a 1,000-yard rusher this year. As far as the O-line, the expectation is that the line should be one of the top 3 nationally, if not No. 1. A lot of good lines haven't played yet, but so far Pro Football Focus rates ND's line as the nation's best.

Ray from Mishawaka: Hi Eric, I get the Tribune and look forward to your writings and the whole sports department's writings, for that matter. On the COVID issues that the team is currently having, what is the thinking about where the student-athletes got the virus prior to attending a pregame meal? One or more had to been exposed prior to the meal. Was it their families, other students or other outside issues? It's an unfortunate situation, and I hope they can continue playing football as scheduled. I like seeing games and gives some sense of a partial return to normalcy. I feel bad for the kids and the whole situation.

Eric Hansen: Ray, first of all, thanks for being a subscriber. It means a lot to us. As far as how did patient zero happen, we (the media) have a chance to talk to Brian Kelly and trainer Rob Hunt on Thursday, so that may shed some light on that. Whatever you believe about the virus and its consequences, I think we can all agree that it is very contagious. And with such a large portion of the spread coming from people who don't even know they're infected (asymptomatic), it's easy to see how any outbreak can happen. And yes, I agree as much normalcy as you can safely have is a great thing for all of us.

ND Harvey from South Philly: E, hope all is well. Do you see Jack Kiser getting more playing time and do you see more fans being able to attend home games later in the season, especially the Clemson game? Thank you. Be Safe.

Eric Hansen: Hi Harvey. Thanks and you be safe, too. I do think Jack Kiser has earned a new level of trust with the coaching staff, and that should help his playing time. But he's still competing with some very talented players at the position. He's opened the door to that possibility. Consistency now becomes the key. As far as more fans, unless the numbers in St. Joseph County came way, way down, I don't see that happening. And even then, there's a commitment to social distancing. Because the students will be gone for the Dec. 5 home game with Syracuse, there's a chance locals will have a chance to buy tickets for that game.

Ted Kazmar from San Diego, Calif.: If both Miami and ND have the same winning percentage and both teams have only lost to Clemson, how will the ACC determine who plays Clemson in the ACC Championship game?

Eric Hansen: Ted, I am including the link to the ACC tiebreakers for football. As you can see, there is a lot of language that addresses divisions, and there aren't divisions this year, so ignore those. It's quite likely in your scenario it would come down to the last two tiebreakers:

7. The tied team with the higher ranking by the Team Rating Score metric provided by SportSource Analytics following the conclusion of regular-season games.

8. The representative shall be chosen by a draw as administered by the Commissioner or the Commissioner’s designee.

Dan from Belen, N.M.: Greetings from the Land of Enchantment. I hope this finds you and your family healthy and safe! I would very much like your thoughts on the NCAA continuing to bar high school prospects from taking official on-campus visits, especially in light of the fact that we can march shoulder to shoulder (slight exaggeration) into big-box stores, providing we’re wearing a mask and making every attempt to social distance. It seems to me a prospect could tour a college campus with his parents quite safely, as well as meet with coordinators, position coaches, and the head coach. I honestly believe we lost out on Will Shipley’s commitment because of his inability to visit the campus.

Eric Hansen: Greetings, Dan, and thank you. Maybe as the rapid antigen tests become more available and have a longer track record in the field of proven reliability, the NCAA could reverse field — or at least not extend the dead period beyond Jan. 1. I think there are two things the NCAA worries about: Travel, and picking up the virus while doing that, and liability. And I agree with you on Shipley.

Joe from Asbury Park, N.J.: What do you think the status will be at cornerback going forward with Clarence Lewis and TaRiq Bracy? Will they share the position?

Eric Hansen: Given the need for depth, especially this season, I could see both playing a lot. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea would love to have enough corners to rotate, even in a normal season. He may finally have his wish.

Peter from Provo, Utah: Hi Eric. How will the ACC determine who will go to the championship game if not all the teams play the same amount of games? Say one team ends up 10-1, and another ends up 9-0? What are the tiebreakers if several teams end up with identical records?

Eric Hansen: Peter, i partially answered this a couple of questions ago, but winning conference percentage is a tiebreaker that I don't think is clearly stated in the link I shared. So a 9-0 team trumps a 10-1 team. If teams have identical conference records, the first tiebreaker is head to head. Where it gets sticky would be teams that don't play each other, like Miami and ND.

Jacob from Hobart, Ind.: Where do you rank ND in the ACC right now? Where do you think they will finish?

Eric Hansen: Jacob, on my AP ballot, I have Clemson No. 1, Notre Dame No. 5, Miami No. 6, North Carolina No. 9 and Pitt No. 25, so that's how I would order them today. I expect ND to finish second.

Brett Valiquet from Palos Hills, Ill: Hi Eric. The team apparently has available sufficient resources for rapid antigen, point-of-care testing for the entire team, not just linemen. Why not use it to detect a contagious level of viral load seven days a week for the entire team, including before each practice, the game, and the team meal, and only utilize the more sensitive PCR testing for follow up?

Eric Hansen: That's a great idea and one I would advocate for as well. When we talk to Brian Kelly on Thursday, we may find out that is the new strategy. I know some changes have been made, just not sure what all that entails.

Jeff from Phoenix:Eric, what is the drop-dead date to play or cancel for Florida State? Who makes the final decision, Brian Kelly or Jack Swarbrick?

Eric Hansen: I don't think there's a drop-dead date for any game. But as of now, the game is on and Notre Dame is confident it will be played. If there were a large outbreak on either team on say, Friday before the game, it could be canceled/postponed. I know the Baylor-Houston game was canceled/postponed the day before that game was to be played. Jack Swarbrick would make that decision, but he would do it in concert with Dr. Mark Leiszler, trainer Rob Hunt, Dr. Mark Fox and Brian Kelly.

Jeff from Canton, Mich.:Hi Eric, So I'm hopeful that the cause of the recent surge in cases has been found and the fix is in to correct in time for future games, but I'm still a little worried that the virus will find a way to spread. Of the 39 players that are in isolation/quarantine, do you know how many will be available for the FSU game?

Eric Hansen: Brian Kelly said yesterday that he expects 90% of the roster to be practicing by this Saturday.

Lawrence from Denver: Is it possible to win games against College Football Playoff-level teams without go-to receivers?

Eric Hansen: Define go-to receivers for me.

Tyler from Cleveland, Ohio: Eric, appreciate the time! Watching Jack Kiser last week brought me similar memories of Drue Tranquill when he moved to buck linebacker. Both are Indiana kids who work hard and are quality students. Also both were recruited for rover before moving around and landing at buck. Happy for Jack and how he performed. Quality of opponent aside, do you expect Kiser to be able to perform at that level week in and week out? Clark Lea is a linebacker whisperer, it would seem.

Eric Hansen: Tyler, the coaching staff has been high on Kiser for a long time. He may have factored in more last year had he not needed shoulder surgery upon his arrival as an early enrollee, thus missing his first spring practice. Talent and upside aren't a question. It's whether he can play at a consistent level at this point in his career. If he can, look out.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric! I am wondering why, when Notre Dame Stadium is allowed to accommodate up to just over 15,000 spectators, they have only managed to attract 10,000 or so for the first two games? Is it strictly limited to students, faculty, staff, and families of players? Are there are not enough of those folks around to get to 15,000? After all the folks in those categories with a desire to see a game are accommodated, are they not offering the balance of the 15,000 seats to season-ticket holders or the general public on a first-come, first-served basis? It seems to me they ought to be able to reach the 15,000 max capacity every game.

Eric Hansen: Notre Dame is not looking at 15,000 as a goal, but rather a max they won't go over. Not every student and faculty/staff member wants to buy football tickets, so the number is going to be smaller. If every student, for instance, bought a ticket, you'd have roughly 12,000 just from them. ND also rethought its visiting team allotment, and I believe cut it from 400 to 200. There has been no sentiment to sell to season-ticket holders (before Dec. 5), because Notre Dame wants to minimize the number of people outside its bubble coming on to campus and being in its stadium.

Chuck from Westfield, Ind.: Good A.M., Eric. We are so grateful for your insights into the Irish. Can you give us an update on the injuries to Kyle Hamilton and the end from Northwestern (Ben Skowronek)?

Eric Hansen: Chuck, thanks. I can do so Thursday when we talk to Brian Kelly. Check Thursday afternoon or my Twitter feed (@EHansenNDI).

Polish prince Hank from Las Vegas: Hello Eric. Crazy times. With the Irish being sidelined last weekend I had an opportunity to watch Phil Jurkovec and Boston College play Texas State. Down three scores, Boston College came back late to win the game. While Boston College's offensive line is suspect, Jurkovec got the job done when it counted and looked good doing so. It makes me sad when I wonder what might have been if he had been given an opportunity to play behind our offensive line. Here is the question: I know it is just a small sample, only having started two games, but why would Brian Kelly go with Ian Book and his limited skills and let Jurkovec go without ever finding out what his potential was? I 'm a member of three Notre Dame clubs — Las Vegas, Chicago and San Diego — and, believe me when I tell you. the Notre Dame fan base is not happy with Brian Kelly and the quarterback situation he has created.

Eric Hansen: I had people comment to me: Why was BC down three scores to Texas State in the first place? Look, I've always liked Phil's potential, even when he was struggling at ND in practices. But quarterbacks transfer all the time, because they want to play. Not just at ND. BK can point to his track record. Have any of the QBs who transferred under his watch come back to bite him? Everett Golson? Malik Zaire? Brandon Wimbush? Dayne Crist? Andrew Hendrix? Gunner Kiel? Now, you can quibble with the quarterback development model, but to conclude in two games that he made the wrong choice is hardly fair.

Nick from Denver: It seems like the social distancing took a big step back during the second home game. Unless things have changed since I graduated, it shouldn't be possible to sit according to dorms and have guys and girls sitting next to each other. Did they change their approach for the South Florida game or did students just say forget it? (possibly taking the lead from Jenkins on following ND COVID rules)

Eric Hansen: Nick, I wasn't in the stadium for the USF game, and really wasn't paying attention to it if/when USA Network panned the stands. I think the rule is roommates can sit together. And I would think there are some people who live off campus that may have a roommate of the opposite gender.

Mike McFadden, Williamsport, Pa.: Hi Eric. Isn't having so many players get the virus a somewhat good thing in that they are now fine for the rest of their ND career, will not the virus again and do not need tested any more and especially with a harmless two-game gap with nothing lost? Isn't that good for everybody? Thank you, Eric.

Eric Hansen: Mike, there is so much to learn about the virus, including long-term effects — even in this age group, so be careful what you feel good about. The other thing is while long-term immunity is presumed, it isn't proven. The ACC's med group feels strongly that people have immunity for at least 90 days. So players who have had the virus and recovered don't have to be tested for the next 90 days after recovery. But what about all those Clemson players who tested positive in June? Are they still immune in November? That, we don't know.

Tony from Charlotte, N.C.: Eric, I realize we've only seen a couple games, but Daelin Hayes seems to be less than dominant on the D-line. Is there concern about him or are just waiting for him to get more game reps under his belt?

Eric Hansen: Well keep in mind, one of the guys rotating in at his position is Isaiah Foskey. If you put their stats together, it's pretty impressive. I would agree with you in that Hayes hasn't caught my attention when he has been in. It's worth watching. He needs to play at a high level.

Dwight from Arkansas: Given the absolute absurdity of this football season, here is a hypothetical question. Let's assume Alabama and ND both finish undefeated, ranked No. 1 and No. 2. They are announced to play for the national title. One week before the title game, COVID rears its ugly head, and Alabama announces they must quarantine. (A) Would the game be cancelled? (B) Pushed back two more weeks? (C) ND declared the national champ? Or (D) something else?

Eric Hansen: Dwight, I think the hope is that daily testing would be commonplace by then, that there may be a vaccine at least in limited availability at that time. and there would be other scientific and logistical advances that make your question moot. Let's say none of those things happen. That's a question for the College Football Playoff Committee, and my sense is the game would be postponed until both teams could play. It's easier to move and reschedule games when there are few or no fans involved.

Skip from Houston: Please help me understand the offensive blocking schemes: (1) Pin and pull, (2) Inside zone and (3) Outside zone and when is it best to use which. Thank you.

Eric Hansen: Skip, email me (, and I'll get an answer for you from Aaron Taylor.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric. I hope you are having a good week. Glad practice will be resuming. Will the team be going to daily COVID testing in light of recent events? And if not, what would be the logic behind not doing so? The only downside I can think of would be cost, which shouldn't be an issue at ND. Is there a minimum number of games a team has to play to be eligible for the ACC Championship Game? I know it is based on winning percentage, but if teams end up playing different numbers of games because of COVID, it seems a 7-0 team versus a 9-1 team might make that a little less black an white. Thanks for hosting the chat.

Eric Hansen: Marie, thanks for being on the chat. As I mentioned in another question (you asked yours first), I will find out about the daily testing question on Thursday. If cost is an issue, the costs are going to come down with those tests as production continues to scale up and more companies emerge with those tests from the FDA pipeline. There hasn't been a minimum of games set for qualification to the ACC title game. If that became an issue, I'm sure the league would address it. I would expect with scientific advancements and teams learning strategies from each other, the number of postponed games should start to go down as the season progresses.

Chris from Tulsa: I'm a classic rock fan, so I would like to request Alice Cooper's "No More Mr. Nice Guy" be played at least once during the next practices and/or games for the remainder of the season. No football question for me today as I'll just be glad if the Irish can field a team to play. What kind of music do you like to listen to and any requests that you would have for the team other than perhaps taking "Crazy Train" out of the circulation for awhile?

Eric Hansen: Hey Chris. I actually used to have No More Mr. Nice Guy on a 45. I don't have my 45s anymore, but have over 200 vinyl albums still. My tastes are pretty eclectic. The Ramones and Pretenders are my favorites. but I love old Motown, a lot of the 80s "hair" bands, even some disco. Yep, I said it. I also like a lot of today's music. As far as playing something at the stadium in lieu of Crazy Train? How about some Van Halen?

Tom Kennesaw, GA:Hi Eric, Happy Octoberfest!!! You have to love a country that devotes an entire month to beer and brats!! ND lost three high draft pick receivers in the past two years to the NFL. I am starting to worry that their abilities may have made Ian Book appear better than he is. If that is the case, we may run into trouble down the road: Pitt and Clemson and N.C. Please give me some reasons why I should not be concerned. Thanks. Go Irish!!

Eric Hansen: Here are reasons for optimism (but not guarantees): 1) The tight ends are really good. 2) The offensive line is really good. 3) The running backs can catch the ball. 4) Kevin Austin will make the other receivers better once he comes back.

Bill from Whereabouts Unknown: Are we every going to find out what happened for the Michigan game last year?

Eric Hansen: Wrote about it for our special section in August.

Bill Denver: Eric, I miss you on the radio, but have been listening to the Pot of Gold podcast. Once a week is not enough Hansen in my opinion! One question, what is the "heck of a follow-up question" that Brian Kelly is referring to on the podcast intro? Keep up the great work.

Eric Hansen: So I can't remember what game it was, but there was a postgame interview where Brian Kelly felt like the line of questioning was maybe a bit too probing. Then a media member kind of gave him a softball question, and he lauded the quality of the question. He then asked if that reporter had another one. And when that question was also to Kelly's liking, he playfully jabbed at me with what a quality follow-up question it was, implying that maybe I should take heed. I did not. And thanks for the kind words on the Pod of Gold. I wish we had time to do more than one a week.

James from Columbus, Ohio: Hi Eric. Thanks as always for the chats. I loved the three-tight end set and especially passing from it. Given our lack of experience at wide receiver, can this be used until the wideouts are more proven? How will it stack up with Clemson's defense?

Eric Hansen: I think it can be used even when the wide receivers are more proven. I'll have a better feel for what kind of personnel might give Clemson issues once the Tigers play Miami (on Oct. 10). Miami's got a really good QB, pretty good WRs and an elite tight end.

Tom from Downers Grove, Ill.: Given a running/crow hop start, how many yards can Ian Book chuck a football?

Eric Hansen: I don't know. I've never seen him do it. Not close to what Wimbush could, but Wimbush's issue wasn't arm strength. I'm not sure Book's challenge is arm strength either, but maybe confidence in his deep passing game.

Tom from Downers Grove, Ill.: With Braden Lenzy fully healthy, do you see ND attempt more throws of 20-plus yards and how many more?

Eric Hansen: It depends on how the defense plays Lenzy — and what the opposing defensive coordinator is trying to stop in a particular game. If there's always safety help on Lenzy, then it's going to be difficult to force the issue, but it's also going to open up the running game and other aspects of the passing game.

Domerdave from Whereabouts Unknown: With Kelly having a contract through 2024, are all his assistants under contract through the same time frame?

Eric Hansen: Generally that's not the case. Contracts for assistant coaches tend to be shorter.

Stancakes from Chester, Va.: This might seem to be an "out-of-place" question, but here goes anyway. To fill the void, I have been rewatching some of last year's games and have noticed something about the demeanor of Chip Long, the deposed offensive coordinator. He seems to be present but not really there during the game. He looks like something he ate didn't settle so well most of the time, as if he prefers to be incommunicado with all but his offensive players, condoning to give advice but not so much in the moment as to offer any form of encouragement or praise. Is that the primary reason he was terminated at the end of the regular season last year? By the way, I appreciate your hard work.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Stan. Player relations, communication with players, staff chemistry all contributed to the parting of the ways with Chip Long. He was a very good recruiter and had some other good qualities, but not enough to overcome the problems.

Jim from Oakwood, Ohio: Peace and blessings to you and your family for good health. The surge in ND football COVID positives was sudden and unexpected, given the team's excellent work to date. But it's a reminder to all of us not to be complacent but be vigilant. Is there a threshold for ND's cancellation of a game per ACC or ND protocols? I know that a heavy hit on a position group has been mentioned, but are there other variables and who makes the call? I am still chuckling about your creative phraseology from a story a few weeks ago (words to this effect): "Information from ND's Sports Information Department has been more than socially distant ... and that's not a good thing." Has there been improvement from your perspective? Thanks for all of your excellent work Eric, and be well.

Eric Hansen: Well, thank you, Jim ... and the same to you and your family as well. Things have gotten better in terms of access, and I appreciate Notre Dame working with us and trying to make things better on the fly. There are limitations, however, that are just going to be part of 2020, and there's no getting around them. The guidelines stated for postponement/cancellation by the ACC Medical Advisory Group are pretty open-ended.

• Game Discontinuation Considerations

o Inability to isolate new positive cases, or to quarantine high contact risk cases of the traveling and home team University students.

o Unavailability or inability to perform symptomatic, surveillance or precompetition testing as required.

o Campus-wide or local community transmission rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials.

o Inability to perform adequate contact tracing consistent with governmental requirements or recommendations.

o Local public health officials of the home team state that there is an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations.

Eric Hansen: The school (athletic director) makes the final decision, not the ACC.

Derek from Seattle, Wash.: Hi Eric. As a follow-up to the Chip Long question, how do you think that happens? How can a coach be a good recruiter, but have such a tumultuous relationship with players? Not quite sure what the dynamic is when recruits meet current players in the recruiting process and do not pick up the signs if Chip is not well-liked.

Eric Hansen: Remember he was only at ND for three years, and things started to fester after year 2. Sometime someone can be very charming on the recruiting trail and abusive in practice. I say that in general terms. Look at Bob Knight in basketball (who I covered for more than a decade). Eventually the player dynamic would have shown up during campus visits.

Nathan from Long Beach, Calif.: I promise there will be a question at the end, but I have so many thoughts to unload first. Doug Flutie being replaced by Tony Dungy has made these first two games infinitely more enjoyable. I think USF has a bright future with Jeff Scott and their skill-position players. Scott focused on developing his guys throughout the game and went for it on fourth down instead of kicking a meaningless field goal to avoid the shutout. I think that’s an integrity move, and I wish them well in the future. Starting with the coaching, Tommy Rees called a great game and started by loosening up Ian Book and the USF defense by throwing the ball. Clark Lea, on the other side, had everyone on the depth chart ready to execute a great game plan. Brian Polian had the guys ready for a fake punt, had excellent kick coverage, varied the location on kickoffs beautifully and even got a special teams touchdown. Our offense was aggressive throughout and Lea let the backups bring pressure in the second half. The coaching was phenomenal. And how about our student athletes? The of

Eric Hansen: Was your question: How about our student-athletes? Or did it get cut off?

Jay from Chicago: Hi Eric, thanks for all you do for Irish fans everywhere! While all of the attention is rightfully on the 2020 season, I am curious what your impressions are of the 2021 Irish, barring any unforeseen personnel changes? Are there any particular position groups that provide reason for optimism or concern? What is your very early prediction for 2021 record? The schedule seems very manageable (at least for ND standards).

Eric Hansen: Jay, thank you. I think the biggest challenge for that team, as we sit in the fall of 2020, would be inexperience at quarterback and major turnover on the offensive line. It would be difficult to offer a record at this point. If you could tell me for sure the pandemic would be over, that would help. That Wisconsin-Cincinnati-Va. Tech-USC-North Carolina five-game stretch in the middle of the season looks pretty formidable to me.

Jacob from Hobart: Which player on ND's current roster has the highest ceiling? Who do you consider their current best player?

Eric Hansen: I think Notre Dame's best two players are Kyle Hamilton and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Mike from Goshen: How soon will Michael Mayer line up in the backfield, primarily as a blocker, but also a receiver coming out of there?

Eric Hansen: I think offensive coordinator Tommy Rees prefers Tommy Tremble in that role among the tight ends.

Charlie from Dominican Republic: I was very weary last year when everyone said, "Wait until Jafar gets back," referring to the injured Armstrong returning and saving the running game. I was right. He did not. Similarly, I am weary of Kevin Austin now being the savior of the receiving game. What can we do to improve the receivers who are actually playing?

Eric Hansen: Make sure they stay healthy (that includes COVID too) and be ready to practice and catch up for the time they've missed.

Eric Hansen: That's going to do it for today. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back to do it all over again next Wednesday at noon EDT.

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