Chat Transcript: Who's coming back? Who's healthy? Who's QB1 for Notre Dame in '21?

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Bye Week Edition. PLEASE remember to include your name and hometown with your question (Hint: it exponentially decreases your chances of getting an answer if you don't.)

For those looking for insight into life after Jarrett Patterson on the Notre Dame offensive line, I invite you to listen to our latest Pod of Gold podcast, with special guest Bob Morton, a former starting interior lineman at ND. The guy knows his stuff and had some really interesting observations beyond ND's situation in replacing the injured Patterson. Just click on the hyperlink. OK, let's get into hyperdrive. There's lots of questions to get to today.

Kim from Wichita, Kan.: Eric, you do such a great job! Luv Book. Do you think Avery Davis or Braden Lenzy will make a greater impact going forward?

Eric Hansen: Kim, thank you. You're the first chatter from Kansas that I can remember being on here — at least outside of the KC metro area. I think both can be impactful, but Avery has a couple of things on his side. He's fully healthy and has been all season, and there's no one blocking his path to playing time. Lenzy can do a lot with not a lot of touches, but he's going to be in a time share with Ben Skowronek when he comes back. And he has to prove he can stay healthy. Tough guy, though, who's determined to get back on the field and make a difference.

The Jet from Evansville, Ind.: How was it possible for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah not to make any tackles against BC?

Eric Hansen: There's a few layers to the answer here. First of all, it's neither uncommon nor cause for alarm. He had one tackle each against USF and Pitt. I wrote about this earlier this season that his stats (and that of ND's defense) are going to look very different than say Manti Te'o's because the game has changed so much.

JOK's stats are sometimes going to be reflective of the game plan. Against Clemson he was engaged in stopping the run, foremost and ended up with nine tackles. In other games, he's in coverage a lot. So his stats will show up as pass breakups, incomplete passes or passes never thrown because he was all over the receiver.

A couple of other things. Notre Dame plays ball control so well, there aren't a lot of tackles to be had. The Irish made 44. Boston College made 79. The Irish only had two players with more than three tackles. BC had someone with 16 and another with 11. JOK also rotated out more than usual. Isaiah Pryor ended up playing 20 snaps. JOK played 49.

Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric, if ND continues on its current winning streak, what are the chances that Ian can win the Heisman? Thanks and Go Irish!

Eric Hansen: Ian just rejoined the Vegas odds this week. He's one of eight players you can bet on to win the Heisman, and he's tied for the greatest odds at 66-1. All eight are quarterbacks. All play for teams ranked in the top 12. He is deserving of being in the conversation, but he's going to have an almost impossible time getting deep into that conversation. He doesn't have the freaky numbers most of the others on the list do, nor the efficiency numbers. If ND beats Clemson twice and he's a big reason for win No. 2, he may get some late support. The voting deadline this year is Dec. 21, two days after the ACC Championship Game.

Dan from Belen, N.M.: Hi Eric! I hope this post finds you and your family healthy and safe. There are a lot of sources for IRISH football, but your work is the absolute gold standard! The recent injury to Jarrett Patterson got me to thinking about Alex Bars. I was wondering if you have any information regarding his recovery and subsequent plans? His ceiling was incredibly high before his terrible injury, and I was really hoping he’d be able to get back into the game. Thanks again for these chats. They’re not only fun, but informative too!

Eric Hansen: OK Dan, thank you and you can be my agent moving forward. Alex Bars is alive and well  playing for the Chicago Bears this season. He's played in all 10 games to date, though some of those on special teams only. The last two weeks he's started at center and at left guard.

John from Toledo: Jarrett Patterson's injury caused me to wonder what the center's role in "quarterbacking" the O-line is in Tommy Rees' offense.  I haven't heard Patterson much or seen him pointing in such a way as to suggest pre-snap blocking shifts at the line of scrimmage.  Bottom line, I wonder what Jarrett's replacement needs to contend with other than moving the guy in front of him.

Eric Hansen: John, we talked about that a bit in the podcast. Tommy Rees leaves that more up to the quarterback, though there is a supporting role in that for the center. So to go from Jarrett Patterson to say Zeke Correll wouldn't be as huge an adjustment as it would have been under different offensive coordinators.

Denny from Beaverton, Ore. Hi Eric. I fell in love with Notre Dame football as a Catholic grade school boy of 10 when I saw Paul Hornung on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1956. He was my hero, and I had many more over the years, but "The Golden Boy" was the first.  He was a colorful character maybe a lot like George Gipp of earlier years. I knew he loved Notre Dame and heard that he was a gracious and accommodating person to fans in later years. I never had the chance to meet him and wonder if you ever did Eric? Seeing our heroes pass focuses us on our own timeline a little closer. R.I.P. Paul Hornung.

Eric Hansen: Denny, I did have a chance to meet Paul and chat with him several times when he used to have a role on the Notre Dame radio network. I did not have much contact with him in his later years, as his health was declining. He was certainly a fascinating figure in Notre Dame football history.

Randy from Mississippi: Hey Eric, I believe Brian Kelly has to get a handle on the unsportsmanlike penalties as well as the turnovers. What you say?

Eric Hansen: I think a one-game blip is no cause for alarm, and I think this team is mature enough to make sure it doesn't become part of their tendencies. The turnover issue is huge against a team like North Carolina, which scores a lot and gives up a lot of points. You can't afford to give a team like that extra possessions.

Bruce from Centralia, Ill.: Eric, if Brian Kelly retires in 2024 or 2025, what are the program strengths that the next coach will inherit? And are there any clear areas for refocus or improvement? If the culture is strong right now, as seems to be the case, then doesn’t that suggest a promotion from within as the preferred path? Thanks as always.

Eric Hansen: Keep in mind, Bruce, that snapshot may look very different in 2024-25. Look at how different it is from 2016 to 2020. Let's assume the strengths and challenges are static. The player development part of things is elite. That includes having someone like Matt Balis running things in the weight room, but also the sports science involved and the sports psychology (Dr. Amber Selking). Notre Dame made a big step forward with the indoor practice facility, which solved a lot of logistical problems. The second phase of the Gug expansion needs to happen. It will give ND an even stronger infrastructure. Recruiting got some needed redirection this offseason, but I think we need to see what that looks like post-pandemic to truly gauge those tweaks and changes.

As far as the successor coming from within, I'm still squeamish on someone who hasn't been a college head coach taking over. The best-case scenario, I would think, is for Clark Lea or Mike Elston to go somewhere else for 2-3 years as a head coach and then come back if you wanted to go internally.

Stan from Rockford, Ill.: Eric. Here’s hoping this finds you and your family well. Thanks for the mid-week chat, despite ND having a bye week. So much to feel enthused about with this team. Three comments before my four-part question. Happy to see Javon McKinley’s and Avery Davis’ patience being rewarded and recognized after way too little props placed on them by much of the fan base. And watching No. 15 WR frosh Jordan Johnson celebrating with the other receivers was good to see. Please! No transfer portal before we get to see him used in the O’. Onto the questions: 1) Are NDs cornerbacks a weakness? Remembering the ’85 Bears, their CBs (Frazier and Richardson) didn’t need to be elite, because their pass rush was dominating. So 2) Would you favor more blitzes vs. North Carolina's young, excellent QB if the front four doesn’t get into his face? 3) With the offensive balance North Carolina has, should ND focus on stopping the run like they did vs. Clemson, making North Carolina's offense one-dimensional? 4) How can we convince my main man, Shaun Crawford, to return for just one more year? He was all over the field vs. Boston College.

Eric Hansen: Stan, thanks for your good wishes and comments. To your questions: 1. I don't think they're a weakness as much as they've been relatively untested by elite QBs. That's also a position group that's probably been hit the hardest by COVID. I think there's upside to that group. 2. More blitzes? I haven't studied Sam Howell's numbers vs. pressure yet, but that makes sense to mix in some (BUT NOT HUGE DOSES). 3. North Carolina is really. really balanced, much more than Clemson was before or after playing ND. So what do you take away? I'd still lean toward emphasizing run defense, so that UNC can't play ball control. Ideally, you'd force them into early mistakes, play with the lead and play ball control yourself. 4. I'm not sure if he wants to be the first seventh-year senior in college football history. He would be a valuable person to bring back if you can convince him.

Eamonn from Portland, Ore.: Eric! Long-time habitual reader, love the chats and articles! Thinking to next year, since this year is not captivating enough :) who you got for a surprise starter/impact player on the 2021 squad? A la Jarrett Patterson, Clarence Lewis type of guy.

Eric Hansen: Wow, that is looking way, way ahead. I'll go with Philip Riley, the recently re-committed cornerback from Florida.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric. Thanks for the chat on a bye week. A couple of things: Have you ever seen anyone run harder than C'Bo for his size? Does he remind you have any former Irish running back?  Also, why did the box score only list three fumbles? Clearly Jack Kiser fumbled his interception but then recovered it. The box score lists the number of fumbles and number lost, and both say three. Thanks again and have a safe and COVID-style Thanksgiving!!

Eric Hansen: I think both C'Bo Flemister (5-11, 201) and Kyren Williams (5-9, 195) show a lot of power for their size. I'm not great at the comparison game, because my mind doesn't naturally work that way. The backs who come to mind, like Ray Zellars, were so much bigger (234) and he was technically a fullback. Same with Robert Hughes of more recent vintage. C'Bo has surprised me. I did not think he'd ever be able to play at the level he is. He has convinced me. You're right about the Kiser fumble, and I'll shoot ND a note about it. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

Jeff from Canton, Mich.: Hi Eric! With the Big Ten and Pac-12 having as many as four or five games played less than ND, how do you think the College Football Playoff selection committee will grade undefeated teams, such as an Oregon going 6-0 or or Ohio State going 8-0, compared to other teams such as an 11-1 Clemson, 11-1 ND or 10-1 Alabama? I think it will make for some very interesting conversations in trying to pick that No. 4 team in the playoff. I've also heard of some rumors to delay the games/playoffs to get the Pac-12 more time to play their games.

Eric Hansen: We'll find out on Tuesday night. That's when the first set of rankings from the CFP selection committee will be released. There will also be a teleconference with Gary Barta and Bill Hancock from the CFP, and I plan to ask those questions that night. My sense is there will be some leeway because of COVID, but not sure how much. As to delays, the powers-that-be with the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl (national semis) and the CFP Championship Game have pledged to be flexible just in case. I don't think this is just an accommodation for the Big Ten and Pac-12 as much as it is for everyone, as the number of cancellations and postponements have spiked. That's a reflection of the climbing levels of infection across the country in the general population.

Jim from Cumberland, Md.: A good afternoon to you. Is Braden Lenzy going to play against North Carolina?

Eric Hansen: He is on track to. I'll have an update Monday.

Thomas Tyks - USHER, from South Bend: First, congratulations to Coach Kelly on his tenure here at Notre Dame. I think the football writers have it right this time on the rankings. Should anything happen to Ian Book, who does Notre Dame have as a back-up plan? "You Don't Lose until You Quit Trying"  (Samuel Davis- Congressional Medal of Honor- Vietnam)

Eric Hansen: Brendon Clark is the next man in.

Terry O’Donnell from Ottawa, Ontario: Eric!!!! Just 4 exclamations. Do not want to usurp Manny. I'm from the frozen tundra area. Thanks in advance for taking my query. I really like Ian Book’s attitude, competitive level and attention to detail, which you highlighted in an article this week. My question: Does anyone in college football match his footwork and his Houdini-like escapes, not to mention terrific judgment staying in the pocket and accuracy in finding targets? Thanks for your superbly balanced and honest reporting.

Eric Hansen: Terry, thank you. We are only semi-frozen tundra here, but 60s tomorrow!!!! ... That hasn't been Book's forte until recently. If he continues to harness that part of his game, he takes his game and ND's offense to another level, which is significant. He's always been a good runner. But his awareness of when to try to extend a pass play and when to scramble and not run himself into pressures has been outstanding the past two weeks, especially.

Ed Fish from Granville, N.Y.: Did ND recruit a true center in the 2021 or 2022 class? Love your information. You are the best. Stay safe.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Ed. Sometimes Notre Dame will recruit a player with the thought that he projects as a center. Some classes they do not. Jarrett Patterson was recruited as a left tackle. He had never played center before the winter/spring of 2019. Nick Martin was somewhat similar to that. Zeke Correll, likely the next man in for Patterson, was recruited with the idea that he would play center. In 2021, there is not a true center recruit, nor so far is there in the 2022 class.

Jim in Fremont, Ohio: Eric, enjoy reading your chats every week. Got a question or two for you. With everything coming more to light with the "Chip Long" experience, do you feel that he was a reason for Harry Hiestand leaving? I like Jeff Quinn, and this has nothing to do with him, just wondered if the "chip experience" made Harry want to leave. Also, with Coach Kelly hitting 100 wins, the national people had to say it "included vacated wins." So if you took out the vacated wins, what would his win total be?

Eric Hansen: The Chip experience did not make Harry want to leave. They actually got along well, in part because Chip deferred to Harry. ... As far as the vacated games go, it comes up to 21 wins and one loss vacated. So the adjusted record would be 79-36 instead of 100-37.

Steve from St Louis: Thanks for the great coverage as always. Can you please update us on where ND stands at the bye week in the five statistical categories you track. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: I sure can. Notice the numbers are now out of 126 and not 76 or 77, as earlier. So being top 25-30 is desirable. The pass-efficiency ranking for ND went from 55 to 38 in one week, which is significant. Notice Wisconsin's strong start, but it's in a small sample size.


John in Fort Wayne: Eric, Notre Dame congratulated Brian Kelly for win No. 100. Please tell me the university doing this means they don't recognize the NCAA's ridiculous decision to vacate 21 wins, as far as the school's official record book.

Eric Hansen: It means they're tired of confusing fans and media. It was a pain trying to do the math every time there was a statistic, because taking out those 22 games skewed, for instance, Brian Kelly's record when outrushing another team or leading at halftime. To be honest, I'm glad ND is putting out the right number and then adding an asterisk. I think vacating wins is a stupid punishment that benefits no one, particularly in this case.

Doug from Virginia Beach, Va.: Hi Eric. Thanks for the chats and all the great coverage as always! Has there been any word on possible tickets for the public for the Syracuse game, since the students will be gone?

Eric Hansen: I think the holdup (it was expected to be announced last week) has been the rising COVID-19 hospitalizations in St. Joseph County. Our hospitals are full and staffs overworked. That plays into the equation of what to do about fans for Syracuse, whether you're in denial about the pandemic (I'm not implying your personally are) or not. It's the reality schools like Notre Dame have to deal with. I hope to have some info early next week.

Benjamin, Fayetteville, N.C.: Hey Eric, I just realized this morning that ND should benefit the most from the change in the rule that allows student-athletes to profit off of their image. With ND being a national brand and “almost” every game being nationally televised, the exposure an athlete can get at ND surpasses all other schools. Now my question: Am I off-base here? And if not, how much of a benefit could this be in recruiting for ND compared to other schools?

Eric Hansen: Benjamin, it's crossed my mind too and my thinking mirror yours, but you also have to think about market and competition for those endorsements in that market. It's really a very good question. It's something that will be back burner for me, though, until after the season, with COVID and a team that's No. 2 in the nation front and center. Once we get into winter, I'll take the deep dive. Again, very good question.

Denis from Niagara Falls, Ontario: Hey Eric, in your opinion, who is the most under-the-radar position coach on the ND staff?  In terms of both development and recruiting. Running back depth is a concern. Without another Jafar Armstrong switch, is there one player who could help out immediately?

Eric Hansen: Under the radar recruiting? Terry Joseph. Under the radar development? Lance Taylor. ... It's weird how a glut of bodies can go to a shortage so quickly at running back. Armstrong is certainly one alternative. Assuming Kendall Abdur-Rahman is healthy, he's an option (though he hasn't played since USF on Sept. 19). Osita Ekwonu could certainly be activated on offense. I'll ask BK about him Monday once we get the health update on Kyren Williams and C'Bo Flemister.

Manny in San Pedro, Calif.: Eric!!!!!!!!!! We are marching toward our second undefeated regular season in three years!!!!!!! Crazy to think so many people wanted Kelly fired after the 4-8 season! Don’t hear a lot from them now! My question is with semester ending and kids going home, will ND be a mini-bubble for the football team that might prevent another outbreak while rates are rising across the country?

Eric Hansen: Manny!!!!!!!!!! You must be a breath of fresh air to everyone who comes in contact with you! I'd love to see how those exclamation points translate in person. You make me smile. Yes, with the students going home, ND will be in a situation somewhat similar to this summer, where there's a semi-bubble. Now they're in apartments and rental houses rather than the Morris Inn, and there will be other athletes on campus. There will also be contact with the community at large (hair cuts, groceries, etc.), but I think this is a good setup for the players.

Stephen from Toledo, Ohio: Eric!!!!!!!!!! (My best Manny impression) Turned out to be a very good year to be an Irish fan! With the offense appearing to be getting better each week minus the turnovers, what steps is the defense doing to fix some poor coverages? Many games have had wide open receivers and that worries me as we get ready for North Carolina and even more so in the postseason.

Eric Hansen: Stephen!! Manny would be proud. I think the thing that would help ND's coverage the most is a more consistent pass rush. ND has to be better in its coverage on first and second down as well, and some of that is recognition. ND is still one of the best third-down defenses in the country. (Seventh at 26%).

Dom from Baltimore, Md.: Hi Eric, thanks for taking the time during a bye week to talk to us. Hope you and your family are staying safe. Please let all your many fans here know that (and I'm speaking from personal experience, here) the virus is very real and very, very dangerous. My question: Do we really expect a close game with North Carolina? I'm thinking turnovers won't be as much of a problem as with Boston College, as we knew, well before game time, was that was something of a calling card for them.

Eric Hansen: Dom. Thanks for your question and your comment. Three of my six grandkids have had COVID. I had a friend die from it and he another friend who's struggling right now. so it's real for me too. ... To your question, I do expect a close game with North Carolina. I do expect ND to win, however. There are some weaknesses of which the Irish can take advantage. UNC is lousy across the board on special teams, including having had a couple of punts blocked. They're one of the heaviest-penalized teams in the nation, give up a lot of sacks and aren't great in turnover margin.

Dan from Vernon Hills, Ill.: Eric, really enjoy the chats. I was wondering why Avery Davis was never considered a serious candidate for the quarterback position when he first came to Notre Dame. He seemed to be immediately moved to another position. I believe he was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. Not that it didn’t work out for him, but I have always wondered about that. Again, thanks for the chats and stay safe.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Dan. Avery did get a season at quarterback as a true freshman in 2017. He was unable to get past Book, a year ahead, on the depth chart as Brandon Wimbush's backup. And the staff knew Phil Jurkovec was on the way. The desire to get the best athletes on the field drove the decision to start moving Davis around. It's taken a while, but it's finally working out.

Tom from Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eric, appreciate all the work you put in to feed our IRISH addiction, so to speak. What challenges will Sam Howell give to the ND defense, that in your opinion, could make things potentially dicey next Friday? Also will ND be the best defense he has seen all year?  Is No. 24 ever going to do more than block? It seems that his targets are getting fewer and fewer in the passing game?!? Don’t get me wrong, I believe he has tremendous value in the offense, but weren’t we touting his athleticism at tight end coming into the season, not his blocking prowess?

Eric Hansen: Tom, appreciate you coming on the chat. Sam Howell is extremely accurate and extremely clutch. He's 11th nationally in passing efficiency, two spots ahead of Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. He's got two outstanding wide receivers and two backs with are very involved in the passing game. Plus, each of them averages more than 100 yards a game rushing. So it's tough to take something away as a defensive coordinator. Your best chance is to force mistakes and prey on an offensive line that's well below average in protection. ... Notre Dame is by far the best defense UNC has seen this year. BC at No. 55 in total defense is the best they've played. Next is Duke at 68th. Everyone else is 90th or below. The Irish are 12th, and ND's offense has faced No. 9 in total defense Pitt and No. 13 Clemson, by comparison. ... The Tommy Tremble question is in the queue a lot today. I do think he'll get re-engaged as a target at some point, but Michael Mayer has a chance to be a generational player at a position where excellence is the norm.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, I hope you are enjoying you bye week. Since it is a bye week I was thinking about next year. Which of the following players — if any — do you think would consider coming back for another year? Nick McCloud, Ben Skowronek, Javon McKinley, Avery Davis, Robert Hainsey, Kurt Hinish, and Aaron Banks? Thanks for hosting the chat.

Eric Hansen: The question is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. So much plays into players with expiring eligibility that they don't know now but may have a better feel for in January. Like will COVID still be as much of a hurdle in the spring as it is now? Will it be fading big-time by the fall? And what's to be gained by coming back for a sixth year in some cases? From ND's standpoint (and other schools too), there is a financial consideration in going over 85 scholarships when athletic departments are already taxed. The good news is there's not a rush with players with expiring eligibility for this year only. It's the players with potential fifth years where a decision needs to be made in a timely fashion, because it affects the size of the 2021 recruiting class.

Having said all of that, let's look at the players you asked about. Davis and Banks are the only ones with potentially two more years of eligibility in that group. I would expect Davis to be welcomed back and that he would want to. Let's look at the others. With Skowronek and McKinley, they're playing the best ball of their careers, yet ND has three stud WRs coming in, plus Kevin Austin coming back and Jordan Johnson to develop. I say they both decide to move on. Hainsey also. His NFL stock wouldn't improve with another year. Hinish is a tough one, but I think he moves on. Banks is also tough. I think he would benefit by coming back from an NFL standpoint, but I'm not sure what he's thinking.

John from St. Catharines, Ontario: Hello Eric, I very much enjoy your writing and love getting your insights in these weekly football chats. With it being a bye week for the Irish, I figured it was a good time to ask a question about the ACC football standings with an eye to the conference championship game. The necessary rescheduling of games for Miami has them playing a regular-season game on Dec. 19 — the same day of the ACC title game. The Hurricanes have only one conference loss, and I figured them still in the mix, especially if ND were to slip up in one (or more) of their remaining games, or Clemson too for that matter. Have they, in essence, conceded that they can't make it? Are the tiebreakers stacked against them? Hoping you can sort this out.

Eric Hansen: Miami was really backed into a corner by their recent outbreak. If they are one of the top two teams going into the week of Dec. 19, then they would play in the conference championship game rather than the makeup game. HOWEVER, they lose a two-way tiebreaker with Clemson unless Clemson loses again before the championship game. They also lose two- and three-way tiebreakers with the Irish. So ND would have to lose two out of three to NC, Syracuse and Wake Forest, and Miami would have to win out.

Ron from Dover, Del.: Hi Eric. Love reading your insight. Happy Thanksgiving to and yours. Want to send a shoutout for Avery Davis and C'Bo Flemister. Happy to see these kids contributing and earning playing time. Great role models for young kids in this day and age where you see players run from programs when they don’t succeed right away rather than work hard and earn time on field.

Eric Hansen: Happy Thanksgiving to you. I don't see a question, so I'll run your comments since they don't violate the no-manifesto rule.

Eric Hansen: OK normally, this is where I have to end the chat at 3 EST. HOWEVER, since there are so many questions still in the queue and since so many of your are on here live and since I don't have another commitment coming up immediately, let's go to OVERTIME.

Jeff from Cleveland, Ohio: Eric, assuming Ian Book leaves for the NFL at the conclusion of the season, who does your gut feeling tell you takes over the QB position in 2021? Who do you think has the highest ceiling (potential-wise) of the QBs currently on the roster and incoming with the freshman class?

Eric Hansen: I'm not sure the answer is the same in September as it will be in late October. We had Tyler Buchner on the podcast a few weeks ago. Fascinating kid with a world of talent. That's the answer to the high-ceiling question. If there is a NORMAL set of 15 spring practices and a normal training camp this year, then Buchner's opportunity widens. It's still going to be difficult having not played a high school game this season. My sense is Brendon Clark has a leg up in August and Buchner challenges in October.

Ray from Normal, Ill.: Dan's question got me thinking (a very dangerous thing). What type of QB was Avery Davis is high school? Was he a passer, so that we might expect a possible end-around throw from him in the future?

Eric Hansen: Davis was a dual threat. but much more of a threat as a passer. At Cedar Hill High in Texas, against elite competition, he threw for 2,876 yards and 37 TDs as a senior and rushed for 369 yards and six TDs. In a state championship loss to DeSoto, he accounted for 572 of Cedar Hill's 574 total yards. Sure he'd be great on trick plays. Even more significant, he's become really good at the standard, staple plays in ND's offense.

Gene from New York: Hi Eric, Thanks for the great coverage. Certainly fun time to cover/root for a team that is clicking and can still improve. Two questions: You probably covered already, but are there concerns for offensive line (though fortunate to have eight games without injury for an experienced line)? Second one is a little projecting, The CFP comes out with its first ranking next week. If their top 8 are same as AP and all win out with Alabama and ND losing close conference championships to Florida and Clemson, respectively, who are the CFP top 4? Thanks!

Eric Hansen: There are always concerns when you add a new piece to the offensive line, no matter how talented they are. It's a question of chemistry and getting used to each other. I suggest listening to our Pod of Gold podcast, where we go in depth on the topic. As far as the CFP question, it's difficult not knowing the margin of victory in other games, injury status and so forth of the other teams ... and is Ohio State going to have any more cancellations?

John from Walled Lake, Mich.: Hi Eric, how are you doing? I would like to know what are the chances of Notre Dame getting Caleb Johnson, Kelvin Gilliam and Byron Cardwell? What percentage would you put on each of these recruits landing at Notre Dame? Thanks so much for answering my question.

Eric Hansen: John. I turned your question over to our recruiting writer, Carter Karels. I don't think he's better at math than me, but he is better at following recruiting. Here is his response:

I'm not a huge percentage guy, especially with those three recruits. There is still a lot to play out with them. A few months ago, Notre Dame seemed set to take 20ish recruits in the 2021 class. Then the Irish were hit by unforeseen roster attrition, which presumably opened up a few more spots this cycle. Now they are expected to take 25ish recruits. So Notre Dame is going after a few new faces and has a lot more left to do. This will be a way more active final stretch than the past two cycles. And I expect them to finish with a top 10 class. Look for Notre Dame to land another commitment this week. For Gilliam, he has been receptive to hearing from the Irish coaching staff, despite being verbally committed to Oklahoma since August. He is still pledged to the Sooners for a reason. He does not appear ready to flip just yet. I'm slightly leaning Oklahoma here, but a lot could change. With Cardwell, Notre Dame still looks to be early in the process and getting to know him.

The good news for the Irish is they don't expect him to sign until February. So they should have enough time to land him. I would think Donovan Edwards is the higher priority at running back, though. With Caleb Johnson, he committed to Auburn in May. He has been receptive to contacting Notre Dame's coaching staff and is originally from Fort Wayne. I like Notre Dame's chances with him. I plan to get more info on these guys in the coming days.

Duke from Cincinnati: I've been trying to figure out who Ian Book reminds me of, then it hit in the BC game.  Are you old enough to have seen Brian Sipe play either at San Diego State or with the Browns?  About the same size, average arm strength, good athletic ability, and a knack for playing best when needed. And like Book, Sipe wasn't exactly seen as a top NFL prospect, being drafted in the 13th round. To the right team, Book could be a serviceable pro QB. Your thoughts?

Eric Hansen: Yes, I am old enough to remember Brian Sipe, and I'm over the moon that it was even a question in your mind. What I don't have recollection of were the nuances of his game. I didn't watch football with an analytical eye in those days. But to your question, college football is a lot different from the pros in terms of ideal skill sets. Book was way off the radar at the beginning of the season. Certainly, of late he's been showing attributes that would increase his chances of sticking on a roster perhaps. I almost see him as a better fit in the CFL. As we get toward the end of the season. I'll revisit his pro prospects (and those of other ND players) with draft analysts.

Jeff from Cleveland, Ohio: Eric, thanks for the Overtime Edition!!!! In my opinion, we haven't had a ND quarterback move on to the NFL and truly succeed since the two Joe's, and I'm quite certain you know who I'm referring to Theismann and Montana! Being from the Cleveland area, I was ecstatic when the Browns drafted Brady Quinn (who still holds most of the ND QB records). And I bragged to friends that the Browns' QB woes were finally over, only to be EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED to have him hold out initially and then have subpar seasons as a Brownie (2007-2009) and then bounce around to five different teams and be out of the league by 2014.. Why do you think Quinn didn't have the success in the NFL that he had at ND? And, secondly, will ND ever produce another top-tier NFL QB the likes of the two Joe's????????

Eric Hansen: I think some of being a successful QB in the NFL is timing, location, health and luck if you're not super gifted like Andrew Luck, etc. I think Cleveland was a bad place for BQ to land. He had an injury issue. And his window of opportunity to be a starter elsewhere closed fairly quickly. When I've talked to Brady (and Matt Leinart) about their NFL careers, that's kind of how they see it as well. I do think at some point ND will produce an NFL starter, because in today's football you almost have to have that kind of QB if you're going to make a playoff run. Almost.

Erik from Granger: Thanks for being here! I hope I’m not too late. What are the top three items on Brian Kelly’s bye-week to-do list?

Eric Hansen: Get everyone to focus on exams. Have the proper practice/study/time-off balance. Get everyone to focus on COVID awareness, even if the students are leaving/have left campus. .. .in other words, don't let down your guard and have a party.

GB from Wasilla, Alaska: Eric, the last two weeks Ian Book has played much better than before. Is there a reason besides Book playing better that the wide receivers are also playing better? Thank you.

Eric Hansen: I asked him that very question after the BC game. He said, in essence, it was a lot of little things that finally added up. What he didn't say was BK never gave up on him, which also is important.

Tony from Fairfax, Va.: How do you answer questions with so much detail and stats so quickly, referencing the JOK question?

Eric Hansen: Thank you. That was something I had thought about before the chat and had written about some, so the research was mostly done.

Michael from West Covina, Calif.: Who’s next to commit for 2021? Any surprises due to the on-the-field success?

Eric Hansen: The consensus seems to be Kia Kahanu, a linebacker from Manti Te'o's old high school in Honolulu (Punahou). I think the on-field success will help ND finish strong in recruiting this cycle. I think it will be a bigger deal with the 2022 class.

Stephen from Toledo, Ohio: Ben Skowronek is lighting it up! Why did he transfer to ND instead of staying at Northwestern??? It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t be getting targeted there or a starter?

Eric Hansen: Northwestern was 124th out of 130 in total offense last season, 130th in team pass efficiency, 126th in passing yards per game, 126th in scoring. They've had an uptick with Indiana transfer Payton Ramsey coming in and playing QB (94th in total offense), but that might explain it.

Jay from Kansas City: Eric, love the chats. Great line last week about "blocking" like Tommy Tremble. A question about BK. Now that he seems to be reaching the peak of his tenure, comparisons with other great Irish coaches take on a different dimension. One big difference as I see it between BK and Lou Holtz was Lou's heartfelt expression that "ND is a special place." BK comes off as a skilled technocrat who doesn't convey the charm or romance of ND. Isn't that a missing dimension in how he represents the university?

Eric Hansen: Jay, that was such a nice lead-in, I hate to disagree with you. Look, BK has the No. 2 team in the country, recruiting is on the uptick, they just beat a No. 1 team for the first time since I was 33 years old (1993). You have to be yourself. And you have to live in today's college football world. I'm not so sure a more pragmatic approach isn't needed in today's recruiting. Let Lou be Lou and Brian be Brian.

Mike from Buffalo: Eric, thanks for the very informative chats. I have two concerns about the North Carolina game. You have addressed the first, which is that NC can score often and quickly. The second is ND's preparedness after a bye week. Remembering what happened at Michigan, what do you think that ND can do differently so as not to repeat the lack of preparedness.

Eric Hansen: Already wrote about it, here: Notre Dame holds steady at No. 2 in both polls, looks to regain bye-week magic

Jordan from Nashville: Hi Eric, where does UNC’s passing attack compare to say that of Clemson’s? Will Clark Lea make a point of forcing UNC to attempt to run the ball?

Eric Hansen: Clemson is sixth in passing offense nationally; UNC is 14th. Clemson is 20th in team pass efficiency; UNC is 10th. Clemson has faced better defenses by and large than UNC. Clark Lea won't have to force the Tar Heels to run. They'll willingly do it and they're really good at it.

Greg from Chicago: Does the ND staff have any extra precautions in place for the week of the NC game with so much free time as school will not be in session?

Eric Hansen: The players are constantly reminded by the coaches and each other. But if they didn't learn from the September outbreak (and so far their response is great), then they never will.

Jonathan: From Dallas today. To chat master — Eric the Informed! I’ve been in love with Clark Lea’s defensive scheme for more than a couple of years now. Especially the pass defense. But the UNC offense looks like as big of a test for that scheme as it’s seen. Do you expect Wu & Company to slow the Tar Heels down? Or are you expecting a high-scoring affair like most UNC games this season?

Eric Hansen: Florida State and BC were the only teams to hold UNC under 30 points. I think ND has a chance to do that with ball control, good defense and winning or drawing even in the turnover battle.

Stan from Ballston Lake, N.Y.: Greetings from Upstate NY! Your insight has been pretty spot on this year. Very commendable during “the year of COVID." Looks like the coaches did a great job getting the boys ready for BC after that Clemson win. I'm not worried about the offense any longer this season, but how “ up” do you think the D will be for the challenge that is the UNC offense? I gotta think they are licking their chops to show how special this group is and that what we’ve seen thus far this year is for real. Your thoughts?? Keep up the great work, sir ... we all enjoy it.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Stan. The defense will be rested and confident. North Carolina also has a bye, so their offense will be, too. I think the ND defense will indeed look forward to the challenge.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Side note: Heard the Podcast today. Very informative. Good job by all!

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Len.

Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: I asked last week, but I know how many submissions you get. But here goes again: What do quarterbacks usually put baseball caps on when they are on the sideline? I think maybe in NFL it has to do with endorsement contracts, but what about college? Seems like it's only QBs who do this. Why no other position players, or hardly any.

Eric Hansen: Tim, sorry. I answered a record number of questions last week and still only got to 40 percent. All of them are interesting, but some pertain more to a general interest than others. If you're talking about the QBs who signal in plays, it's the very practical matter of Ian Book being able to find those guys easily on the sideline to read the signals.

Jim Tal from Valley Center, Calif.: Hi Eric, hope all is well with you and yours and thanks again for all your terrific work keeping us readers so thoroughly informed. Given the way the aerial attack is really starting to click, this may seem to be nitpicking. but I'm disappointed about the lack of opportunities for Tommy Tremble when it comes to the passing game. I realize coverage, circumstances, etc., often dictate where the ball may be going, but Tremble is a legit weapon and he can do real damage with his athleticism once he gets the ball. It is astonishing to me that he has caught one or no passes in five of the last six games. Yes, I know Michael Mayer is special, but so is Tremble and he needs to be much more involved in the offensive scheme. Moreover, Tremble's blocking is beyond outstanding and it has always been a tenet in football that you reward guys who put out like that by making sure they have their moments to shine with the ball in their hands. It's time to make Tremble much more of a priority. Your thoughts, please.

Eric Hansen: Jim, thank you. I think if you can get Tremble in advantageous matchups, I'm all for it and I expect that to happen at some point, moving forward. I would not do it at the expense of getting the ball to Michael Mayer.

Han, the Polish prince from Las Vegas: Hey Eric, I watched the Boston College game again. A bit sloppy but a good win, nonetheless. I would like your opinion on the rules enforcement by the ACC officials. Four unsportsmanlike penalties on ND. Skowronek's was as cheap a call as you can get, a phantom facemask call on Bo Bauer to negate the interception, uncalled taunting penalties on the BC defense and how about when Phil Jurkovec gave Kurt Hinish a healthy two-handed shove long after the whistle and right in front of the official. I may be paranoid, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. How would you describe the zebras' job the last two weeks?

Eric Hansen: I don't pay at lot of attention to officiating — much less than the average person. So it has to be pretty bad or pretty outstanding for me to notice. I've noticed it the past two weeks.

Cederick Walker from Saginaw, Mich.: I really believe David Abiara will not sign with Notre Dame in recruiting, ND will win out and be Rose Bowl bound.

Eric Hansen: Thanks for your predictions.

Joe from Asbury Park, N.J.: Do you have any concerns that the UNC game will be ND's first on grass?

Eric Hansen: Nope.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Hi Eric. Thanks for hosting. First a shoutout to all the players, coaches, trainers, medical personnel, journalists, etc. In a very difficult time, they have given an incredible effort in order to play and cover football. COVID existence can be very lonely for many.  I am not sure if the young people truly understand how important their efforts have been to so many. Those efforts are truly appreciated. Now a few questions. Other than Kevin Austin and Jarrett Patterson, is the team getting healthy?  How badly could an experienced, accurate, strong-armed quarterback torch our cornerbacks? Can they play at a championship level? What is up with TaRiq Bracy? If any of the secondary starters get hurt, do we have championship-level replacements? Can the D-line get more pressure and help out more?

Eric Hansen: Whew, Len, that's pretty close to a 17-part question. So I'll do a lightning round with them: 1. Yes, but still need to check on C'Bo Flemister and Kyren Williams on Monday. 2. Depends on the pass rush. 3. Yep, they're growing, getting better. 4. Inconsistent. 5. There's a dropoff. 6. They must.

Denny from Liberty Hill, Texas: Is there a realistic chance Notre Dame can sign Donavon Edwards?

Eric Hansen: Suddenly, there is, but it's still not the most likely outcome.

Tal from Valley Center, Calif.: Eric, any chance the Irish might honor Paul Hornung by wearing his initials on their jerseys for one of the last three regular-season games? I think it would be a classy move. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Not sure. We haven't had access since he passed. It'll be something for me to ask about next week.

Eric Hansen: OK, we will not go to double-overtime. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back to do this next week, the day before Thanksgiving, at noon EST.

Chat shades