Chat Transcript: Talking Notre Dame spring predictions, twisted promotions, dreaded 'traits'

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Frozen Tundra Edition. Please remember to include your name and hometown with your question. Off we go.

Matt from LA: I love the chat, so thank you for keeping it going! My question is about the D-line. There have been a lot of rumors about MTA moving to the big end spot. Can you explain what makes him better suited to make the move from defensive tackle than a player with more length, like Rylie Mills?

Eric Hansen: Matt, there's a difference between rumors and reports, and it's best to deal in the latter. Right now a move of Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is only a possibility, not a given. Why might it be a possibility? Because Notre Dame is loaded on the interior defensive line and doesn't have a lot of numbers or proven performers at the big end position. What you'd have to weigh making that move with MTA is can he actually play that position and is he better than Justin Ademilola, who's No. 1 there right now? Without seeing an audition, my sense is that Rylie Mills getting a look there makes a lot more sense. I think his future is inside and he's got star potential there, but I think he has the skill set to be pretty good at the big end position too. If ND doesn't pull in a grad transfer after spring or if someone like Nana Osafo-Mensah doesn't surge in the spring, then these kind of position experiments make more sense.

Gabriel Weiss from North Liberty: Hello Mr. Hansen. I hope you are staying warm and safe. When talk to people involved with the program (players, coaches, etc.) what are their general perceptions and feelings toward coach Brian Kelly. I would be interested to hear what former players feel about him.

Eric Hansen: I am doing both, thanks. ... I think, by and large, he gets a lot of support from former players who did and those who did not play for him. I know Brady Quinn and Aaron Taylor, for instance, are very high on BK. You're asking me to paint this with a pretty broad brush, but those who have played for him generally have good things to say.

Chris from Pensacola, Fla.: Thanks for the chat, Eric. What are the impacts (to how the staff operates and to Mike Elston, now or for his future) of Elston no longer having the title of associate head coach? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Chris, thank you. This question is in the queue a few times, asked a few different ways. So I'll try to address this more broadly as well as specific to your question. A lot of times when you see title changes to assistant coaches, it's more about providing an avenue to give them a raise more than anything else. Often, they already have been at least dabbling in their new responsibilities. The "promotions" of Brian Polian and Mike Elston were motivated by rewarding them both, and yet the title changes seem confusing. This certainly is an area that when we have a chance next to ask Brian Kelly questions — and that hasn't happened in 2021 since Jan. 1 — that subject will be broached. I would hope that opportunity would bring some clarity. Elston has been the recruiting coordinator before. And both he and Polian have done a very good job with it. I would imagine both will still be heavily involved.

Jeremy From Goshen: Hi Eric. Thank you for all the work you do. You give the most fair, non-biased assessment out there. That's why I trust you. Now to my question. In 2017, BK made a big deal about "traits." Present-day, that feels a little bit more like it's used as a vague excuse as to why a player is missing playing time. would you say that's accurate? This leads me to another question, as far as putting the best players on the field at the skill positions. Is it truly traits that keep our talented freshmen receivers off the field? Does the problem lie more with DelVaughn Alexander or Kelly? Were wide receivers held back this much under Mike Denbrock? Sometimes it feels like the most talented players can't crack the rotation and I am puzzled why.

Eric Hansen: Jeremy, thanks for the love/hype. You're spot on with how "traits" is used to explain a player stalled on the depth chart. It usually has something to do with an off-the-field issue, big or small. ... I think your question about the young receivers is a very good one (and a popular one among fans), but before I answer, I have to say throw 2020 out. I was re-listening this morning to a podcast we did last fall with Corey Robinson. Wide receiver/QB chemistry is SO important, and Corey did a great job of explaining why. Between losing 14 spring practices, limited opportunities in the early summer to just thrown on their own, starts and stops because of COVID-19 and the weird compressed fall camp, it took away some of those opportunities for the younger receivers.

Let's assume spring and summer in 2021 are much more normal in terms of those kinds of opportunities (and that's still a big assumption), the challenge this spring and summer is a QB competition and lots of WRs that you want to look at. So chemistry will come later than sooner. But that's OK. I've said this before, this is a big year for Del Alexander in terms of player development. What should that look like? The best players being on the field, whether they're seniors or young guys or a combination of both.

Jason from Amber, Pa.: Has Notre Dame announced its plan for spring practice? If yes, what is the plan?

Eric Hansen: No firm dates yet. The spring practice window will be more condensed than in past years, with the majority of practices in April, and a late March start a possibility. I've put in a request to talk to AD Jack Swarbrick and hope to do that perhaps next week. Some of the ground I hope to cover will relate to the spring schedule.

Ed Szewczyk from Belleville, Ill.: Brian Kelly’s “traits” comments have become increasingly infuriating to me. Recently, in talking about Jordan Johnson, Kelly said, “He had a really good week last week with his traits.” What is he talking about? What are these “traits” that keep a fast, five-star freshman receiver off the field on a team claiming to lack playmakers? Does Kelly use “traits” as a euphemism for things like “grades” or “class attendance?” What gives with these “traits?” 

Eric Hansen: Yes, Ed, I mentioned it a bit in an earlier question. It's annoying, but it keeps BK from appearing to throw the kid under the bus. Sometimes there are on-field things that also play into that formula. Whiffing on a critical block. Committing a penalty that shows lack of discipline/maturity. Tyler James recently did a really insightful premium story on Jordan Johnson's journey and how his freshman frustrations may make him a much better player, like Kyren Williams's did: Quiet freshman season shouldn't derail bright future for Notre Dame WR Jordan Johnson

Lee from Lancaster: Hi Eric. Do you think the starting quarterback position will be determined by the end of spring practice or do you expect the competition to extend to fall camp?

Eric Hansen: Lee, as I wrote the other day, spring practice is more about vetting questions than answering them. Having said that, if there's a clear No. 1 and No. 2 at the end of spring, that would be greatly beneficial in terms of having the whole summer to build chemistry. If ND has a normal spring, I would think it's a reasonable expectation to determine the top two quarterbacks.

Joe from Reno: By the USC game, what do you think the crowd limit will be? I know you don’t work for the CDC (not that they know either). Just miss campus. ... How good is Jack Coan?

Eric Hansen: Joe, there are so many variables — really encouraging possibilities and some icky ones. Right now the deaths, hospitalizations, positivity rate (4.7%) in our state are all plummeting. They state is pretty organized in terms of getting vaccines into arms. We just found out today that there will be 22% more doses delivered to Indiana next week than this week. There's also some very good preliminary news about the (low) transmissibility of vaccinated patients. But all states aren't the same, and that factors into the answer. March and April are going to tell us a lot about the potential for the rest of the year with regard to fans in the stadium this fall. ... As far as how good is Jack Coan? I'd like to see him practice a few times before I log my opinion. I saw him play a couple of times at Wisconsin. Liked his poise.

Erik (Granger, IN): Thanks for being here! And for the excellent article assessing the state of recruiting last week. I appreciated the peak behind the curtain and the calculus you did. I still think BK should be able to find 10 minutes in his 14-hour days to copy and paste a few quick “great game last night” texts to the top targets. Maybe he does, but my question is more pragmatic: Is it legal for ND to hire an intern to text recruits from Kelly’s phone, or would that be a recruiting violation? Do other schools do stuff like that?

Eric Hansen: Erik, first off, thanks. To your question, and I got a similar question in an email last night ... I don't think it's illegal to do that, but I think it's bad business for Notre Dame. It's one thing for someone to tweet for BK on occasion generic things like "We are ND" when a recruit commits, theoretically. But the point of involving him more in recruiting is building relationships with key recruits at key junctures. And those exchanges need to be authentic, in my opinion.

Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, hope you are keeping all valued body parts covered! So, regarding Marcus Freeman, I read the article of early February, but his comments hit me as rather generic/word salad. I admit we are very early in what should be a very successful tenure at ND. My question, are there any early trends in defense position or skill sets from the offers/recruits he has targeted in just his first ~ month? Shout out to Ben Morrison for getting an ND offer as he is from my high school alma mater (Brophy Prep, Phoenix). Thanks!

Eric Hansen: Jeff thanks for the warm regards. We did get down below zero last night, but we have a working energy grid. My heart goes out to those in Texas. I wish I could help somehow. ... To your question, you're right — it's very early. My sense is that we'll get more specifics from Marcus right as spring football kicks off. Still, I found the general comments helpful. As far as taking cues from recruiting, he certainly is aiming high at more plug-and-play type prospects. And he's getting his foot in the door. But when it comes to actual skill sets — other than theirs being more advanced — they seem similar to the physical traits that Clark Lea valued.

The biggest difference in going from Brian VanGorder to Mike Elko —beyond the fact Elko actually recruited — is how they perceived safeties in their respective schemes. HUGE difference. Keep an eye on the safety recruits. I think the differences may be more subtle, going from Lea to Freeman, but they may accentuate and value different attributes.

Irish Mike from Altoona, Pa.: Why so many transfers? Is it purely playing time? There are quite a few four-stars leaving!

Eric Hansen: Mike, a lot of it is math. Notre Dame has to get to 87 scholarships this year (the normal 85, plus COVID allowances Kurt Hinish and Jonathan Doerer). They had 14 players leave for the NFL Draft and signed 27 and added a grad transfer QB. So there was bound to be attrition, and the staff had vetted that before the CFP semifinal. Yes, some of them were four-stars. Yes, a lot of it has to do with playing time. And yes, a certain amount of roster churn is a good thing.

Tim in Atlanta: With so many inexperienced players at multiple positions how does the staff determine who are first-team starters? Does the margin have to be clear and definitive? Will we ever see more game experience for second-team development under Brian Kelly? That has seemed to me to be lacking emphasis in the program.

Eric Hansen: Tim, that's what spring practice (and fall camp) are for. You have players compete. You watch them. You make a depth chart. Sometimes the difference between 1 and 2 at a certain position is a gulf. Sometimes it's splitting hairs. To the second part of your question, I have to call you out on that one. Notre Dame plays three deep sometimes on its defensive line, went two deep at two of the linebacker spots, rotated at cornerback and safety, played multiple tight ends and running backs ... so I don't know how to answer that.

Denis from Niagara Falls, Ontario: Hi Eric. I know the common thought that it's necessary to have previous experience as a head coach to become the same at ND. Do you see an exception to this rule or is it as simple as no head coaching experience, no job? As an example, let's consider Marcus Freeman. What would he have to do to be considered as a candidate to go from coordinator to head coach at ND? And if he accomplishes this, now let's say Kelly retires. Freeman is considered along with Lea who has moderate success at Vandy. Who do you choose? Sorry for all the hypotheticals. Stay warm and many thanks!

Eric Hansen: Denis, thanks. It's not that I don't like hypotheticals. It's that my mind doesn't work that way, partly because of experience. If Brian Kelly got abducted by aliens tomorrow, the candidates to replace him likely look much different now than they would in 2024. Think back to 2016, when a lot of fans wanted to get rid of BK. Had ND made that move, that list would have looked markedly different as well. Being a head coach is so much different than being a coordinator. At a place like Notre Dame, it's exponential. I still think the preference should be an experienced head coach. ND is a good enough job to attract those kinds of candidates. If there's a deserving assistant on the staff at that time, I'd certainly be open to interviewing him for the job if I'm the AD.

Joe from Asbury Park, N.J.: Are there any rumors out there regarding transfer portal activity by Notre Dame or do you think they'll wait 'til after spring practice when there are certain to be more changes to their roster?

Eric Hansen: Joe, Notre Dame is two weeks into school for spring semester, so it's not like that could bring someone in now. But that doesn't mean you can't look now. The Irish coaches contacted Nick McCloud, for instance, in January of 2020, but they weren't in a position to take him until May. Had there been a normal spring, maybe they wouldn't have taken him at all. My sense is that still would have. The scholarship numbers have to work too. ND is over right now. That likely will change. So again, they're being very diligent and evaluating different players for different positions NOW, but other circumstances will determine whether they follow up on those evaluations.

Damon from Nashville: Eric, thank you for your five-star ND coverage over the years. How close is the ND offense from having that high-octane attack that you need to consistently beat the top 3 teams? Also, why don't we design like one or two offensive plays a game for our young wide receiving corps? Thank you and stay warm!

Eric Hansen: Damon, I love it. I'm not sure anyone will "consistently" beat the teams to which you referring, but I get your drift. Notre Dame is furthest removed from Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State when it comes to passing efficiency. SO, ND needs to recruit a develop a top 10-15 passer AND recruit and develop elite receivers while maintaining their strengths in other areas. I'll repeat myself from now until September, 2020 was not ideal for developing young and multiple receivers. If you don't see that happening this year, then by all means get the tar and feathers ready.

Bruce from Centralia, Ill.: Hello Eric. You’ve been around this program for quite a while now. Have you developed a pretty strong instinct for when a new coaching staff hire will work out, and when they won’t? Has there been anyone that you felt good about when they joined the program that ultimately didn’t work out? It seems to me that ND must be one of the trickier places to work because of the expectations around academics, culture, etc., and maybe a fan base — that’s us — whose expectations arguably are unrealistically high. Thanks so much.

Eric Hansen: Hi Bruce. The first indication that kind of clues you in is how that new assistant deals with attention and pressure that comes with being at Notre Dame. Of Kelly's first batch of assistants, you got a feel pretty quick about them. The guy who fooled me was Bob Diaco. He was more successful at ND than I thought he'd be, but the way he deals with the media and the spotlight caught up to him at subsequent jobs. Another early indicator is how hard an assistant is willing to work on the recruiting trail. That usually carries over to the field. I've been fooled the other way around on occasion, guys who made a really good first impression (Mike Sanford being one) who didn't end up making a mark on the program.

Joe Vrabec from New York: Hi Eric. The Chicago Tribune sale won’t affect anyone at the South Bend Trib?

Eric Hansen: No, other than it's a terrible development for journalism in general. I feel for the people who will have to work in the new environment. We are owned by Gannett.

ND Harvey from South Philly, Pa.: E, hope all is well. Do you see a Blue-Gold Game happening? When? And do you see fans in the stands? I need to see some LIVE ND Football and, more important, tailgating. Be Safe. Go Phillies. Go Irish.

Eric Hansen: Harvey, the world changes in that regard every day, but right now you've got college basketball teams that are staggering through their seasons, admittedly in an indoor sport. If there is a Blue-Gold Game, and my guess is there will be, we won't be far enough along on the immunity scale that Notre Dame will want to include anyone in the stands except for players' families, students and faculty/staff. But that's just a researched guess at this point.

Marie from Atlanta:Hi Eric. Though I am not a fan of image/likeness, I do think it provides a great opportunity for ND to close the gap in recruiting. The ND brand is one of the strongest. I was surprised and disappointed by the somewhat tepid comments made on signing day by the staff with regards to image/likeness. I expected much more enthusiasm for its future use at ND. How do you think ND could best take advantage of it, and do you think they will take the necessary steps to do so? As always thanks for hosting the chats. They provide a great break during this less-than-optimal February weather.

Eric Hansen: Hi Marie. I think the lack of perceived enthusiasm comes from the lack of clarity at this point. Tyler James and I were talking about this last night. It's so hard to get a handle on it until we get specifics. At that point, I think the average fan wants to know two things: How much/little will it affect their favorite team in recruiting? And ... how easy will it be for teams to cheat? I do know Jack Swarbrick has really studied this and has very clear opinions about where he'd like to see it go .. but it won't necessarily adhere to what he (or any other AD) wants.

Alex from Jackson, MO: Greetings to the best thing “The” Ohio State ever produced!! What is your take on the internal coaching carousel? From the outside looking in, it looks like a demotion to Elston — who, from what I’ve seen, seems like a really genuine guy who does a great job. Not a jab at Polian. Just surprised me a little. Maybe I’m missing the forest for the trees?

Eric Hansen: Yes, I hit a similar question right off the top. I really think there's nothing there that's going to change the team dynamic significantly. Just a confusing way to give two guys raises.

JP from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: If the international U.S.-Canada border remains closed at the outset of the 2021 football season, has ND determined its policy for Canadian season ticket holders? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: I don't think Notre Dame has determined its policy for ANY season ticket holders. I think those answers will start to emerge late in the spring.

Tyler from Cleveland, Ohio: Thanks for the chats, Eric! Maybe I’m crazy but I feel ND recruiting is just fine. The only piece missing for that next step is an ELITE QB.

Eric Hansen: That's a necessary piece. Notre Dame hopes that individual is already on its roster.

Tony from Fairfax, Va.: Hey Eric. Not football-related. I saw Tom Rinaldi do a short video about Jack Nolan, and in that showed a video of him working for WNDU with Jack. Made me wonder about other connections there is among South Bend media, like the Tribune or WNDU and "national" media outlets. More of a curiosity than anything. Must be doing something right in South Bend, because I love the reporting that you, Tom, Tyler, Carter, etc., all do.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Tony. There are a lot of those kinds of connections in both print and electronic media. I'm hesitant, because there are so many, and I'm afraid of leaving someone out. We're all very fortunate to work or have worked in this market.

Jim from Berlin, Conn.: Eric, I know it was a great move for the Irish getting Marcus Freeman from Cincinnati to be our defensive coordinator, but do you think if he has a successful season in 2021 we will lose him to another team that offers him a head coaching job? It seems inevitable that he won't be in South Bend very long before he lands his first head coaching gig. Would it have been better to promote one of our own guys who would likely stay for more than one of two years to give us some stability at that coaching position? As always, thanks for taking the time all year to answer our questions on Irish football. You are THE MAN when it comes to giving us insights on our favorite college football team.

Eric Hansen: Jim, thankyou .. and if I can give you some solace, Alabama goes through that all the time with its assistants. I asked Nick Saban about staff changes, scheme changes, and his answer was that the most important constant is the culture. So I do think it's smart to go out and hire the best people you can and the deal with the transition/turnover if and when it comes.

Michael from Chicago: Were Jonathan Doerer's field goal misses down the stretch addressed by coach Kelly or Polian? Is next year a comparable situation to the QB battle in that the veteran Doerer will be the favorite to start the season but could be supplanted by the newcomer Josh Bryan or holdover Harrison Leonard?

Eric Hansen: Now Michael, I think you know the answer to the first part of your question, so let's move on to the second. I think the coaching staff has tremendous faith in Jonathan getting things figured out and fixed, as he done so before. But yes, there is always going to be competition, and that's a good thing.

Stan from Rockford Ill.: Best wishes for good health for you and your family. In an article you posted recently, you pointed out five areas of "Spring intrigue" without including cornerbacks. Which cornerbacks do you see as being among the top five next season? Before you remove your tin foil hat, one more prediction — which of the nearly 10 CBs are most likely to end up at safety, seeing they'll have about double the number of CBs to safeties on roster for the 2021 season. I'm predicting Ramon Henderson as a future safety.

Eric Hansen: Stan, thank you. I think you start with Clarence Lewis and build from there. TaRiq Bracy is a talent and has experience, but he needs a strong spring after a fade in 2020. The two others who intrigue me are Cam Hart, a big corner who could play into the boundary, and freshman Philip Riley. I wouldn't be surprised if ND added a grad transfer at this position. As far as a future safety from this group, I'd lean into Ramon Henderson and/or Ryan Barnes.

Tim M. from Chicago: Hi Eric! Many thanks for these great chats! How does ND handle acceptances of offers when there are offers out to multiple players at the position? For example, ND has offers out to 3 QBs. If their third ranked QB wants to accept the offer, does ND automatically take it or do they give their higher ranked players at the position one last chance before they take the commitment in hand?

Eric Hansen: Tim, there's no blanket template that fits all situations, all positions and all recruiting cycles. The one constant is you need to have a plan. So you prioritize the players at a given position. You control how many offers you have out. You know how many you're going to take and then you define the conditions you specifically asked about. Let's say Notre Dame is looking at three quarterbacks in the 2023 cycle and only wants to take one. First, they have to gauge their probability of landing their No.1 guy. If that's highly probable, then you slow-play the others until he makes his decision. If prospects 1 and 2 are interchangeable, then you take the one who commits first. Let's look at another position. Say, you want to take three wide receivers, but there's a five-star who's going to make his decision very late in the cycle. You have to decide whether you're going to take three early and make room for a fourth if he decides late he wants to come. So there's not hard-and-fast set of rules.

Joe H fropm Williams Bay, Wis.: Hi Eric. Happy Fat Tuesday and thanks again for all the great insights on your chats. My question is do you see us adding anyone else from the transfer portal? I’m thinking maybe another corner like last year. And secondly when do we need to be down to 85 scholarships and do you think we’ll have any problems getting there

Eric Hansen: Joe, thanks. I continue to believe keeping an eye on safeties, cornerbacks and defensive ends in the grad transfer market makes sense for now. And I do not think ND will have trouble getting down to the NCAA max for scholarships by the time fall-semester classes start.

Mike from Goshen: Which juniors last year that were used "situationally" do you expect to get 'full-time" opportunities and why?

Eric Hansen: OK, I'd say wide receivers Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy, because they're really good and are expected to be healthy this fall; the Ademlola twins because they keep improving; Houston Griffith at safety for similar reasoning, and George Takacs at tight end,

Adam from Dayton, Ohio: I hit enter every single time and cut off my question. I will learn one day. I was talking with a friend last week. He graduated from ND and we have both been fans since childhood. Our (shared) perception is that the school sort of gets in its own way. For example, "hey, we will invest in facilities, but never so much we will have the best facilities in the country." (We realize that is an arms race sort of situation, just using an example.) Hypothetically, if ND ever went "all in" (not cheating), do think they would already be there with Bama/Clemson/OSU? If Bama is 100% in on football, what percent would you estimate ND is at, and what point do you think they would realistically go?

Eric Hansen: Adam, I don't think ND's path when it comes to facilities is driven by bells and whistles, but rather pragmatics. So it doesn't tie into recruiting as much as it ties into the function of the current team. An example is the new indoor football facility. Because football had to share Loftus with so many of the school's other sports teams, doing a team run meant getting up insanely early. Now they can do so at a much more reasonable and flexible time. With the eventual Gug extension, it will upgrade the way training table is run, enhance study hall opportunities and aid in (injury) recovery. Those kinds of things can make a difference.

Alan from Whiteland, Ind.: Eric, how much, if at all, does coach Kelly utilize analytics in formulating his game plans and in-game decisions? Is there a dedicated coach or football staff member whose job it is to accumulate data for the coach Kelly? Thank you so much.

Eric Hansen: Alan, yes BK is big into analytics and has a staff of analysts who help inform those kinds of decisions.

Adam from Dayton, Ohio: Eric, thank you for all you add to the ND fan experience.  Your coverage is appreciated more than you could know.

Eric Hansen: Adam, thank you!

Mike McFadden from Williamsport, Pa.: Hi Eric, ND coach Brian Kelly the day before or the day of a weekly Saturday game "... it's tough to win a college football game." Eric, I disagreed with this statement the first time I heard him say it and I continue to disagree every week he repeats it. To me, nothing could be further from the truth. It is easy and simple to win a game each week, Teams do it every year, 12-0, 11-1 and 10-2 are so common. I have never heard this statement repeated by a big-time coach in any sport or at any level. Isn't this putting a bad thought, a bad idea, a bad message to the players? Doesn't this become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Thanks Eric.

Eric Hansen: Mike, given that Notre Dame is 43-8 over the past four seasons with two playoff appearances, it doesn't appear to be particularly self-fulfilling. Look, Brian Kelly is one of the more straight-shooting coaches out there. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt when he lapses into coach-speak for the purposes of posturing. And that's all that is. He's trying to take the focus off, say, an unnecessarily close victory, for example. I wouldn't overly parse those kinds of phrases.

Chad from Toledo, Ohio: Hi Eric. I’ve tried to explain to my ND friends that we didn’t have the breakaway, big-play receivers this year to complete the offense — at least not against Top 5 teams! That being said, we need at least one burner on the field to keep safeties honest!! How many more wins do we have this year if Will Fuller an dChase Claypool are starters??? Why didn’t we play Lenzy more at least to stretch the D???

Eric Hansen: I think those players certainly would have made Notre Dame better. But I don't think they win the second Clemson game or the Alabama game even with those two. Now you give me Trevor Lawrence and those two receivers and we'll talk. Lenzy didn't play because he couldn't get/stay healthy and back in sync.

Caleb from Charlotte, N.C.: Hi Eric, thanks for doing the chat. I really enjoy reading your articles and listening to you on the podcast. You are certainly one of the best in your profession. I'm curious, do you ever get tired of talking and writing about ND football? Are there ever times when you would rather write about politics or be a music critic?

Eric Hansen: Oh wow, what a compliment and a question. Thank you and thank you. So to your question. I love what I do, but I'm very careful to balance it with other interests so that I continue to love it as much as I do. As for writing politics, I'd rather throw up on myself. Seriously. BUT, I think it'd be fun to write about music. Concerts. New albums. Stories about the artists. I love, love watching The Voice. I think I could write lyrics, but not music. That'd be something fun to try.

Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric, what is the greatest lessons learned from last year as we look forward to a new season of football. Thanks much and GO IRISH!

Eric Hansen: Don't take a single day or opportunity for granted. ... Notre Dame now knows what the championship blueprint looks like and what the next steps need to look like ... hiring Marcus Freeman will be seismic. ... Sports writers are not epidemiologists.

Eric Hansen: OK, that's going to do it for this week. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll take next Wednesday off, but come back on March 3 for the next chat.

Chat shades