Chat Transcript: Talking fixable vs. unfixable, being a Coanhead, Notre Dame's next step

Eric Hansen
ND Insider
Notre Dame football fans celebrate a touchdown during ND's 41-38 overtime win over Florida State on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Toledo/Peacock Streaming Week. Please include your NAME and HOMETOWN along with your questions. They do not need to be in all caps. Just trying to get your attention.

One quick note for our international readers/chatters. I have asked for the international plan for fans to watch this weekend's game since Aug. 4 on a regular basis. Most recently I did so five minutes ago. I am told the plan is coming but is not finalized. AS SOON, as it's in my hands, I will share it on our website and on Twitter and the ND Insider Facebook page as well.

Lots of questions in the queue. Let's get at 'em.

Lorne from Reno, Nev.: You think Kyle Hamilton can keep it up and get 24 picks? Are you getting any questions/complaints about the three-man front? Time to fire Jeff Quinn? Finally, don't you just "love" first week overreactions? (Those were rhetorical — real question to follow). 1-0 is literally infinitely better than 0-1 (percentage-wise). I suspect Hamilton will get very few picks the rest of the year, because every offensive coordinator will be drilling the same message to their QBs: Know where Hamilton is and stay VERY far away. Your thoughts?

Eric Hansen: Hi Lorne. Your instincts about some of the content in the queue, via your rhetorical questions, are on target. I think keeping the ball away from Hamilton is easier said than done, except when the Irish are in man defense. On his second pick against FSU on Sunday night, he was lined up on the opposite hash and came all the way across the field to pluck that ball out of the air at the opposite sideline. I don't know how many college-age humans can do that, but we can probably count them on one hand.

Eric Hansen: You can see for yourself.

Frank from Rockwall, Texas: Do you see ND moving anyone to linebacker to account for the injuries at that position?

Eric Hansen: Frank, Notre Dame went from nine to six linebackers in a hurry. Two of the three injured players, Paul Moala and Marist Liufau, are out for the year. Shayne Simon won't play Saturday (shoulder). We should be getting a full update on his condition Thursday at noon. Freshman Prince Kollie is now in the two-deeps. JD Bertrand told me last night Kollie had a very good practice. It's about learning the scheme for the freshman and reigning Butkus Award winner. ... As far as moving players? There are a couple of obvious options. You could cross-train freshman Kahanu Kia, who moved to the vyper end in training camp but was recruited to play linebacker. And once Osita Ekwonu is healthy, he could move back to linebacker from vyper, but I'm not sure when he's going to be back at practice. He missed all of training camp with an injury.

Sean from Greensboro, N.C.: Eric, hope this finds you well. The failure to make adjustments on defense in the fourth quarter is mystifying.

Eric Hansen: Sean, agreed and lesson learned. At least they weren't digging their heels in and saying that was the right strategy. I got a text from a defensive coach I really respect, and he thinks Florida State exposed some things that in the long run will help ND, because they are fixable and they can now get to the fixing part right away.

Jacob from Hobart, Ind.: I was really impressed by new QB Jack Coan, especially his downfield throws and overall accuracy. If you had to pick one thing he still has to work on, what would it be?

Eric Hansen: Jacob, I think Jack would say there's more than one. Off the top for me, it's footwork. But an impressive performance all the way around.

Larry from Millersville, Pa.: Hi Eric. Thank you for writing an excellent post game article. Notre Dame has major problems that were obvious on Sunday night. We have two very good running backs who couldn't find any room to run because the the run blocking was terrible. Because of COVID, the rules were changed to allow more than 85 players on scholarship for this year. I was really disappointed that ND didn't persuade some of the offensive linemen from last year to return. Why didn't ND encourage many players to return for an additional year? We already have numerous injuries proving the point that you can never have too much depth and experience. Is the Shamrock game with BYU a done deal? These games in pro football stadiums are too expensive. I would love to attend the Wisconsin game, but I can't find a ticket below $340 and that plundering price will only get you a seat in peanut heaven. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

Eric Hansen: Larry. thank you. First, the run blocking wasn't good. And Brian Kelly detailed part of the reason why being the silent cadence having people firing off out of sync. I wrote about that Monday and we talked about that with former ND offensive lineman Bob Morton on our Pod of Gold podcast Tuesday.

As far as inviting the linemen back, the coaches made the pitch to Aaron Banks that he could move from left guard to left tackle, in part, to improve his draft stock. He passed and got picked in the second round anyway. Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey also got drafted high, so they weren't going to return.

Maybe Tommy Kraemer would have benefited from another year, maybe not. But I think Cain Madden will prove to be an upgrade, in time. Individually, there's a lot of talent there, even with Blake Fisher out. The next step is five guys playing as one. From the O-line savants I spoke with, they believe those problems are fixable, though not microwavable.

As far as the Vegas game between ND and BYU, it's not official yet. When it is, Notre Dame will acknowledge its existence. But I see only momentum that the game will happen and that it's just lacking some final details.

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Frank Henninger from Akron, Ohio: Everybody is criticizing Marcus Freeman for defending with only three linemen while FSU was making that comeback. Is it possible that Brian Kelly instructed him to defend against the pass and encourage FSU to run, because he thought that they would then have less time to score as many points? As you have pointed out, Kelly outscores the opposition in third quarters and then slows the game in the fourth. Thanks for working so hard to be so expert for us.

Eric Hansen: Frank, thanks for the kind words. My sense is that Marcus' strategy was his idea, but Brian Kelly's the head coach, and should share in that responsibility, which he does. The offense didn't help things by not being able to get first downs. There were tactical errors on both sides of the ball. Developing the running game, so that your offense isn't one-dimensional in the fourth quarter, will help in future games.

Lee from Collierville Tenn.: Hi Eric. Greetings from Collierville, Tenn., home of former Irish receiver Matt Shelton and current Ohio State commit Dallan Hayden, whom Notre Dame recruited heavily.  Dallan is the real deal.  I was at the game Sunday night.  ... When the officials changed the FSU third-down overtime play from a fumble to an incomplete pass, shouldn't the Notre Dame coaches have countered by claiming intentional grounding? Who was Milton throwing to? I believe that play met all the parameters for intentional grounding. I realize a lot was going on in a short period of time, but I thought one of the ND coaches would also have thought it was intentional grounding. Had we challenged the play and lost — and the ensuing overtime timeout — who cares. The clock doesn't run in overtime. Have you had a chance to review the play? If it wasn't a fumble — which it was — then wasn't it intentional grounding?

Eric Hansen: Hi Lee. I wonder what Matt Shelton is up to these days. ... Here are the points I'll make on the play you asked about: 1) It's a good thing ND didn't get its way on that. The FSU kicker nailed the 50-yard field goal, albeit with no rush before his coach iced him with the timeout. Then he missed the ensuing 37-yarder. 2) To me, that was a fumble. McKenzie Milton (who's amazing by the way) pumped and the ball slipped out of his hand. HE thought it was a fumble, because he didn't hesitate to pounce on it. 3) ND could not challenge, because the play had already been reviewed and overturned.

Why not intentional grounding? That what I was thinking/saying/tweeting. I'll admit I haven't gotten to the bottom of that yet and would have done so more immediately had it affected the outcome of the game. There's a couple of things ... I don't think intentional grounding is one of the penalties you can add into the mix through a review. Also, it can be argued that the grounding was unintentional WHICH TO ME means it should have been a fumble. If I get a definitive answer on that, I will share it in next week's chat.

Woody from South Bend: Lifetime fan but first-time writer. I like the speed I see on the field this year on both sides of the ball. I do question why we never attempt to return kickoffs. Give Chris Tyree a chance to break one. Also when we are struggling with a potent pass rush, why don’t we run more screens?? Go Irish!

Eric Hansen: Woody, I understand your frustration with the kickoff returns. There are a few things at play here. The rules have evolved to try to minimize the number of kickoff returns in games and make the ones that do occur safer. According to the National Football Foundation, the kickoff return is the facet of the game that has the highest risk of head injuries. The latest rule change came in 2018 with the fair-catch rule. On Sunday night, ND had zero kickoff returns. Three of the seven FSU kickoffs were touchbacks. Sometimes the height and short depth on the kickoff makes the fair catch the smartest play, even if it's not the most exciting.

Special teams coordinator Brian Polian would love for Chris Tyree to get chances to actually return the kickoffs. He said Tyree is much more dynamic on returns than he was as a freshman a year ago. ... As far as screen passes, ND had a really good one to Kyren Williams on third-and-17. As you know, screen plays work the best when the defense is sold that it ISN'T a screen pass. If you run them too often, you won't get the result you want.

Jim Tal from Valley Center, Calif.: Greetings Eric. Wishing you the very best and, as always, so appreciative of all your yeoman work. Though it's not being mentioned all that much from an individual standpoint, I thought JD Bertrand's effective rush on McKenzie Milton during the overtime was the play of the game. It forced McKenzie to bring the ball down and totally blunted all the momentum that FSU carried into the extra session. Clearly, Bertrand's effort was a game-changer, so why isn't more credit being given to this talented linebacker who came up so big when it mattered most. Moreover, Bertrand had a solid game and really stood out at times.

Eric Hansen: Jim, thanks for the kind words. I'm a bit confused by these kinds of questions, including this one specifically. Are you asking me why I didn't mention Bertrand? Because I did, in my column. I pointed out he was one of the things that went right for the Irish and included his career-high (11) tackle total. If you're asking why people at other outlets didn't mention him, I don't know who else you read and wouldn't have much of an idea about their motivations. There was a lot going on in that game, a lot of big plays and a lot of overturned officials calls. Notre Dame needs Bertrand to be good. He'll get plenty of opportunity to encore.

Gerry from Waltham, Quebec: Eric, thanks for international streaming remark. ... Always seems when ND has a comfortable lead, they don't have that killer instinct — and look what happens.

Eric Hansen: Gerry, since it's just one game into the season, that's a small sample size. Maybe it just seems like they're coughing up big leads with regularity. In each of the past four seasons — 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 — they've outscored their opponents in the fourth quarter. I don't think this was as much a killer instinct thing with the players as it was tactical mistakes from the coaches.

Andrew from Wilmette, Ill.:  Thank you for the work you do on these chats. They are awesome. Seems like the Irish had some tough breaks with the refs. I guess that is the way it goes sometimes. I was very impressed with No. 14 and the interceptions, but it seems like he is a bit of a show-boater. I did not see that last year in him. Did you see any of that in practice? Don't get me wrong, I love a show-boater now and then (when it comes to the Irish), but it seemed a little much at the time. Go Irish!

Eric Hansen: Andrew, thanks. I guess there's a fine line between showboating, and playing with confidence and emotion. I think Kyle Hamilton stays on the right side of that line most of the time. The exception was taking his helmet off to celebrate one of the picks Sunday night, which resulted in a 15-year penalty. Hamilton immediately went up to Brian Kelly and apologized, saying, in effect, "Captains don't do that."

Ryan from Mars, Pa.: Good afternoon, Eric. When should we expect a update on Blake Fisher? Go Irish.

Eric Hansen: We'll get official word Thursday (tomorrow) from Brian Kelly. I will add that Pete Sampson from The Athletic is reporting Fisher will be out likely six weeks. ... so back after the bye, for USC and North Carolina, presumably.

Alex from Jackson, Mo.: Greetings, Eric. Sometimes I have to check myself and ask if I am un-pleasable when it comes to ND Football!! Instead of being negative, I will be positive. I thought the screen pass play call on third-and-17 was genius! The passing game, in general, was really good. Numbers probably aren’t sustainable, but that run game will get better as the season progresses. The defense looked awesome early on as well. And being from Missouri, I loved your, “Nelly?, never heard of her line.” Good stuff!!

Eric Hansen: Thanks Alex, and that was the easiest question of the day so far!

Jack from Strongsville, Ohio: Eric, thanks for all the great work you do through all the seasons you have had the ND Football beat. A simple question: Why is the Toledo game being shown only on Peacock? Is it not attractive enough to even be carried by NBCSN or USA? Or is it an trial balloon to see the power of the ND brand? Or something else?

Eric Hansen: Hi Jack. Thanks for reading and being a part of the chat. It is a trial balloon for both Notre Dame (and its brand) and NBC (which owns Peacock) to explore new revenue streams. Tyler James has more specifics about how much it costs and how to watch in a story he posted earlier today.

Bert from Windermere., Fla.: Congratulations. You have been very positive on Kevin Austin, and he came through. Wish him the very best. When Brian Kelly came to ND he had been successful against lesser opponents and it took him years to change his views. Remember that he said when criticized after the Tulsa game “better get used to this, because this is who we are." Now comes Marcus Freeman, who was very successful against the same competition, has been overhyped and was not successful in his first game. Are you confident he can right the ship before Wisconsin?

Eric Hansen: Hi Bert. Kevin Austin deserves the congratulations for enduring through a long series of setbacks. ... Incidentally, regarding having freshman Tommy Rees throw into the end zone against Tulsa instead of attempting a makeable game-winning field goal in 2010, Kelly told me a couple of years ago that's been his biggest coaching regret at ND. Meanwhile, I don't think Freeman is stubborn at all. I think he's got the personnel and the schematic touch for this defense to steadily improve — and sooner than later.

Manny from San Pedro, Calif.: Eric!!!!!!! 1-0!!!! Doesn’t matter if it’s ugly if we win. With our schedule looking soft, it seems to me we must go 12-0 and don’t see why we can’t!!! Was the defensive problems getting used to a new season? Or are we really lacking playmakers besides Kyle Hamilton to make a big play Frustrating to see them gut us with the run in the second half.

Eric!!! Grandkids means I can’t always attend live but man I love these chats!!! We seemed to get the injury bug in week 1.  If we get a nice lead on Saturday, will Brian Kelly rest starters or will he keep the pedal to the medal to get more experience?

Eric Hansen: Manny !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I out-exclamation-pointed you! I think the problems on defense will get fixed easier and sooner than the ones on offense. I don't think ND is lacking playmakers, though losing Marist Liufau stings and not having Jordan Botelho in the opener also does. I was stunned ND gave up as many rushing yards as they did. I don't see it as a continuing trend. I think Kelly would like to go deeper into his roster against Toledo, but I don't think the Rockets are going to be an easy out. They return all 22 starters from last year. They also have 22 players who are either in their fifth, sixth or seventh year of college. So it's a mature team. ... Manny, the fact that you're a grandpa too who loves to spend time with his grandkids made my day.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric. I hope you recovered from the game and are enjoying this short week before Toledo. I understand some of the O-line's issues are due to chemistry from never playing together. However, it still seems that the poor technique seen in the Blue-Gold Game is still present. The poor technique reminds me a lot of what was seen in 2019. It seemed like the arrival of (then grad assistant) Chris Watt remedied a lot of that last year. Now that he has departed, it seems poor habits have crept back in. Do you think (Jeff) Quinn and (grad assistant Trevor) Mendelson can get these issues corrected, and how long  do these type of changes take to implement? It seems old habits would die hard, especially in pressure-packed games. Also, I was very disappointed with the physicality of the O-line, I thought it looked like FSU was more physical, played harder and wanted it more, perhaps an overreaction on my part. What did you think? Thanks for all you great insights.

Eric Hansen: Hi Marie. First, I think you're watching the O-line play more closely than I am, and I respect your observations. And Chris Watt is really, really good. Look at what he did with that unit for Tulane against Oklahoma. Here's how I look at ND's offensive line play in 2021. 1) There is only one Harry Hiestand. He was absolutely technique-driven. If you compare anyone else coaching O-line currently in college football in most, if not all, cases they're not going to measure up to him. So let's put Jeff Quinn in the context of current O-line coaches. When I really need nuanced answers about the offensive line, I do lean on people smarter than me on that subject.

The consensus is there's a lot to like about Jeff Quinn. He did have a true freshman ready to go (Blake Fisher) and has two more who could step in and play this year if needed (Rocco Spindle, Joe Alt). He's an elite recruiter. And from the people I've spoken with, they believe the problems can and will get fixed. It might be a season-long thing, but there will be evolution. If you are seeing technique deficiencies along the way, I would trust those observations, but I think you won't see them as we get deeper into the season.

Florida State fans cheer on their team during the Notre Dame-Florida State football game on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Alan from Whiteland, Ind.: Eric, with all due respect to Virginia Tech, is it likely that Notre Dame just won in the toughest road environment they will face in the regular season? Florida State's fans were absolutely engaged, loud and cheering all game long. Winning is hard, and Notre Dame did just that: they won. What say you? Thank you for answering my question.

Eric Hansen: Hi Alan. I think the atmosphere at Virginia Tech — once Enter Sandman has worn off — will depend on how the Hokies are doing at that point in the season. They're No. 19 this week after stifling North Carolina. The 50-50 crowd in Chicago might be spicy, too, for Wisconsin. But ND hadn't played in front of a crowd like the one at FSU since 2019 because of COVID. So I do think it'll turn out to be the toughest environment for that reason and several others.

Pat from Evergreen, Colo.: Eric, constant reader and occasionally have a question but always appreciate you generous work. I loved the whole fan experience at FSU, but I am starting to worry about COVID and the rest of the season. How confident are you that we will have a complete season with full stadiums?  Are you hearing anything from your abundant network?

Hi Pat. It's hard to be confident about anything with a virus that has been so unpredictable. The trend I am seeing is that more schools are moving toward proof of vaccination or proof of negative tests. I'M NOT GOING TO GET POLITICAL WITH THIS (not aimed at you, Pat). I will answer the COVID questions in the context of sports, because it is a factor. If you want to get on a soapbox about which side of this you're on in your own personal life, I'm not going to entertain that. Take it elsewhere. Washington is the latest program to implement the vaccine/testing strategy.

Coach from Reading, Pa.: Hi Eric. Do you think Marcus Freeman worked on open-field tackling this week? How did Bo Bauer play? Thanks for your great stories.

Eric Hansen: I hope your first question is rhetorical. I am taking it as such. As to Bauer. he played more on special teams (27 snaps per Pro Football Focus) than at linebacker (24). He made one tackle and was credited with one quarterback hurry. In the flow of the game, he did not jump out at me in that game as he has in others previously.

Tom from Springfield Ill.: Hi Eric, always enjoy reading your articles and Chat. I know everyone was probably heading for the bridge after the game, but in all reality, this may be the type of game they need. That being said, weren’t several of the Florida defensive players SEC school transfers? Secondly, will some of the talented freshman receivers see more playing time if the offense becomes more pass-oriented?

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Tom. Yes, FSU had 13 transfers, including former Georgia defensive end Jermaine Johnson II. The Athletic's draft analyst, Dane Brugler, rates him as one of the top five senior DEs in college football. ... As far as Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie playing more ... yes, but not in tight games as this point.

Rich from Key West, Fla.: I was very happy to see our Irish hang in there and win that close game. Johnathan Doerer came up big when called on and, hopefully, that was a giant step in helping him regain his confidence. I cannot be disappointed with a victory. Think we all expected a continuance of Clark Lea's astute halftime adjustments to continue on with the new regime, but he was a master at that and not all coaches have that touch. Lot of room for improvement in that area and a long season to get it done. Thanks for all your hard work.

Eric Hansen: Rich, thanks for your support and for your observations.

Jeff from Cincinnati: While I realize McKenzie Milton's comeback is extraordinary, don't you think the announcers were a bit over the top in their comments?? It got to be nauseating after awhile in my opinion.

Eric Hansen: I rewatched the fourth quarter and overtime Monday night. What MIlton was doing was extraordinary. I think once that stage was set, maybe less gushing and more letting the video and events tell the story was in order. That's not Milton's fault. That kid deserves every positive thing that comes his way.

Doug from Sunny Florida: "I'M NOT GOING TO GET POLITICAL WITH THIS (not aimed at you, Pat). I will answer the COVID questions in the context of sports, because it is a factor. If you want to get on a soapbox about which side of this you're on in your own personal life, I'm not going to entertain that. Take it elsewhere." Thank you Eric! There is enough anger, political nonsense and misinformation regarding this topic, so it's refreshing to hear you make this statement!

Eric Hansen: Thank you Doug, in SUNNY, Florida.

Will from Seattle: It seemed Jack Coan significantly underthrew the end of game Hail Mary. Is there another arm we might turn to in that situation in the future?

Eric Hansen: Tyler Bucnner has the strongest arm. I don't think his first collegiate pass in that environment would have been the right call. I would have gone with Coan there.

Myliah from El Cerrito, Calif. (yep, Aaron Banks’ hometown; it’s great to have him back in the Bay for the 49ers): How do you feel about moving Jordan Botelho to the linebacker unit and giving Alex Ehrensberger some time on the edge? Would help with the linebacker depletion and we’d get to see a more mature Alex lay some heavy sack-of-German-potato sacks on poor QBs.

Eric Hansen: Hey Myliah. When Botelho becomes available, there are packages where he lines up at the linebacker level. He also played linebacker at Honolulu Saint Louis High. But other than the niche packages, I'd line him up on the edge. He is really effective there.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Eric, since this is a ND Chat, we are all focusing on the Irish and what we perceive as an underwhelming performance on Sunday. However, if FSU winds up going 10-2, this game takes on a whole different perspective. Given the quality of the teams we play in the middle of the season, after seeing FSU first-hand, how would you rate them in relationship to the Wisconsin, Cincinnati, USC, Virginia Tech and UNC teams? Thanks for all your insight. Go Irish!!

Eric Hansen: Tom, thank you. I think the fan bases at Oklahoma, Iowa State, Oregon, etc., are asking the same questions after wins. I don't think that's unfair. Even if Florida State turns out to be really good, it's reasonable to ask about areas of potential improvement. To your question, I still would be surprised if FSU turned out to be better than four of the five teams currently ranked that you mentioned. I'm not sold on Virginia Tech's sustainability yet. FSU's next big test is Oct. 9 at North Carolina. My biggest question re the Seminoles is how will their O-line hold up?

Bill from St Joe, Mich.: Hi Eric, Is roughing the punter vs. running into the punter a reviewable call?

Eric Hansen: I believe it is only reviewable if you're looking to see if the ball was touched/partially blocked before the contact. What I kept seeing from the officials experts late Sunday night into Monday (and I believe it was on the live broadcast as well), the five-yard penalty is for hitting the kicking leg and the 15-yarder is for hitting the plant leg. That seems overly rigid in definition to me.

KJ from near the Channel Isles: Well, Eric, we dodged a tomahawk! Great performance by our new quarterback. If Packer fans are cheeseheads, guess I'm a "Coanhead" after that showing. He doesn't have Ian Book's nimble feet but appears to be a better passer. If game 2 shows the greatest team growth, what should we look for this Saturday?

Eric Hansen: The top two improvements need to be and should be stopping the run, and running the ball better. ... I like that you're a Coanhead. Did you consume mass quantities during the game? Are you from France?

Barry Plesser, The Villages, Fla.: I’m an alumnus of Jack Coan’s Sayville High School football (1965). I had the distinction of watching Jack play while at my 50th HS Reunion. Been following him at Wisconsin. My question is: How much I’m going to bet on Notre Dame going to National Championship!!!!!!??

Eric Hansen: Barry, even if you were asking me the same question about Alabama, my advice would be no more than a cup of coffee on the line or a beer. Don't want that on my shoulders.

Ron from Dover, Del.: Eric, really enjoy your insights on ND football. Please keep up providing us your articles and this chat. My question is based on the FSU game: Jack Coan looked to be calm and controlled, but I question the ability of this team to beat a top 4 team with a quarterback who is really more a statue and has no ability to be a threat to scramble. What are your thoughts? Also any update on Blake Fisher and Shayne Simon? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Updates on Fisher and Simon tomorrow, but neither will play Saturday. I mentioned Pete Sampson's report on Fisher (6 weeks). I don't disagree with your assertion about the scrambling, but I'm open to be proven wrong.

Eric Hansen:  I'm sorry I still have a fairly full queue and wish I could clear it out. I have other reporting commitments this afternoon ahead of me. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back to do it all over again next Wednesday at noon EDT.

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI