Chat Transcript: Inside the Jordan Johnson transfer and how Notre Dame moves on
Eric Hansen: Welcome to the final Notre Dame Football Live Chat of the spring season. We'll be chatting intermittently over the next couple of months, then shift back to weekly mode when training camp starts in August.
The queue is overflowing with Jordan Johnson questions, as you might expect. We'll cover that ground in depth, but we probably don't need any more JJ questions during the live portion now, unless it's a follow-up question in which more clarity is needed. Feel free to ask about anything else, or JJ as well if there's an aspect you think someone might have missed.
PLEASE remember to include your name and hometown with your question. Off ... we ... go ...
Robert from Sartell Minn.: Sad to see Jordan Johnson go, BUT let’s be honest. He never caught a pass or ran the ball in a game for a single yard. I will miss the two more years Tommy Tremble could have contributed. I guess my question is this: Did everyone on staff see this coming AND did anyone really think he was that special in ND practices? I never saw anything in coverage of practices that claimed that Jordan Johnson was THE ANSWER to our future wide receiver questions. I wish the kid well, but I’m not expecting a first-round NFL Draft choice in his future.
Eric Hansen: Robert, the best way for me to answer your first question about whether anyone saw this coming is that ND coach Brian Kelly's 2016 reboot included a conviction on his part to raise the standards of the program and never compromise on them. When you do that, you've drawn a line and you risk losing players — sometimes very talented ones — who show an unwillingness to meet those standards. Dexter Williams and Kevin Austin Jr. are examples of players who initially fell short and stayed committed to maturing through the process and getting there. Jordan Botelho also fell short but is moving in the right direction.
I think you can have patience as a staff if you see progress. But if you compromise, then you compromise the culture you worked so hard to build. Jordan Johnson showed flashes of promise in practice, from what I'm told. I think a fully engaged JJ would have helped ND's offense in 2020. I do not think it would have altered the final 10-2 record. The problem was he wasn't fully engaged in any significant stretches. So what would you get in a game from him? Likely very inconsistent performances.
John from Freedom, N.H.: In my humble opinion, (wide receivers) coach Del Alexander is the weak link in a great staff. I believe coach Chip Long was instrumental in his hiring. If he doesn't up his game, will this be his final year? What's his rep like among coaches? Thank you.
Eric Hansen: John, DelVaughn Alexander is certainly under the microscope this season, at least externally. We had Miles Boykin on our Pod of Gold podcast a few episodes ago, and he raved about Del. So that's one point of view to consider. Another, though, is player development over a four-plus-year stretch. Taking Jordan Johnson out of it, there are still questions there. My thought going into the spring was that we needed to see guys like Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III and Joe Wilkins Jr. take significant strides forward. I think that happened with Lenzy and Keys, especially. I also felt we needed to see development with Lorenzo Styles Jr., Xavier Watts and JJ. That was a mixed bag.
Most importantly, I think we need to see Kevin Austin Jr. — if healthy — become the dominant receiver that he's projected to be. He is a top 5 roster piece and needs to play like one. All of those things, plus recruiting in the 2022 cycle, will answer the referendum on Del, at least from the outside looking in. I think it's fair to wait until those results are in.
Cederick Walker from Saginaw, Mich.: Do you think Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie have a shot at wide receiver playing as true freshmen?
Eric Hansen: I think Deion Colzie much more so than Jayden Thomas, because Colzie offers a skill set — specifically size (6-3, 200) — that there isn't much of on the ND roster. He's tearing it up this spring on the Georgia high school track circuit, too. He recently went 6-8 in the high jump and has a 10.87 100-meter dash with lots of season left to improve upon that time.
Dave from D.C.: Hey Eric, what are the thoughts around the Gug about wide receiver recruiting and development? I think that Jordan Johnson is a case of a player who didn’t fit or do what was required to be in the program. I also think it’s true, separately from Johnson, that the program has a poor track record of getting talented wideouts to make meaningful contributions on the field prior to their senior seasons.
Eric Hansen: I think there is merit to both of your statements. But there's also some math involved. If you have 10 or more receivers on your roster and you play three at a time — sometimes two because of multiple tight ends — how realistic is it that they're all going to contribute? And if the younger guys only shine and the seniors atrophy, what does that say about player development? Where I very much agree with the questions and the criticism you're suggesting is here: Notre Dame is to the point where it can get to the playoff, but it needs to win games there now. And the most glaring difference between the teams winning playoff games and the Irish is talent/development at the wide receiver position (and elite QB play to go with it). When I say elite QB play, I'm talking about a pass-efficiency rating in the top 15 nationally. Again, that's not all on the QB. WR play factors in too.
Denny from Liberty Hill, Texas: Hi Eric. Watching the Blue-Gold Game on The Fighting Irish Network was great. So much better than last spring when only one practice was allowed. My question today is: If you know anything about the mentioned heart condition that may have dropped Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah considerably in the NFL draft? He certainly lost potential money dropping out of first round, but Cleveland is an exciting landing spot with a rising defense in the league. Here's to hoping he proves himself for a big hike on his second contract. Also do you think a couple undrafted players will make a final roster?
Eric Hansen: Denny, I was on the Zooms with JOK and Browns personnel Friday night when he was drafted. The Browns were asked about why he might have dropped as well as if they had any medical concerns. They attributed the drop to scheme fit and were thrilled to get him. They said they didn't have any medical concerns, but were only speaking for themselves. ESPN's Adam Schefter then reported about possible heart issues prompting the drop. The Browns, JOK and some other NFL sources pushed back on that. Here's the link to a really complete story from cleveland.com on the subject.
As far as undrafted players, ND had five. I wouldn't be shocked if all five made at least their respective practice squad. I give Tommy Kraemer and Nick McCloud the best chance of sticking.
Bruce from Centralia, Ill.: Eric, when I read that Jordan Johnson had put his name in the transfer portal, I thought, “That is the right move for everybody.” The demands ND makes on its football players are pretty extraordinary, and not everyone is willing or able to buy in at 18 or 19. So why not shake hands and part as friends? JJ could still have a very productive career somewhere else. Is that how you see it, or are the pieces of this story that I don’t know or am not considering? Thanks Eric!
Eric Hansen: I think you said very concisely what I and many others have blathered to say in many more words.
Mark from Orange County, Calif.: Hi Eric. Thank you for this chat. Maybe once a month until summer camp starts? What, if anything, did you learn about ND's offense from the Blue-Gold Game? Thanks as always for the great work that you do.
Eric Hansen: Mark, thank you. There was a lot that we didn't learn about the offense because of splitting up the talent and not rolling out all the formations and player personnel groups the Irish could have (understandably so). What I felt I learned was: 1) Tyler Buchner needs to be in the QB conversation, though I expect Jack Coan to win the job. 2) Chris Tyree is surging and they'll need to find ways to get him on the field with Kyren Williams at times. 3) I think there are some good individual pieces for the O-Line. Chemistry will take some time. 4) The backup tight ends surprised me. 5) Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys looked healthy and improved.
Javier from Florida: Eric, again thanks for keeping us informed about ND football. I insist you are the best! My question this week is on the wide receiver position, particularly with Jordan Johnson entering the portal. Is the problem in the evaluation process or the coaching?
Eric Hansen: Javier, thanks. I think player development is a shared responsibility with both the player and the coaching staff. The fact that JJ had Kyren Williams in his ear, helping him, is part of the reason I feel JJ is the one who bears most of the responsibility for this not working out. So then I suppose it become an evaluation issue, not for talent, but for fit. But I think sometimes it's worth taking a risk when you believe maturity issues can eventually be overcome. In this case, they could not be. Perhaps at his new school, they will.
Phil from Foster City, Calif.: Kevin Bauman did not play in the Blue-Gold Game. According to the Trib, his absence was due to "undisclosed reasons." What's up with that? If he were to leave or be physically unable to perform, it would be a much bigger hit to Tommy Rees' offensive plans than the loss of Jordan. I remember during summer camp last year when Kelly was raving about Bauman, saying he was nearly as impressive as Mayer. Thanks.
Eric Hansen: Phil, I think you misunderstood the injury report. Bauman did not play because of injury. What was undisclosed was the NATURE of the injury. Those details in the Zoom age are often hard to come by, at least in a timely fashion. There's nothing, though, to indicate there's a long-term concern with either Kevin's health or his potential to help this team in 2021.
Jim Tal from Valley Center, Calif..: Greetings Eric. Hope it was an uplifting experience for you to be able to once again cover the Irish live and in person at the Blue-Gold Game. With the departure of Johnson, there seems to be a palpable fear on the part of many ND fans that a number of other young receivers like Lorenzo Styles and Xavier Watts will also get antsy and leave if the don't see the field right away. Do you think this is a realistic concern or just an overreaction to the departure of someone whose eventual exit had many different layers? Take care and keep up your much appreciated work.
Eric Hansen: Jim, thanks. It was both uplifting and informing to be watching in person. There was so much I needed to see with my own eyes in order to feel confident about the developments I had only heard about up to that point. Putting the Jordan Johnson issue aside, the ability to transfer and play immediately the next season is likely to create more knee-jerk transfer decisions universally ... at least at first. As it pertains to this specific situation, I don't think Johnson's departure is connected to the rest of the roster in any way. Lorenzo and Xavier don't have the off-the-field struggles that JJ did. I think Lorenzo will be involved, perhaps in the return game as well. I asked BK specifically about Watts last Thursday, and here's what he said:
"As it relates to Watts, he’d been nursing a quad contusion, so with 'X' we really like his work when he’s out there. But he’s been kind of plagued by some nagging injuries, so we’re hopeful that he gets out there and he’s able to have a great spring game. But we like his body of work. It just hasn’t been — and I know he’s frustrated too — he just hasn’t been consistent enough.
"So, hopefully, the game really allows him to have some success."
For the record, I think both Watts and Styles are ahead of JJ right now. I am convinced Styles has a higher ceiling than Johnson. Maybe Watts does, too. What little of him I've seen over Xavier, I like a lot. ... One aspect of Nick Saban's success that's overlooked is that he's created a culture at Alabama where great players are willing to wait their turn. Najee Harris is a great example. He was the No. 1 recruit nationally regardless of position in 2017, but he didn't play significant snaps until his junior year. The belief/culture in that program, is if you're patient, you'll get developed and your time will come.
If Notre Dame is able to upgrade its recruiting and layer talent, that's ultimately going to have to be the buy-in they seek. My final thought is Watts, if he's healthy, needs to show progress, needs to show development and should be worked in when he can to reward that and to accelerate that development.
Kevin from Roxbury, N.J.: Eric, isn't it great to hug the grandkids again? My question is about the post-COVID college football world (whenever that is). Before 2020, there was an arms race for facilities, the size of the coaching/analyst staffs were growing and salaries were escalating. In addition, gameday attendance was declining, games were getting too long (my opinion) and the playoffs were killing the bowl games' excitement. Throw in the ESPN hype machine around the bowl games and NIL — my head hurts. What do you see the post-COVID college football world looking like? (Maybe Nostradamus has an online chat for that.) Stay well.
Eric Hansen: Kevin, this is so broad that it's really difficult to answer in a chat format. I'll address two significant points you sort of hinted at. I think once athletic budgets recover, you'll see resources at ND expand when it comes to recruiting. I also think the Gug expansion Phase II will gain its footing again. Those changes/additions are much more pragmatic than they are cosmetic. And I see the push toward an expanded playoff as very real, which will help ND with some very ambitious scheduling it has coming up over the rest of this decade. As far as the grandkids and hugging them again, I can't put into words how much they and I have benefited from that. My 2-year-old granddaughter even said she'd do my taxes, she was so happy (they're already done).
James from Columbus: Hi Eric. Any hope that the stadium will be full with us out-of-towners next fall? If so, what precautions should we expect? Thanks, and enjoy a little time off.
Eric Hansen: James, we're already seeing that kind of momentum in other areas ... concerts, pro sports, Broadway reopening, so yes it's moving in that direction quickly and decisively. ... Again if you want to kind of extrapolate how things might look in the fall, look at Israel now. They're ahead of us in vaccinations, and normalcy is getting more embedded by the day there in all facets of life. Notre Dame will announce its ticket plan later this month. We'll likely get the logistics at that time. (That includes tailgating, etc.)
Ryan from Mars, Pa: Good afternoon, Eric. Watched the Blue-Gold Game to see Kurt Hinish and Michael Carmody and everyone else play good. Do we get Hinish’s brother? Go Irish.
Eric Hansen: Ryan, Donavan Hinish — a standout junior defensive tackle — has not verbally committed to ND yet, but I do expect him to end up in the Irish 2022 recruiting class.
Bob from Wyoming, Pa.: I'm not well informed about the NCAA or Notre Dame's stance of "Pay To Play." I haven't seen anything about paying players or what Notre Dame approach to this issue will be. Can you please update me on what is the latest on this issue? Thanks, and you are do a great job of keeping us subway alum informed.
Eric Hansen: Bob, the reason you're not informed is because NO ONE is informed. Because the NCAA largely abdicated its responsibility on name, image, likeness, you've got a patchwork of state legislatures addressing those issues in different ways with the hope that Congress will unify that. So there's no clarity of what it will look like, other than the fact that it's coming soon in some form or fashion. ND, rest assured, is getting ahead of the curve and will be ready. Remember, this isn't about offering players a salary. It's giving them the opportunity to make money off their name, image and likeness.
Manny from San Pedro: Eric!!!!!!! I’m sure this will be the topic of every conversation. But why does Brian Kelly not like young players. Everywhere else talent wins out, but at Notre Dame you can be a loaded with talent, but if you are a senior who knows the playbook, you play. Now that there is no penalty for transferring, do you think we won’t be able to develop players because they will jump due to lack of playing time?!?!?!?!?
Eric Hansen: Manny, it's always nice to see you and your exclamation points. Now, I disagree with your thought about Brian Kelly not liking young players. That's a hard sell when he's got two true freshmen at the top of the depth chart on the offensive line and that he played three freshmen in significantly high-leverage situations last year (Chris Tyree, Michael Mayer, and Clarence Lewis). There has to be a standard that the best players play. It's not like Brian Kelly is guaranteeing them playing time in the recruiting process — just an opportunity. Again, I think at all schools, players are going to be a little more knee-jerk in their transfer decisions. But there are consequences, and one of those right now is many more players jumping into the portal than the number who are able to find suitable landing spots.
Terry from Cincinnati: After studying the Blue-Gold Game, what is your preseason prediction for the starting offensive line?
Eric Hansen: I'm trying to figure out what ND will do with Jarrett Patterson, its best offensive lineman at the moment and also its most experienced. I think Jeff Quinn would have trouble answering your question until we watch a healthy Patterson play with the other combinations. My very wild stab at this is: LT Patterson, LG Rocco Spindler, C Zeke Correll, RG Josh Lugg, LT Blake Fisher.
RC from Albany, N.Y.: Hi Eric. I hope that you are enjoying the spring. Isaiah Foskey had some big moments last season, but he also appeared to fade down the stretch. It appears that he had a relatively quiet spring and Blue-Gold Game. I always thought he had one of the higher ceilings on the team, but I am beginning to wonder. What are you hearing from those inside the program? Thanks as always.
Eric Hansen: RC, I am enjoying the spring like I never have before. Thanks for asking. When you talk to pro scouts about Foskey, they see a future high-round pick. I do too. And while there's a jump from being a situational player to the starter, it's a jump I feel he will handle. I think this spring was about fine-tuning his game to meet those expectations. That includes some growing pains. I also think one reason you didn't hear as much about him as was warranted is because the media wasn't in practice. I think this is a really astute question, because there wasn't a lot of talk about Isaiah. But I think you will like what you see from him in August and beyond.
Ann Marie from Bridgeport, Conn.: Hi, Eric. Love you and Tyler on the Pod of Gold Podcasts and look forward to these Wednesday chats, as well. When you think of traits, who on the current roster would you say exemplifies what Brian Kelly and his coaches want to see in players and recruits? Besides athleticism and academics, are there any other intangibles that would help a player move to the top of the depth chart? Thanks and go Irish!
Eric Hansen: Ann Marie, thanks so much for the feedback. I think because I can come up with lots of examples to your first question is one of the reasons ND has been to the College Football Playoff two of the last three years. I'd say Kyle Hamilton and Kyren Williams are two of the best examples. Athletic and intelligent, motivated. In Hamilton's case, freakish length and instincts. In Kyren's case, freakish determination and leadership. To your second question, understanding not only your position but the others' around you certainly can help push one up the depth chart.
Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, I hope you enjoyed the live football! Help me not press the panic button on the O-line. I understand about chemistry and all the new players. I don't know that much about O-line play, but I thought I saw some poor technique and fundamentals, including footwork. These are the kind of things that are supposed to be worked out in the spring. Did you feel the same way and, if so, what can be done about it? Can ND hire a consultant/analyst to help with O-line technique? I don't think the new grad assistant is enough to get the job done. In your opinion, what are the floor and the ceiling for the O-line in 2021? Thanks again for hosting all the chats. I know I speak for everyone when I say we are sad to see the weekly chats end for awhile.
Eric Hansen: Marie, thanks, and yes I really did enjoy being back in the stadium watching actual football and not 180-second clips of it. My sense is I'll do a chat near the end of May and a couple in June, in part because June is going to be a monumental month for recruiting. ... Brian Kelly mentioned that by splitting up the teams, he hoped to put the offensive players in difficult positions. Mission accomplished. There is not the chemistry you might normally see in a practice. But for that position group, the goal was not polish and cohesiveness. It was trying to identify a pecking order (2 through 8) behind Patterson at No. 1. ... especially 3-4-5. Now this summer will be about starting to address the deficiencies you accurately identified. ... I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss new offensive grad assistant Trevor Mendelson. He's not your average grad assistant. He's been coaching since 2015 and left a full-time position at FCS school Richmond to come to ND as its offensive line assistant, technically a grad assistant.
I think this offensive line can be better than average in 2021 and really good in 2022. It will likely show growth and improvement during the season.
Megat Muzaffar from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Hi Eric, how many wide receivers do we need in 2021, with Jordan Johnson entering the transfer portal? By the way, a WR from Ohio State transferred to Alabama today. Was he on our recruit list before?
Eric Hansen: Megat, Notre Dame will have plenty of receivers — 10 — when Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie arrive next month. Jameson Williams is the Ohio State receiver transferring to Alabama. ND did not offer him a scholarship coming out of high school in St. Louis. They only landed two in that 2019 cycle, Kendall Abdur-Rahman, who recently transferred to Western Kentucky, and Cam Hart, who's now a cornerback.
Mike from Rochester, N.Y.: Hi, Eric. I hope you and your family are doing well. I’m sure you’re getting lots of questions and rants about Jordan Johnson entering the transfer portal. While I’m disappointed to see any player with this level of talent leave the program, I’m not gnashing my teeth over it, because it indicates to me that he couldn’t turn that talent into a constant high level of performance in all the aspects of wide receiver, including route running, blocking, always being assignment-correct, etc. We also have a lot of other talented hard-working players at that position to soften the blow, if it is a blow since it wasn’t clear he had cracked the two-deep yet. A lot of people seem to forget that star ratings don’t always turn into stardom. Am I missing something here?
Eric Hansen: Nailed it.
Joe from Reno, Nev.: Nine draftees is outstanding. Five free agent signings great also. The class of 2022 is looking marvelous. This year not so much. Do the Irish have enough talent to modify the offense due to poor QB play?
Eric Hansen: Who says the quarterback play is going to be poor? And if that really was the case, the answer would be no.
Larry from Topton, Pa.: In the latest Pod of Gold, Tom Lemming mentioned that until ND develops a top-notch QB, it is unlikely top-of-the class QB recruits will see ND as a path to the NFL (these guys are not hoping to be fourth-round draft picks). Brian Kelly has had a few highly ranked recruits (Dayne Crist, Brandon Wimbush, Phil Jurkovec), but none of them were any better at the end of their ND careers than at the beginning. To me, starting a highly rated QB recruit on scout team is a bad way to begin their career, and has them playing catch-up from the start. Whether Tyler Buchner is second or third string, how likely is it that he will be relegated to scout team this season? Thanks, Eric. You are the best!
Eric Hansen: Thanks, Larry. I love all the questions, but I love this one a lot. I think it would be a mistake for Tyler Buchner to be a scout team QB in 2021, and I believe Tommy Rees/Brian Kelly think so too. I think Ron Powlus III could fill that role and would benefit from it.
Jeff from Phoenix: Eric, great job with the draft coverage, thanks! After watching the Blue-Gold Game, I have two questions on injuries. First and foremost, exactly why was Mike Mayer listed as "80%" and when will he be 100%. Also, I now count five high-impact players that were out for a chunk of spring practice (Patterson/Mayer/Austin/White/Hamilton), and I wonder if you think the lack of reps will be a significant problem for team chemistry in the fall?
Eric Hansen: Jeff, I don't think we ever got the nature of Mayer's injury, but he would have played if it were a real game (and he wanted to). I don't think any of the five you mentioned will be impacted in the fall or even the summer. The only guy with missed reps who really needs them is Kevin Austin. I don't think it will be a chemistry issue. Even if Patterson were present, ND still would have been auditioning guys to fill in around him, Lugg and Correll on the offensive line.
Lee from Lancaster, S.C.: Eric, now that you've had an opportunity to see them play, what's your impression of the ND quarterbacks?
Eric Hansen: I think Jack Coan is capable. I think he'll improve as he meshes with his new team over the summer, gets in the playbook a little more. Drew Pyne makes really quick decisions and gets rid of the ball quickly. You can tell he's watched a lot of film and processes things lightning quick. I am smitten with Tyler Buchner. Can't wait to see what he turns into.
Caleb from Charlotte: Hi Eric. What does the fact that the Irish had nine players drafted say about the state of the ND football program? Do you think the draft success will have a positive affect on recruiting?
Eric Hansen: It says a lot about player development and, yes, it will help recruiting.
Mike from Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greetings, Eric. Thanks for livening up our spring with the chats and your ever-precise and well-documented analysis. Really appreciate both! Regarding Jordan Johnson’s jump to the portal, given Kyren Williams’ sophomore comeback success after a low-key freshman year and Michael Mayer’s huge freshman season, I infer that Johnson had some fit and maturity issues rather than that there is some systemic flaw in the football program that prevents phenoms from succeeding. Your thoughts?
Eric Hansen: Mike, that's very much my take. Aside from that, I think wide receiver recruiting has improved over the past couple of cycles, but wide receiver development for the players still on the roster is critical to the success of the Irish in 2021.
Frank from Missouri: Recent negative commentaries about Notre Dame 2021 receiving corps have me concerned. And with a new O-line and new QB what do you expect for our scoring capacity this season? I am excited to see Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree run, but will they be able to get into the open?
Eric Hansen: I think the most positive aspect of offensive potential that happened this offseason was nowhere to be found in the Blue-Gold Game (and on purpose), and that's the shift in thinking by both Tommy Rees and Brian Kelly about how to make the offense more dynamic and the need to do so. ... I do think Kyren and Chris will be very effective even with some growing pains on the O-line.
Adam from Grand Rapids, Mich. Hi Eric! I thought all three QBs looked good in the spring game. Is the guy who ends up third put on the scout team or relegated to mental reps? And finally, referencing your article on former players finishing their degrees: Are they able to take advantage of virtual/zoom classes? Or do these guys actually have to come to campus and sit in the classroom? Thanks!
Eric Hansen: Adam, since ND has five scholarship quarterbacks, there's no reason for Nos. 1, 2 or 3 to be running the scout team. ... In the past, ND required those returning players to be in the classroom. Exceptions were made for maybe a class or two to be taken in the summer. Otherwise, they had to be on campus. Because of the pandemic this semester, they had the option to do remote learning.
The Gipper from Omaha, Neb.: With Johnson in the transfer portal, does this give Xavier Watts an opening to play regularly? He certainly has the speed to be a difference-maker IMHO!!
Eric Hansen: Being healthy and having a great summer will help Xavier more than anything. I like what I have seen from him, how ever limited.
Tom from Toronto: Hi Eric, I hope that this finds you and your family well. Thank you again for your excellent work and insight. Do you expect that Tyler Buchner will get a significant number of reps over the summer and fall, so that Brian Kelly can make the best choice of who will be the first-team QB? And do you think that he should get the reps, and why? Thank you.
Eric Hansen: We're about to hit 3 p.m. ET, which is normally the end of the chat. Since this is the last one for a while, there are a lot of you still here live and there's a lot of great questions in the queue, let's do a little overtime.
Eric Hansen: Tom, thanks. I do think Tyler Buchner forced that issue, that ND needs to see this summer what it has in him. Then they'll have to figure out in August how the reps will go. Yes, I think he's earned those reps, with his strong improvement over the spring, his willingness to work and the fact he's the most talented QB on the roster.
Johngipp from Lititz, Pa.: Being able to see the game live gives a much better perspective than TV. How did you view the DBs and what major concerns did you come away with in that group?
Eric Hansen: I think ND is starting to develop corners. They just need to keep the development going this summer and bring more of them along. Having Kyle Hamilton back is going to make the safety group look better, but I still think looking at the grad transfer market makes some sense. ... I really like the front seven, by the way.
Mike McFadden from Williamsport, Pa.: Hi Eric. I understand with Jordan Johnson's departure. The team is at 87 scholarships. If so, we will see two more players enter the transfer portal this summer, correct? I ask question just, so we are not caught off-guard again. Who might they be? Thanks.
Eric Hansen: Because of the COVID rule, ND doesn't have to get down to 85 this year. The number is 87, because Lurt Hinish and Jonathan Doerer are exempt. That doesn't mean someone else might not leave and a transfer or two might be added. July 1 is the deadline this year for an underclassman transfer to be able to play immediately this fall.
Steve from St. Louis: Hey, Eric. Hope all is well. Redbirds have been looking good lately. Do you know if Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had any kind of loss-of-value protection as it relates to him falling in the draft due to the reported heart condition that may end up being nothing? I imagine he lost a lot of money sliding into round two. Browns got a steal!
Eric Hansen: Steve, I don't know the answer to that at this time. Really good question. With the draft, Blue-Gold Game and a verbal commitment all happening simultaneously. a few nuanced things like that kind of fell through the cracks.
Todd from Buffalo, N.Y.: Are you hearing about any players (other than Johnson) that may be entering/considering the transfer portal based upon what the depth chart (or perhaps their perception of the depth chart) looks like now that spring practices are done? The example that comes to mind is the seeming high number of reps Blake Fisher and Rocco Spindler got with the O-line. I know Kelly said that there were players getting more reps than perhaps their standing on the team might warrant, which I think is good. The only way to develop players and get a sense (both for the coaches and the players) of where players stand is to see them in action, and spring is the time to do that. That being said, I could see someone getting disgruntled if a younger, less-experienced and perhaps less-skilled player is getting the reps. If you only have two years of eligibility left, seeing a younger guy move ahead of you might make you think its time to find a new place.
Eric Hansen: Offensive linemen tend to be more patient with the process than players at other positions unless they are absolutely buried. I suppose someone might consider transferring from that group, but I am not anticipating that to happen.
Tom Kennesaw, GA: Hi Eric, well since this is the last chat for awhile, I have a couple of questions. We have seen that the 2021 defense will face some tough QBs from Cincinnati, USC and UNC. What about our offense? What are some of the toughest defenses we will face this year? In everything that has been written about Jordan Johnson entering the portal, it sounds like Chip Long had a big hand in him coming to ND. We've seen the positive effect coach Marcus Freeman has had on defensive recruiting. What does offensive coordinator Tommy Rees need to do to get to that level as a recruiter? I'm sure a dynamic offense this year would help. Finally, can you get some access to coach Matt Balis this summer after the rest of the freshman report to get some insight into their conditioning, size, etc. plus the progress of the team in general? Thanks for all you do for us ND fans. Now I will have to figure out how to combat my EH withdrawal for a couple of months. Enjoy your summer!!! Go Irish!!!!!
Eric Hansen: Tom, thanks for the kind words. ... Among 2021 opponents, Wisconsin was fifth nationally in total defense and Cincy 13th in 2020. They'll both be really good again. Other than Toledo (36th) no other opponent was higher than 40th nationally in total defense. Five teams the Irish play in 2021 were 93rd or worse last season. I would expect North Carolina and USC to be much improved on defense in 2021, thought not elite. ... I think in the short term, Rees needs to reel in a couple of elite receivers in the 2022 class (and there are some scheduled to visit) and a five-star talent QB in 2023. Long terms, he needs to swing for the fences and be relentless in following up. ... I hope to have access to Coach Balis in June. We'll see.
Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric, I heard comments from a beat writer who shall remain nameless who believes Jordan Johnson's departure was Kelly's fault, and that Johnson and other talented players leave because Kelly has an offensive philosophy or system that requires the players to fit into it, rather than building — or at least tweaking — the offense every year to complement and fully utilize the skill sets of the talented players he has recruited. He also went on to intimate that Kelly's talk about players developing certain "traits" before getting playing time is just so much BS, and that Kelly scares players off by being overly critical in public of the off-the-field issues that keep them from getting any meaningful snaps. I realize Notre Dame's standards are high when it comes to who gets to play, and it doesn't all start and stop with their physical talents. Do you buy the argument that Kelly goes too far in this area and should be more accommodating with talented, but sometimes troubled, players in terms of playing time?
Eric Hansen: Tim, to present the question in this way really puts me in a difficult spot, because now the issue isn't about Jordan Johnson anymore. It's about this reporter's credibility and integrity. That's a no-win situation for me, especially because that may or may not be how that person actually has framed Johnson's situation. Let me try to answer the question this way: I don't think Kelly should compromise the program's culture if one player doesn't fit, no matter how talented he is. Now if I player is struggling with the X's and O's in one aspect, maybe there are more creative ways to use those players situationally that doesn't compromise anything. To that notion, that's reasonable.
Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric, you be the main man! What's are the biggest pluses and minuses from the Blue-Gold Game? Thanks, and GO IRISH!
Eric Hansen: Biggest plus is how well the defensive front seven played without all the bells and whistles they'll add this fall. Biggest minus is how much work the offense has ahead of it this summer.
El Hombre from Stone Mountain, Ga.: Your work is always appreciated. Thank you. Coach Kelly’s struggles to land five-stars is well documented, but what is even more discouraging is his inability to keep the ones he lands. Any thoughts as to why he struggles mightily in this area?
Eric Hansen: I'm not sure all are worth keeping. I think there's something inherent about SOME five-stars that create a different dynamic on a team. I think over time, Kelly has gotten better at dealing with it. ... One stat to keep in mind, Jordan Johnson is the 77th transfer of a Kelly recruit during his time as head coach. Of the 50 who have completed their college eligibility, only two have been drafted into the NFL — Aaron Lynch (fifth round) and Eddie Vanderdoes (third round).
Pat from St Paul, Minn.: As always, thanks for the chats Eric! Lots of good QB questions here and, thinking down the road, if Buchner ends up winning the starting job, would you think that would bode well for landing a Top 50 QB in the coming classes? Assuming that would mean an Arch Manning/Dante Moore would think the door is wide open to compete.
Eric Hansen: I don't think that matters as much as Tyler getting the CHANCE to compete. Kelly has played young QBs before, so that is not an issue. I think the real selling point ND has to make with QBs of that caliber is getting them to believe Rees is on the rise as an offensive coordinator and QB coach, and that he will develop them and feature them in an offense that will enhance their NFL dream and make it a reality.
Bill from St Joe, Mich.: Were you as impressed as I was with Blake Fisher in the Blue-Gold Game? He looks like a mauler. I project the offensive line to be (from left to right): Jarrett Patterson, Blake Fisher, Zeke Cornell, ?, and Josh Lugg.
Eric Hansen: Even though Fisher was a five-star prospect, I did not expect him to be as camera-ready for college as he is. I've got the same man-crush you do.
Stephen from Toledo, Ohio: Hey Eric! Blue-Gold Game gave me a lot to be excited about with the corners, linebackers and defensive line. The running back room looks better than at any other time I can think of. The most exciting was the speed of the wide receivers. They seemed quick and made good moves down the field, and it just felt different than in years past. I was a skeptic of Braden Lenzy. But after the spring game, I totally understand why you all were so high on his potential. My question is: Do you see this offense being able to start letting it rip and being able to make plays all over the field or do you think the offensive line might not be able to protect long enough to really be able to make those plays happen regularly? Either way, I’m encouraged for the future
Eric Hansen: I think the offense has all the pieces to be really good. What it doesn't have yet is the cohesion. It's an unbaked cake, but I like the recipe.
ODO from Kincardine, Ontario, Canada: Eric, long-time Irish fan from Canada. Thanks for everything you do on keeping us updated on our Irish team, stay safe.
Eric Hansen: Thank you!
Jeff from East Longmeadow, Mass.: Hi, and thanks for the great chat as always. I think if we look at the Jordan Johnson situation, most of us could have seen the eventual transfer coming. It just never seemed to click for a bunch of reasons. Do you think this has any impact on wide receiver recruiting? If I'm a highly touted WR — and, more importantly, a kid — do I look at the lack of success there as a trend indication? Does it have any impact at all?
Eric Hansen: Jeff, I don't think it will, but I'm going to ask the analysts that very question (and others) for this week's Inside Recruiting feature.
Caleb from Charlotte, N.C.: Eric, what's your opinion of the transfer portal? Is it good for college football that players can transfer without having to get a release from their current university and also not have to sit out a year? After all, coaches change jobs when better opportunities come along.
Eric Hansen: Caleb, I've never tried to make that argument that coaching movement should equal player movement. Should Urban Meyer have spent his entire career as Bowling Green's head coach? I don't think the two situations are parallel. Having said that, I like the portal in the sense that coaches can no longer control where a player CAN AND CAN'T transfer to. I am leery about the one-year wait being phased out, but at least it's consistent now, rather than a case of who can afford a good lawyer.
Eric Hansen: OK, I'm going to have to end it there to meet my print deadline. Thanks for all the great questions. I'll alert you to the next chat via my Twitter and the NDInsider Facebook account.