Notre Dame secures its next head men's basketball coach in Penn State's Micah Shrewsberry

Chat Transcript: Talking Notre Dame O-line shuffle, Lea's strategy and a side dish of recruiting

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, North Carolina week edition. Please remember to include your NAME and HOMETOWN with your question. Let's get started.

Irish Rob from Scranton, Pa.: I wonder if Zeke Correll is on a one-week audition? Had Robert Hainsey not gone down, congruent to Jarrett Patterson's injury, could we be looking at Josh Lugg starting at center?  I know that Correll was a highly recruited and a well-thought-of prospect, but his size, or lack thereof, worries me. I just read he's only 288 pounds, which isn't ideal, in my opinion, when you are in the trenches for a major college football program. Is there a chance that if this doesn't go well — and assuming Robert returns next game — that Lugg moves over to center to maintain the beef this line has produced all year, or am I over worrying about Correll's size?

Eric Hansen: I think that's Tommy Kraemer who you're referencing, rather than Robert Hainsey. Kraemer had an emergency appendectomy last Friday night, but he is expected to return to football activities next week. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll be ready to go for Syracuse on Dec. 5, but the point is his return looks sooner than later. So to your question about the center position, which is a long-term situation: Lugg is listed as the backup center this week, and I think there is/will be competition for that spot once Kraemer returns to righ guard. Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn likes to play his best five linemen. Both Lugg (6-7, 310) and Correll (6-3, 288) are good enough that they're both projected starters next year. Correll made incredible strength and size gains over last year (he was 265). He's extremely confident and feels he's ready. I think you are worrying too much about Correll's size. But it's fair to expect Lugg would continue to compete for that spot when Kraemer returns. Correll can make his case to stay put on Friday against North Carolina.

Jacob from Hobart, Ind.: Does having two starting linemen out change ND's game plan vs. North Carolina?

Eric Hansen: Absolutely not. It may change the level of execution, but not the intent of the game plan. Lugg, by the way, filled in nicely at right tackle last November/December.

Ashton from Brookfield, Ohio: 15-year-old Irish fan and frequent reader of you chats. They are really informative and fun to read. Thanks! My question is: What was Brian Kelly thinking kicking that long field goal vs. Clemson?! We were so lucky not to give up a TD to Etienne to end the half! Can you tell him, Don’t do that again?!

Eric Hansen: Ashton, I'm originally from Ohio. Thanks so much for checking in this week. I hope you and your family have a fun and safe holiday. ... To your question, Brian was thinking that 57-yard attempt was on the edge of Jonathan Doerer's range. In the rearview mirror, he admits that was NOT a good decision and wouldn't consider it going forward. Good thing he decided that on his own. I'm not sure he'd listen to me.

Bill from Naperville, Ill.: Hi Eric. Hope this finds you well. Long-time reader, first-time poster. Will ND keep its players in South Bend through the bowl season, even though that will span Christmas and, hopefully, New Year's as well? With luck that could stretch all the way to Jan. 11 if we make it to the championship game. With the risks of travel, etc., I would think they have no choice. But that's a long time to sit around campus with not much to do but practice. All the best for a Happy Thanksgiving to you and family.

Eric Hansen: Hi Bill. Thanks for posting. I believe that is the plan. And now that the players are out of school, the coaches/administration will have the challenge of structuring the players' days for a long time. With the COVID protocols in place, that makes it even more of a challenge. You can't just take them to a movie or out to dinner or to an arcade. But that's the sacrifice they all signed up for. I guess the good news is there's a very short lull between what likely will be the last regular-season game (Dec. 19) and a potential playoff game on Jan. 1 or an Orange Bowl berth on Jan. 2. It'll feel like a normal bye week.

Kim from Wichita, Kan.: Eric. Luv all that you do. You’re the best! My feeling is Josh Lugg and Zeke Correll will do great. How do you feel about them?

Eric Hansen: Thank you so much, Kim. Both players would be starters on a lot of other teams. Both have great pedigree. Both have worked hard for their chances. My only misgiving, maybe, is that they're next to each other. The communication/chemistry will be tested. Having said that, I expect them to play at a high level.

Dave from Alpha, N.J.: Hi Eric. Thanks for always having these chats. Just wondering if you think ND will add a new wrinkle to the offense, possibly allowing Avery Davis to run a little wildcat?

Eric Hansen: Hi Dave, thanks for being on the chats. The thing I ask myself when I throw out an idea like that is what can I gain from a move like that and what do I lose? Ian Book himself is an excellent runner (4.9 per carry), reads defenses better than Avery, can get you out of a bad play at the line of scrimmage and into a good one. So I lose all that as well as the team's third-leading receiver and fastest receiver when Lenzy isn't on the field. What do I gain? The element of surprise and a player who might break a long run. So I might consider it for a specific play, but I wouldn't want to do that for an entire series or more.

Joe H from Williams Bay, Wis.: Hi Eric. Thanks again for the weekly chats. I really enjoy your insights. I’m wondering that with the explosive offense we will be facing on Friday, do you think that Clark Lea will feature more nickel and dime looks or do you think he’ll stay traditional and employ more blitzes to pressure Sam Howell? Also, if we do go more nickel and dime, who do you think will get those snaps for us? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Joe. I think it makes sense to stay with your standard personnel packages on first down and second-and-short/medium. That's the beauty of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, because he can be a nickel and cover the slot or he can be an extra pass rusher or he can stuff the run. ND's third-down package usually means taking Drew White and Shayne Simon off the field and subbing in Bo Bauer and DJ Brown. Up front, there are three defensive ends and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. Daelin Hayes usually kicks inside.

Mike from Rochester, N.Y.: Happy Thanksgiving, Eric! Do you think the Irish will try to use multiple tight end sets to run the ball a lot and keep North Carolina’s offense off the field? I know the two injuries on the O-line make this a bit more of a challenge, but next two guys in are no slouches and those tight ends are great blockers. It would just seem you’d want to keep the ball away from Sam Howell and Co. as well as keep our defense fresh, since it’s supposed to be 68 degrees there on Friday.

Eric Hansen: If Notre Dame can play with the lead, I would expect to see the Irish try to play ball control and shorten the game and limit possessions. The multiple tight end looks help that along. That's how this team is constructed. That's its calling card. Notre Dame has won time of possession in every game this year except Florida State. The average number of plays for their opponents is 62.8 per game. That's seven below the national average and that's with a double-OT game (77 plays) averaged in.

David K from Elkhart: Does ND have the option to forgo the Wake Forest game?

Eric Hansen: Not unless there are COVID-19 issues.

Jim from Morganton, N.C.: Eric, love this chat and the info you provide. I’m curious about the ACC Championship Game and whether you know what happens if, let’s say, Clemson ends up playing one less game than Miami and ends up 9-1, and Miami finishes 10-1. Technically, Miami then has a better win percentage, which is the factor that decides who plays. But guessing the ACC would consider Miami and Clemson tied with Clemson getting the tiebreaker. Thoughts? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Jim, thanks. The ACC thought it through when formulating its tiebreakers for this season. If the teams that don't play the same number of games are tied in the loss column, then you default to head to head. And that gives a 9-1 Clemson team the edge over 10-1 Miami in that scenario since the Tigers clobbered Miami, 52-17.

Mike McFadden from Williamsport, Pa.: Hi Eric, I am a member of the Greater Williamsport (PA) Notre Dame Club, 23 years. I have several duties with them and speak often to our group during our monthly meetings. Can you please verify two recruiting questions for me, as I have made these statements which I believe to be true. One: Wasn't Charlie Weis the first coach in all college football to offer a scholarship to a long snapper? I recall many ND fans disagreeing with him saying "Oh, look what Charlie did now?" Now it is routine these days to do that. Two, wasn't ND the very first team in all college football to offer a tall, rangy, lanky body-type wide receiver, that being Jeff Samardzija, rather then a short, fast quick-body type? Again, tall wide receivers are typical now. What coach recruited Jeff?  Thanks. And Go Irish!!!

Eric Hansen: Mike. I don't think Charlie was the first in college football history to offer a scholarship to a long snapper, but it certainly was very uncommon when he did. Now it's standard procedure. And the Jeff Samardzija question is not close to being accurate. Notre Dame itself had tall receivers before Jeff and certainly in college football Randy Moss was well ahead of Jeff's arrival. Tyrone Willingham was the ND head coach who signed Jeff, but it was Charlie Weis who got the most out of him.

Jack from Strongsville, Ohio: Eric. No question today. Thanks for all the great work you do throughout the year on the football beat. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your family. Are you coming to Ohio for your mom's stuffing and turkey this year?

Eric Hansen: Jack, thank you for being part of the chats. I was going to come to Ohio, but we decided to move Thanksgiving to spring just to be on he safe side. I have a family member with a compromised immune system due to recovering from leukemia, so we decided we're all going to honor him by moving Thanksgiving to a time when he can enjoy it with us.

Pat from Springfield, Ill.: Compared to other QBs ND has faced this season, how elusive is Sam Howell? Can the defense rack up sufficient sacks to disrupt the passing game? Keep up the good work.

Eric Hansen: Pat, thanks, he's terrific at extending plays, but not much of a rushing threat. He's very good with the deep throws and all throws really. He's ninth nationally in pass efficiency, which is one spot ahead of Trevor Lawrence. Pro Football Focus recently ranked all 127 starting QBs in the FBS. They had Howell seventh and Ian Book 29th.

Pete from Erie, Pa.: So Braden Lenzy is practicing, but I don't see him on the two-deep. Think he'll play? He could help relieve some of the burden on the now-injury-decimated O-line.

Eric Hansen: Hi Pete. You must have been doing your Black Friday shopping early. I covered that early in the week ...

Lenzy lurking

Left off the official Notre Dame depth chart inadvertently, junior wide receiver Braden Lenzy continues to progress from a chronic hamstring injury that’s limited him to six catches for 63 yards and a TD this season and none in the past five games.

ND’s fastest wide receiver hasn’t played in the last three games and didn’t play in the Sept. 12 season opener with Duke, either.

“He’s going to move from what we considered modified work … to 11-on-11 work this week, which is 1-on-1 against our defense,” ND coach Brian Kelly said. “That is really the next step toward 100% being cleared to go.

“We’ll see how he works through that. He’ll do that (Monday). If he gets the green light, I’ll pencil him in, and I’ll get you guys a new two-deep (chart).”

Lawrence from San Diego: How did Bo Bauer go from his weakness in coverage keeping him off the field to being a star on third down as our lone true linebacker? Maybe a future article... :)

Eric Hansen: Hey Lawrence, Carter Karels did a story earlier this season on Bo. Here's a snippet that speaks to your question:

Early last season, Bauer started working with Amber Selking, a mental performance consultant for Notre Dame’s football program. He began focusing on mental preparation like visualizing a tackle or rehearsing plays in his mind.

“Bo’s evolution has been much more about his ability to control and handle his emotional space, said Irish head coach Brian Kelly. “In other words, getting into his emotional zone where he can play the game and play it at the level necessary for him to be the best football player.

“That’s not just from a physical standpoint; that’s from a technical and tactical standpoint. He was a bit out of control in a sense he may miss a fit here or not be lined up in the right position. And he’s really done an incredible job of finding that emotional zone that allows him to be locked in and be assignment-correct.”

Eamonn from Portland, Ore.: Eric, thanks for continuing the chats! I look forward to them every week! With all the offensive line talk and our depth about to be tested, I'm wondering, can you give us insight into the development of Tosh Baker, Mike Carmody, and Hunter Spears? I think our two-deep is very solid, so I'm curious how our three-deep guys are coming along. Thanks!

Eric Hansen: Eamonn, it's a really good question and one that deserves a really good answer. I've heard rumblings that all three have impressed, particularly the tackles. Because of limited access and limited questions due to COVID, it's not something I've been able to prioritize and ask yet this season. I hope to get you a better answer at some point next month.

Jeff from Cincinnati: Eric, I was surprised at the flurry of new 2021 commits over the last week, notwithstanding the expanded roster allowance next year. Two questions. 1) Do you think we are settling too much at this point for three-ish-star talent, and 2) How many more slots do you think we have in the 2021 class?  Thanks for taking my questions.

Eric Hansen: I checked with our recruiting guy, Carter. He said 2-3 slots and that's assuming DE David Abiara is not in the class (he decommitted during the chat). Defensive end, defensive back and running back are the position priorities. I wouldn't get caught up in the star ratings of players who haven't been properly evaluated by recruiting services due to COVID-19. I would trust the coaches on this one and their evaluations and connections.

Greg from Austin: Hi Eric, and thanks for al the great work. It appears the Wisconsin-Minnesota game has been scratched and the Badgers are no longer eligible for the conference championship game (unless something changes). Do you see this as potentially big impact in the event a one-loss ND team is making an argument to get in the playoff or does it not mean much in the grand scheme?

Eric Hansen: Greg, thank you. Wisconsin was 16th in the CFP standings Tuesday night. They have two games left, for a ceiling of 4-1. They're not even remotely in the conversation. ... I did an analysis piece last night on ND's one-loss scenarios among other things. You can read it here: Analysis: Notre Dame's CFP hypotheticals are promising, but its reality is even more so

Jean Marie Massie from Lexington, Ky.: Do you think Brian Kelly will be able to keep his current staff next year? I would hate to see major changes, since the Irish are doing so well.

Eric Hansen: Whenever you win big, people want to talk to your coaches. That's reality. That doesn't mean they'll listen.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Happy Thanksgiving Eric! Two areas: For the North Carolina game, how do you expect the line continuity to be? Who is the next man in on the O-line? On D who will lead ND in QB pressures this week?

Eric Hansen: Happy Thanksgiving, Len. I don't expect the continuity to be at the level it would be if Patterson and Kraemer were playing, but I still expect it to be pretty good. Next man in depends on who comes out. Andrew Kristofic at tackle, Dillan Gibbons inside. ... QB pressures?. My bet is on Isaiah Foskey.

Jim from Oregonia, Ohio: Hey Eric, as always thanks for the weekly chats. I hope you and yours have a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. How has the bye week been for our RBs? Was getting pretty concerned when C'Bo and Kyren went down the last game. Hopefully, they are mended and ready to roll.  I think Zeke and Lugg will fill in admirably. I am from the Cincinnati area, and Zeke Correll was a beast in high school. I will be anxious to see how the O-line performs. One more question: pecan or pumpkin pie???  :-)

Eric Hansen: Happy Thanksgiving, Jim. Brian Kelly told me Monday he expected no lingering ankle issues with either Kyren Williams or C'Bo Flemister. ... Pecan pie hands down for me. Yum.

Pete from Erie, Pa.: Thanks Eric! I did see that about Lenzy. I guess we won't know more until game time?

Eric Hansen: We don't have our typical Thursday chat with Brian Kelly this week for obvious reasons. He will be eating squash at that time, I assume. Even if Lenzy plays this week, I wouldn't expect to see if in large doses. They'll ease him in slowly, which makes sense.

Steve from St. Louis: No question today, just wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for the great work.

Eric Hansen: Thank you so much, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Kevin from South Bend: Did wide receiver Jordan Johnson make the travel roster? And since Jafar Armstrong is listed as the backup, do you think Johnson's five-star rating was warranted?

Eric Hansen: Jordan Johnson is super talented, and given the travel roster can be up to 80 players this year in the ACC, I'd expect him to be on it. He traveled to and played against BC, just didn't catch any passes. And to confirm, yes I think his five-star rating was warranted.

Mike from Keller, Texas: Hi Eric. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for the great coverage. Does Brian Kelly intend to get back to four scholarship QBs near term? If so, what path do you think ND will take to get there?

Eric Hansen: Happy Thanksgiving, Mike. With the transfer rule soon to change universally and such a bounty of QBs usually available via grad transfers, I think three scholarship QBs work fine these days.

Chris from Albuquerque: What are our real chances to close out recruiting with Gilliam and Edwards. Also who is the new potential wide receiver recruit they might take? Happy Thanksgiving!

Eric Hansen: I think running back Donovan Edwards is more realistic than defensive end Kelvin Gilliam, and that could change by the hour. Wide receiver recruit? You might be thinking of JoJo Johnson, who recently committed and played a lot of wide receiver but is projected as a cornerback for the Irish.

Tim in Atlanta: Do you expect to see Jafar Armstrong in the rotation at receiver? His skills and speed would seem to complement the others. Or is there too much overload already?

Eric Hansen: The ND coaches are making the investment with practice reps to see what he can bring to that position. I wouldn't expect a burst of opportunity, but he might rotate in a provide a big play here or there.

Frank from Cincy: Giving thanks to this forum, for your generous time thoughtful insights and all around good-guyness. A couple of weeks ago Carter Karels wrote a great article (props to Carter) about how Clemson built their program before their recent recruiting renaissance. Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals, was quoted widely in the article and ended up arguing (and I know this is not a new line of thinking) that the next step is for ND is to "take the handcuffs off Brian Kelly academically" (what's his major?) as they did for Lou Holtz. I know this would be a lot to unfold but how (and why) was this done for Lou and your general thought on the subject? Like their independence, this is one of strongest reasons for me being so passionate about the Fighting Irish. If they can win with these restraints, it is the ultimate victory for all that is goodness and light (throw in Truth, Justice, and The American Way for good measure!). If it comes to relaxing the standards to get a national championship ...

Eric Hansen: Frank, thanks for all the compliments. You're right. This is difficult to address in this kind of forum. A few short thoughts: If you widen the admissions window, how do you propose to keep the borderline academic guys that show no ambition in the classroom eligible for three or four years? ... I did a story that unfortunately ran print only early in the Kelly Era that addressed the myths and realities of admissions, including comparisons from various coaching regimes. I can email it to you. I think much of the info is still relevant. ... Brian Kelly has found a way to embrace the academic fit and use it as a selling point.

Kevin from Rhode Island: Eric, Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for all the great Irish football coverage. Do you think Kyren Williams not playing in the second half of the BC game was injury-related or was he sidelined because he put the ball on the ground again? I love almost everything Kyren is doing at the running back position and he is showing to be one heck of a complete running back, but I believe he has put the ball on the ground four times so far this year. He hasn't lost all of those and my number could be off, but I feel it has become enough of an issue for the coaching staff to take notice and hold him accountable for it. I'm not denying that he may have been a bit banged up vs. BC, but he looked like he could have played in the second half and I have a suspicion that the coaching staff was sending him a message about his fumbling issues. Am I way off here?

Eric Hansen: Kevin. Happy Thanksgiving. Kelly said it was precautionary, so Kyren conceivably would have been put back in if the score had tightened up. I don't think he was trying to send a message he wasn't willing to share with the rest of us.

Don from Phoenix: Haven't had a chance to join the chats live; thankfully work is busy. Hope all is well with you and yours. Coverage is great in this challenging season. As ND is in the final quarter with three games left, other than the obvious — Book, Wu, Hamilton, Williams — who are the guys on offense, defense and special teams that will get them to the championship and playoffs and over the top with wins? Thanks and keep up the great work. The entire staff has stepped it up this year. Nice work.

Eric Hansen: Don, thanks so much. To win a national title, ND would have to beat three top five teams in succession to get there. That would require everyone stepping up. I would highlight the offensive and defensive lines as key contributors if that happens.

Denis from Niagara Falls, Ontario: Hey Eric, Happy Thanksgiving!!! In Canada, as you probably know, our Thanksgiving is in early October. I like yours in November to kick off the Christmas season. Anyway, ND's recipe for success against North Carolina: ND mashes their line to run for 250 yards; Book carves up the secondary for 350 yards; ND's defence (Canadian spelling) stuffs the run; and the North Carolina QB gets squashed four times.  If all that occurs, ND gets it just desserts. Do you agree? Enjoy your holiday.

Eric Hansen: I like the puns and poetry of that. Happy Thanksgiving (Canadian and otherwise).

Virginia Beach from Virginia Beach: What has happened to some of our most highly rated O-line recruits?  Quinn Carroll and Tosh Baker are never mentioned as progressing or even mentioned as having great future potential. Also, early in the year there was a story that (tight end) Kevin Bauman was looking really good, and since then, no mention of any sort. Are these guys all likely to not get any meaningful playing time in the future?

Eric Hansen: When you have a top five team, some of your young prospects are progressing in relative anonymity. That doesn't mean they're not progressing. How do you think Alabama and Clemson reload every year with so many graduating and early draft-entry losses? They have prospects stacked on top of prospects. Quinn Carroll, Tosh Baker and Kevin Bauman all have bright futures. They just don't have relevant presents at the moment.

Ty from Godfrey, Ill.: Long-time reader and first time to offer a query on chat. Love reading your work Eric! On three or four occasions the Irish decided to not score when inside the five-yard line at the conclusion of the game. In all instances ND was up by at least two scores. Two thoughts come to mind: Were they protecting potential plays that might be used against more formidable opponents in the future? Or were did they choose to be satisfied with the outcome rather than running up the score to impress pollsters?

Eric Hansen: Ty ,thank you for reading and thanks for piping up this week with a question. No, they were not protecting plays. Yes, they were not trying to run up the score. The committee watches games. They know a cheap score when they see it. That doesn't impress them.

GB from Wasilla, Alaska: Eric, are you doing any of the cooking at the Hansen household tomorrow? Happy Thanksgiving!

Eric Hansen: GB, Happy Thanksgiving. Since I will be staying in South Bend for the holiday, I have no choice but to do the cooking. I will say a prayer beforehand.

Peter from Provo, Utah: Hi Eric. I'm curious about TV revenue and how it pertains to ND this season with their one-year agreement to join the ACC. I think I read where the NBC TV money will be divided up among the ACC teams evenly along with the rest of the TV revenue from the other broadcast of ACC games. Is this true? What if some of the teams play one or two less games? Do they still get the same amount as teams that play more games? If ND makes it to the playoffs, will they need to split that money, too? Thanks!

Eric Hansen: Peter. I'm not sure about playoff money. I will ask athletic director Jack Swarbrick when we talk in the next couple of weeks. The TV money is split evenly no matter how much you bring in and no matter how many games you play. It was a good concession for Notre Dame to make to get to play an ACC schedule, don't you think?

Matt from St. Louis: Hi Eric. Thank you for doing these. I always appreciate your insights. My feet are bare, but I am submitting my questions early. I will endeavor to have them covered when I read your response. Three questions. 1) You gave the breakdown of Notre Dame winning after a bye week under Kelly, but how does that translate to how we were expected to do — versus the spread? 2) All stats this year come with a “number of games played” qualifier, so how do we compare to top teams in other years for the five key metrics you always track? 3) How does ND find and develop under-recruited or poorly evaluated prospects that other schools all seem to miss? Thank you!

Eric Hansen: Matt, I love it and you are forgiven for the bare feet. I don't have time to do the research vs. the spread in this forum, perhaps down the road. But you can at least see when there are ranked teams involved. And there's a large enough sample size to believe the point spread thing would mimic non-bye week games. 2) I run a chart once a week of how the top 10 teams compare with each other. I also include ND's 2012 and 2018 teams, which so far 2020 beats both hands down. I do not run regularly, but have available, the metrics for every title team and runner-up in the BCS/Playoff Era if you'd like to see them. 3) Tracking the under-evaluated prospects is something Kelly values from his days at Cincinnati and Central Michigan, when he had to making a living on such players. Bill Rees, ND's director of scouting, is an important piece to that puzzle as well. Excellent evaluator. He doesn't care about star ratings.

Lee from Lancaster, S.C.: With the improved play of receivers Ben Skowronek, Javon McKinley and Avery Davis, do you expect Braden Lenzy to play significant minutes against North Carolina?

Eric Hansen: Not necessarily against UNC, but soon.

Smitty from Parts Unknown: Love your work. Consummate pro. In light of Dabo Swinney flipping out on FSU for the cancelation of their game this week, I'm still trying to medically (or even ethically) understand Trevor Lawrence, with COVID, travelling with his team from South Carolina (plane/hotel?), on the sidelines at ND Stadium, participating in sideline huddles, albeit with a mask on Nov. 7.

Eric Hansen: He was out of isolation and had tested negative. The only reason he didn't play was no practice time and he was working his way through the cardio testing that comes with having had COVID.

Dan from Granger: Eric, what is your favorite Thanksgiving meal side dish (other than stuffing which is too obvious)?

Eric Hansen: Sweet potatoes. ... but there's one sentimental/unconventional one that I love, because I had the best grandpa in the world.

Dwight from Arkansas: The upcoming Notre Dame-vs.-North Carolina game looks like it could be an "arena football" type match in terms of scoring. Two prolific offenses that could make the final score 49-45 or such. I know little about North Carolina — have not watched them. Are they a quick-strike team or 12-play-drive type? How will ND respond? Grind it out if possible and play keep-away with the ball to use the clock? In checking the weather forecast, sunny skies and upper 60s on Friday in Chapel Hill, so that is not an issue.

Eric Hansen: North Carolina is a big-play team that gets those from both its running game and passing game. They run the ball and pass the ball so well, it's difficult to decide what you want to take away.

Joe from Stamford, CT: Long time reader. My grandfather played tennis and hockey at ND in the era of Rockne and the Four Horsemen. The first weekend after moving here from Taiwan, my grandfather sat me down and had me watch an ND game. Been watching ever since. Thanks for being a normal dude in a world of crazy and providing excellent, balanced coverage. Regarding recruiting, the class is currently at 24 (more likely 23 with David Abiara’s situation and rumors). How many more can/do they take and at what positions? Will the Clemson bump happen? Not frustrated, more eagerly anticipating with impatience. Lastly, what’s your favorite Thanksgiving leftover meal? My dad used to make creamed turkey with mushrooms over rice/leftover stuffing, but I’m a sucker for a good sandwich with all the fixings. Thanks again and Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!!!!

Eric Hansen: Joe, thanks for sharing. I answered the recruiting part, minus the Clemson bump. I think five commitments in an eight-day span should account from something, but more realistically, the Clemson bump — especially if it becomes a playoff bump — will have stronger play in the 2022 class. ... My favorite Thanksgiving leftover meal is the same exact thing I had Thursday night, just microwaved. I don't change a thing.

Benjamin from Fayetteville, N.C.: Hey Eric, thanks for taking my question last week regarding how the players being allowed to profit off of their image will impact Notre Dame. Since Ian Book accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, does that mean that he has decided to not come back next season? Or can a senior with eligibility remaining play in the Senior Bowl and still come back to school? Thank you for what you do with these live chats. I have been a reader a long time, just never had the confidence to ask my own question until last week. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Eric Hansen: Benjamin, it's tricky because of the COVID rule of universal eligibility in 2021. But since everyone who's going to be in the draft needs to notify the NFL by mid-January and the Senior Bowl is at the end of January, Book could not play in the Senior Bowl and then play for the Irish in 2021. Thanks for asking your questions, and Happy Thanksgiving.

John from Walled Lake, Mich.: Hi Eric. Happy Thanksgiving. North Carolina has a very balanced offense that is the best in the country. Sam Howell is going to light it up through the air against Notre Dame's weak secondary and if Notre Dame safeties help the cornerbacks, North Carolina will gain a lot of yards rushing the ball with their two great running backs. There is no way Notre Dame will stop this offense. How do you think Notre Dame defense will do against this very prolific offense? I have no hope that Notre Dame defense will be able to stop North Carolina's offense. Could you please give me your opinion? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: I've been rolling that around in my mind all week. What would I do? What would I try to take away and be willing to give up? Keep in mind ND is No. 9 in total defense. UNC hasn't faced a top 50 defense in 11 games dating back to last year and only faced a top 40 defense three times in 21 games under Mack Brown. I would tilt my defense toward stopping the run on first and second downs, and play lots of dime on third down. I'd mix it up some, though, so Sam Howell isn't throwing deep balls on first down all game. ... also you can help control UNC's offense by sitting on the ball yourself.

Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric, just got back from getting a haircut, and my barber — who always likes to pull my chain — thinks ND would have lost to Clemson had Trevor Lawrence been playing. I told him ND would have won even if Trevor was playing. Do you agree?

Eric Hansen: I wouldn't argue with anyone who has scissors in their hand.

Caleb from Charlotte, N.C.: Does the fact that Ian Book has agreed to play in the Senior Bowl mean that he will not be returning to ND for another year?

Eric Hansen: I would assume that, yes, and I assumed it before he accepted the Senior Bowl invite.

John from Glenview, Ill.: I know this is way too premature, but if we make the playoff, how do you believe we match up with Alabama and Ohio State, assuming they, along with Clemson, get in? I haven’t really seen either of them play, but I’m confident our players feel they belong in that top tier and they may just be right. What are your thoughts? I know there’s lots of work still to be done but can’t blame us for starting to think about these possibilities. Thank you.

Eric Hansen: I think Alabama is better than Notre Dame at this time and Notre Dame is better than Ohio State right now.

Alex from Jackson, Mo.: Happy Thanksgiving, Eric. No question this week. I truly appreciate you being kind and allowing your readers some of your time on these chats. I am sure I don’t just speak for myself on this. My son and I look forward to these chats every week. Thanking you for setting an example to him in your kindness. You set the bar! God bless!

Eric Hansen: Wow, thanks for such a nice non-question. I'm a little overwhelmed. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Jimmy in Chicago: What is/are the differences in techniques being taught by Mike Mickens versus Todd Lyght?

Eric Hansen: Both are very good teachers. More press coverage, more aggressive approach with Mickens, ND's current cornerbacks coach.

Stephen from Toledo, Ohio: I can’t help the feeling that ND's success this year is in large part due to our strength-and-conditioning program. I know a lot of big-time programs struggled this year with teams that had less talent, and I finally feel we stopped playing down to our competition. Do you believe that this year in particular Matt Balis played a bigger role in just making sure we could still play physical with such a shortened camp season to prepare?

Eric Hansen: I think Matt Balis, trainer Rob Hunt and team physician Matt Leiszler have all played huge roles.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric. Happy Thanksgiving!! Hope the family is well. Two questions: 1) Will ND's D-line be able to consistently dominate the UNC O-line to control the running game and put pressure on Sam Howell when he is passing? Does Howell scramble well or is he more of a pocket passer? 2) Seems that ball control and clock management will be important to winning on Friday. With that in mind, do you expect to see more of a short-passing game involving the tight ends and running back instead of going downfield? Thanks. Go Irish!!!

Eric Hansen: Happy Thanksgiving, Tom. On the few occasions UNC saw really good front sevens last year, the points came way down. I don't expect a game in the low 20s, but I am predicting a 33-28 ND victory. Howell is more of a play extender than a scrambler. 2) I think your vision of what ball control may look like Friday is a good one. Keep your eye on special teams. UNC has really struggled in that area all season.

Eric Hansen: That's going to have to do it for today. I've got to go record our Pod of Gold podcast with Tyler James and our special guest Dennis Dodd. Thanks for all the great questions. Happy Thanksgiving. We'll be back to do it all over again next Wednesday at noon EST.

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