Chat Transcript: Why the pine time for Pyne? ND QBs beyond the bye, and recruiting talk
Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Bye Week Edition. PLEASE remember to include your NAME and HOMETOWN along with your question(s).
Off we go.
Mike from Toronto: Eric, I thought I saw more fatigue than usual from the defense at the end of the last few games. I didn't notice as many players subbing in, possibly for different packages and to give guys a blow. I'm not at the stadium, so I'm limited in what I can see. Is there anything to this? Is it an injury problem? Is Marcus Freeman shortening the bench? Hoping we Canadians can get to some late games this season once the border is opened.
Eric Hansen: Hi Mike. By now you probably have seen the border will reopen to fully vaxed individuals in early November, so you'll probably have a chance to see either the Navy game or the Georgia Tech game in person at Notre Dame Stadium if that appeals to you. ... To your question, I felt like that might be the case in the Cincinnati game. Not sure about the others. The four players on defense that log a lot of snaps (virtually all in most games) are S Kyle Hamilton, LB JD Bertrand, and the two CBs — Clarence Lewis and Cam Hart. TaRiq Bracy played a lot at corner in the Va Tech game, but ND played three corners a lot in that game. The D-line rotation is deeper and more consistent, as are the other linebacker timeshares.
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The hope was to bring Prince Kollie along to spell Bertrand. And maybe if ND finds itself in some one-sided games in November, there will be a more comfortable rotation for the coaches in terms of Hamilton and the two corners. Bertrand's situation goes back to injuries to Marist Liufau and Shayne Simon and a slow start for Kollie because of COVID.
Mitch from Arlington, Va. (ND '71): If we put aside the talk radio wisdom about multiple quarterbacks, isn't the lesson of last week that two QBs are probably the best option for this ND team? Tyler Buchner came in and gave us a spark in the first half when we really needed it and opened up the run game. Jack Coan led the team down the field for eight points in a heroic drive that I doubt our other QBs could have managed. Buchner's almost certainly next year's starter, but for this season, isn't tag-teaming it with Kelly pulling the levers the best approach?
Eric Hansen: Hi Mitch. It's interesting, half of ND's opponents to date this season have played two QBs by design, too. Purdue did as well, but not by design. Coach Jeff Brohm had just seen enough of his starter in that game and made a change. ... I really think this is a week-by-week evolution, especially once Brian Kelly did not opt for Drew Pyne against Virginia Tech. I think immediately, two QBs is the best plan. As far as Coan/Buchner, moving forward? You have to factor in how the offensive line is evolving, how ND matches up with the opposing defenses, and whether BK is getting the version of Jack Coan in the games he's getting in practice. The other factor is Buchner's growth. He's the best athlete, has the best arm, has the highest ceiling and has the most complete skill set. Once he gets more comfortable in the passing game (and that might not be until next season), it's going to be tough to keep him off the field.
The good news for both those QBs is that ND will see five very below-average pass defenses the next five games. We're talking pass-efficiency defense rankings (out of 130) of 110th, 109th, 93rd, 99th and 112th. The previous five games, the rankings were: 10th, 13th, 14th, 2nd and 41st.
Patrick from Fort Wayne, Ind.: Good afternoon, Eric. It looks like Drew Pyne will be a career back up at ND. I thought he had some of the "it" factor. At times, it is painful watching Brian Kelly manage his QBs. I remember how long Dan Devine left Joe Montana on the bench no matter how well he played when he subbed in. I am not making a comparison, but I wonder what Pyne could do with a coach who believes in him. On another note, what's up with Botelho? Is this a lost season for him?
Eric Hansen: You're right I wouldn't compare Montana to Pyne or the thought processes of Devine and Kelly. What makes you think Kelly doesn't believe in Pyne? He gave him No. 1 reps (with Coan) all spring and during the first couple of weeks of training camp. Coan apparently practices much better. I anticipated Pyne would start against Virginia Tech and said as much in the last chat. I missed on that one. But in Kelly’s defense, we do still have a small sample size of him in games — and the other QBs’ stats are better. Coan has a 141.0 passer rating, Pyne 134.7, Buchner 128.2. In rushing yardage, Buchner leads the TEAM in yards per carry for anyone with more than one carry this season (6.4), and he's second to Kyren Williams in total rushing yards, with 167 on 26 carries. Pyne is minus-6 on 5 carries. Coan is minus-85 on 35 carries.
Pyne has a great attitude and keeps working, and that's what he should be doing. He's an injury away from being right back in the mix. ... As far as Jordan Botelho, there are some questions later in the chat that will allow me to address his role, so I'll hold on for that.
Dave from Hillsboro, Ore.: Hi Eric. While extremely thankful for the way things played out when Jack Coan re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, I am at a loss on how to explain it. There was very little effective pressure put on Coan, The routes ran looked to be crisp and tight, and the passes on target. Did the ND O-line suddenly gel before our very eyes or did the VT coaching staff make things easier for ND by dialing back the pass rush?
Eric Hansen: The offensive line got better and Coan got better. If Saturday night was not an outlier , but a sign of things to come with the O-line — that's a significant step. Virginia Tech's pass rush is better than any of the teams remaining on ND's schedule. And only Navy among those six has a better run defense rank than Virginia Tech's modest No. 65.
Steve from Dallas/Forth Worth: Hi Eric. Happy for the O-line! Also happy for Bo Bauer, his pick prevented points and gave our Irish some momentum after the Hokies’ TD. Go Erie! (I’m from Oil City, Pa.). Are our running backs healthy with the bye week now? Thanks!
Eric Hansen: Hi Steve. Not yet, but the running backs have a chance to get healthy with the break. Kyren Williams should be good to go by USC. With Tyree, there are different grades of turf toe injuries. The less-serious ones usually are a one- to two-week recovery. More serious can drag on for months. I don't sense it's the latter. Freshman Logan Diggs acquitted himself well in his debut. I don't think they'd hesitate to use Audric Estime, either. The DNP/coaches decision, in which C'Bo Flemister didn't even make the trip, doesn't sound good for him.
Ryan from Caro, Mich.: Eric, Logan Diggs looked solid with the reps he received against Virginia Tech. Do you see him playing more the second half of the season?
Eric Hansen: I do for several reasons. 1. As you mentioned, he stepped up in high-pressure, high-leverage situations. 2. With fewer available wide receivers, Williams and Tyree may line up in the slot more, which would open up opportunities for Diggs. 3. It's a great way to save some wear and tear on Williams and Tyree.
Henry from Stockton, Calif.: Hi Eric. Thank you for all the good work you do. We have a really fun team to watch in the “never quit” 2021 Irish. How many of the Notre Dame 2021 draftees and free agents made a 53-man roster of a NFL team?
Eric Hansen: Thanks, Henry. There are 10 on active rosters and two on practice squads. ... A quick rundown: Aaron Banks (49ers), Ian Book (Saints), Liam Eichenberg (Dolphins), Robert Hainsey (Bucs), Daelin Hayes (Ravens), Nick McCloud (Bengals), Ade Ogundeji (Falcons), Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Browns), Ben Skowronek (Rams) and Tommy Tremble (Panthers). Practice squad: Tommy Kraemer and Javon McKinley, both with the Lions.
Todd from Buffalo, N.Y.: Thanks for the chats and your insight. Where was Chris Tyree against Virginia Tech? He was mentioned prominently in the lead-up (being from Virginia) but ended up with a couple of early carries and Logan Diggs playing in the second half. Did I miss something there?
Eric Hansen: You missed the turf toe injury. Here's the passage in my story from the game:
Running back Logan Diggs made his season debut, and ran for 29 yards on six carries — all in high-leverage situations — and made a 15-yard catch in the game-tying drive.
Sophomore Chris Tyree, who watched ND’s 2018 Lane Stadium win on an unofficial recruiting visit with the Hokies, left Saturday’s game early with turf toe. Senior running back C’Bo Flemister, Kelly said, was left home as a coach’s decision and junior Kyren Williams played through pain though was extremely productive.
Ryan from Mars, Pa.: Good afternoon, Eric. Do you think Michael Mayer will be back for the USC game? Go Irish.
Eric Hansen: Hi Ryan. Given that there was a thought of using him situationally against Virginia Tech and that he has two weeks to heal, I think there's optimism that he'll be ready for USC. We'll get an update from Brian Kelly on Monday.
Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, I want to ask about recruiting, given the emphasis on coaches visiting '22 and '23 players during this bye week and then the onsite visits for recruits for USC. Does ND have a chance to close/sign with either the safety Xavier Nwankpa or the tackle Zach Rice? Both haven’t committed and seem like great five-star talent. Any chance of getting another wide receiver for the ‘22 class? As usual, thanks for the time devoted to the chat.
Eric Hansen: Thank you, Jeff. I don't think OT Zach Rice will land at ND. He's set to announce his decision on Oct. 21. Xavier Nwankpa is down to Iowa, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He's set to visit ND for the USC game next Saturday, and that visit is a big one for the Irish to make one final impression.
Ted from Chicago: I couldn't watch the ND game this week since I don't have the ACC Network. Are there any future plans for Peacock to add these out-of-market games? Would that even be possible to make it streaming?
Eric Hansen: Ted, sorry you missed the game. Peacock is affiliated with NBC, and the ACC Network is affiliated with ESPN, so no. There would be no way to stream the ACC Network games on Peacock. I believe there is a stream option through the WatchESPN app, but I believe to do so you have to subscribe for ESPN’s premium service. If one of the chatters can add to that, I'd welcome the info.
Jim from Goshen: It was hard to keep up with the QB changes vs. Virginia Tech. Which changes were due to injury and which were due to game script/struggles? How do you expect the playing time to be distributed vs. USC?
Eric Hansen: Jack Coan was benched initially because of ineffectiveness. He returned when Tyler Buchner was injured. I expect some sort of Coan/Buchner combo against USC with the flow of the game dictating much of that.
Josh from New York City: I'm sure there are a lot of QB questions today, but would be curious to get your thoughts on whether a situation like 2012 might work for the rest of this year, where Buchner is the starter (like Golson) and Coan is available situationally in relief (like Rees)? That's kind of how the Virginia Tech game played out once they made the switch. I suspect they would've gone to Coan down eight with 3 minutes left, even if Buchner didn't tweak his ankle. Appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks!
Eric Hansen: I don't think there was a plan to go back to Coan, per Kelly. They were committed to finishing with Buchner if he was healthy. In the 2012 season, the Golson/Rees pairing differed from game to game, with Rees having to play the entire BYU game because Golson was in concussion protocol from the previous game. As I mentioned earlier, this can look different from week to week in 2021 as well. And the offensive line play is a factor. There is no blueprint for this. It’s very much a flow-of-the-game thing. Fortunately, the QBs are embracing it. That doesn’t always happen.
Greg from Las Vegas: What are your thoughts about Houston Griffith? Highly publicized potential transfer/return, rave reviews from Marcus Freeman, and looks like a baller. However, with Kyle Hamilton on the other side, I would have expected to see more plays from Griffith. Seems to be a step behind on some of the big plays and stat sheets show 2-3 tackles per game. What do you think can be expected from Houston the rest of the season?
Eric Hansen: Greg, Houston is an enigma for me. He's gifted athletically, works his butt off, has a great attitude, is smart and is no snowflake. And yet it has never consistently translated to the field, as it should. He's got 19 tackles and a QB hurry, but no pass breakups or interceptions. He's played 284 snaps compared to DJ Brown's 101. I think if he's an assignment-correct player who's a hard worker and a great teammate, that may be the high end of what you'll see from him over the balance of the season. And the ND coaching staff will take that.
Eric from Bristol: Hello Eric. As always, thank you for giving up a chunk of your week for these chats. Xavier Watts is really starting to show himself on special teams (on a side note, I'd been working from an initial player roster and was starting to wonder why No. 26, Leo Albano, wasn't a scholarship player). I can definitely see why Brian Kelly was describing X as a “football player” earlier this season. Do you foresee Xavier staying at the rover position to where he was most recently switched? Or would he potentially be an option at safety or cornerback, moving forward, given his size and speed? Or would he possibly even go back to wide receiver after some of the upperclassmen move on after this season?
Eric Hansen: Eric, that's a really interesting question (not that the others aren't and not just because you have a cool first name). I don't think he'll go back to wide receiver. Given the talent coming in for 2022 and the possibility that some of the seniors could stick around, that seems like the path of most resistance. There's going to be a massive influx of talent in the 2022 class at linebacker. Isaiah Pryor leaves at rover, but Paul Moala could be back and Nolan Ziegler looks like a strong rover candidate. The best path might be safety, especially given his size. He's kind of like Avery Davis used to be — a really good football player looking for his best position fit.
Bob from Rochester, N.Y.: Who do you project to be the starting offensive line in 2022, with and without Jarrett Patterson (depending on his choice to stay or go to the NFL)? Same question for the defensive backfield (Patterson situation clearly excluded)?
Eric Hansen: OK, let's start with the secondary. I'm going to go bold here. If Xavier Nwankpa signs with ND, I see him as a starter. I'll pair him with DJ Brown or Justin Walters. The corners — Cam Hart and Clarence Lewis — return with a lot more depth behind them. O-line? With Patterson, from LT to RT: Blake Fisher, Andrew Kristofic or Rocco Spindler, Patterson, Michael Carmody or Tosh Baker, Joe Alt. Without Patterson? Fisher, Spindler, Correll or Kristofic at center, Carmody/Baker, Alt.
Doug from Sunny Florida: Eric, a big thank you to both you and Tyler James for the Twitter updates during the game. I don't have the ACC Network available where I live and couldn't find any other streaming service available. Both of your Twitter updates kept me informed during the game, so Thank You!
Eric Hansen: Doug, thank you. I do have ACCN. It would seem like Miami and Florida State being in your (sunny) state, having ACCN would be a natural. Thanks for following us on Twitter.
Steve from Findlay Ohio: Eric, how do you justify your rankings? Oregon beats your hometown Buckeyes in Columbus and yet you rank them behind Ohio state? Is this bias what keeps Notre Dame so low at 14th from writers in other states?
Eric Hansen: Steve, first of all, where I went to school has nothing to do with my vote and never has. Nor does the team I cover. Maybe you'd bring bias to the voting process if you were on the panel, but I take it seriously. Frankly, your accusation is baseless and classless. If you had simply asked about the voting process without the accusation, that would have been a better approach. When voting for teams, you have to take the entire résumé into account. You can't cherry pick your criteria. Oregon deserved to be ranked over Ohio State after beating the Buckeyes. But Ohio State has been improving since and Oregon appears to be regressing. OSU's closest game the last three weeks was a 52-13 rout of a Rutgers team that took Michigan into the fourth quarter in a 20-13 loss the week before. Oregon had a five-point lead over a winless Arizona team going into the fourth quarter a week before it lost outright to a 3-3 Stanford team. The Buckeyes have plenty of games remaining that will test their ranking.
Oregon doesn't have any such games unless it reaches the Pac-12 title game. As far as Notre Dame, I had the Irish 11th this week, but I can see how other people could rank them lower. They've had some unimpressive wins and got beat at home by a very good Cincinnati team. If they start to play better and more consistently, they'll be rewarded. It's that simple.
Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, I hope you are enjoying the bye week. You have just been named the head coach at ND. What three things are you going to work on the most with both the offense and the defense during the bye week? As always, thanks for your great work. I love these chats and look forward to hearing your responses to this question!
Eric Hansen: Hi Marie, and thank you. The bye week is always tricky, because you're trying to weigh rest and recovery versus a chance to fix things with more work. A lot of the coaches will hit the road to recruit later today (Wednesday) and be gone until the weekend. The good news about the bye week timing is the players have midterms this week when practice is lighter, and then no school next week (fall break) when they bear down for USC. To your question, offensive line personnel and blocking schemes make up one of the three things on my list. The other two priorities are: Getting Tyler Buchner more comfortable with more of the playbook and figuring out how to make better use of some of the defensive personnel, particularly Jordan Botelho.
Dave from Houston: Do you think it offends the press that follows ND when Kelly is openly antagonistic about the coverage being too critical of the team? Seems to be fairly even-handed for the most part.
Eric Hansen: Dave, I know some people get mortally wounded by it. I guess if it were a consistent drumbeat of it, I might ask Brian privately why his shorts are in a knot about it. But it's very isolated, and I take it as BK kind of being in the moment after an emotional game. To be honest with you, he gets what we do as well or better than any coach I've ever covered. I've been around the guy for 12 years. It will pass. My VERY first beat out of college was IU basketball and Bob Knight. So everything since then has been much more normal, not that I didn't learn a lot from that experience.
Pat H. from Springfield, Ill: Does this scenario work for you to get ND into the Final Four? Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC title game, eliminating Alabama. OSU loses to anybody — whether in the regular season or Big 10 title game. Oklahoma loses at least once. Winner of the Big 10 title game and Cincy go undefeated. Does this leave a spot for a one-loss Irish team, even though the schedule won’t be as demanding as originally thought? That was a mouthful and maybe unanswerable now, but thanks for reading and thanks for your fine work.
Eric Hansen: Hi Pat and thanks for your question. I like that you minimized the math here. ND's schedule hurts. There are not many opportunities to impress other than lopsided scores, and even that has limited appeal. The two best things that can happen for ND regarding the rankings (even for New Year's Six consideration): 1) Cincinnati going undefeated and looking good doing so, and 2) a lot of conference champions having two or more losses. ... and of course ND going 11-1.
The Polish Prince from Steubenville, Ohio: Good morning, Eric. I wish I could be more optimistic. However, that is not my nature. While the win last week was a pleasant surprise and the QB shuffle worked, I fear we are headed into another poorly handled QB situation. This is Jack Coan's last year, and Tyler Buchner looks like the heir apparent. I think Pyne can read the writing on the wall, and word out of New Jersey is Steve Angeli — our 2022 QB recruit is none too happy with Notre Dame trying to flip LSU recruit Walker Howard. I wouldn't be surprised to see Pyne in the transfer portal, Angeli decommitting and Howard staying put. I could go down the list of highly recruited QBs that never panned out, but we all know their names. How would you rate Kelly's QB development during his tenure at Notre Dame
Eric Hansen: You know, I loved your opening line. And you know what? You lived up to it. And that's OK. Pepto Bismol is making a fortune on Irish fans this fall. Your question is almost as broad, though, as: What is the meaning of life? ... And maybe somehow they are connected. I've done extensive stories on this — the QB development stuff, not the doomsday predictions. ... I'll try to sum it up succinctly. After 12 years, Brian Kelly has knocked down a lot of challenges. The QB development perception/reality is one of the two that are still out there for him. That doesn't mean there hasn't been progress, but it's a necessary step in his coaching evolution if he is going to coach a national championship team. I think that's fair to say.
Alan from Whiteland, Ind.: Eric, in your opinion, what prevents Notre Dame from securing commitments from the top high school quarterbacks, like a Caleb Williams of Oklahoma or a Bryce Young of Alabama? I feel this is the core difference that prevents Notre Dame from defeating the top programs in college football. I would be interested in reading your perspective on this.
Eric Hansen: Hi Alan, we took a deep dive on the topic of quarterback recruiting and development on our last podcast, with Steve Wiltfong. I think you would find it interesting, based on your question. There was a time you could win a national title without those kinds of guys, but with a great defense and a QB who didn't make mistakes. Now you need a great defense (or at least very good one) AND an elite QB. ND has recruited Gunner Kiel, Brandon Wimbush and Phil Jurkovec during the Kelly Era. But they need to do that consistently and have those QBs pan out. I think until the 2023 cycle, ND was making two mistakes: Nnot offering the elite guys early enough and not aiming high enough sometimes. The Irish coaches certainly are doing so with the 2023 QB crop, and it should play off.
Robert from Minnesota: Awesome chat! First, I think Brian Kelly deserves more credit for being 5-1. If we are rebuilding, we are looking good. How would you grade BK thus far? Second, it’s been a while since we have had a commitment. Who will be the next to commit to ☘️?
Eric Hansen: Thanks, Robert. I'd give Brian Kelly a B at this point. There's been a lot of fixing to do, and the Irish have been able to do it while winning for the most part. I'll keep my answer short there. ... There really has been a lull with commitments nationwide since wide receiver C.J. Williams' commitment to ND on Aug. 8 nudged the Irish into the No. 1 spot in the Rivals national team recruiting rankings. They've been there ever since. What you're seeing now is a lot of elite guys taking their official visits on game weekends. ND will have some key 2022 visitors in for next Saturday’s USC game, as well as some elite 2023 guys. So I would say as we get into November and those visits are concluded, you'll start to see commitments pick up again — at ND and across the country.
Ted Witte from St. Paul, Minn.: Did Brian Kelly ever talk about why Drew Pyne didn't play? Does he look bad in practice?
Eric Hansen: He implied Jack Coan (and Tyler Buchner) practiced much better and typically do.
John from Mexico, Mo.: Hey Eric, I always love the great coverage! Why is Kelly relying on Jack “feet of stone” Coan and mistake-prone Tyler Buchner when you have Drew “Brees Jr.” Pyne on the bench? He seems like the best option, having been in the system for a year and more mobile than Coan. It seems like he isn’t getting a fair shot. Your thoughts?
Eric Hansen: I do think how you practice should mean something, but not everything. If Pyne's game stats were clearly better, then he'd have a better case. I do think his window is closing if he doesn't get another shot soon and if there aren't any serious injuries. The absolute best part about Pyne, though, is the kid will work his butt off to get better and continually make that a difficult decision.
Tom from Grand Rapids thru Dowagiac: Eric, welcome to midterms!! Hope your week off (so to speak) allows you to recharge your batteries. BK has created the situation that presents itself at QB. Going forward, does the offense need to tweak to fit Coan’s skill set? I don’t understand a read-option look, when Coan isn’t going to keep the ball or can it become an RPO?
Eric Hansen: If ND was purely committed to go with Jack Coan the rest of the way, it would need to look like the fourth quarter at Virginia Tech. Quick decision making and delivery on his part and improved offensive line play. That's the blueprint. But it has to be executed.
RustyIrish from Cincinnati: Thanks for the chats, Eric. Always enlightening to hear your perspective. Do you think Tommy Rees is in over his head as both the offensive coordinator and QBs coach? Our QBs continue to regress with predictable consistency every year, Ian Book included. Does Brian Kelly not see this or does he have a blind spot relative to coach Rees? I can’t envision ND reaching the college football summit with him as OC and the QBs coach.
Eric Hansen: In terms of combining offensive coordinator and QB coach duties, that was something Brian Kelly found very attractive in promoting Rees. He wanted that combination. So do a lot of teams that win national titles. Five of the seven champions in the Playoff Era were set up that way. The two exceptions were the Clemson teams in 2016 and 2018. Now if you're asking if Rees can handle those two roles, my answer would also be yes. If you're questioning Rees' experience level and how quickly he can become an elite play caller, I think that's a fair question.
Matt from Los Angeles: I read that Carnell Tate was going to announce his college choice on Oct. 8, but I haven’t seen anything publicized. Did he change his decision date or did he commit silently?
Eric Hansen: The standout 2023 wide receiver from IMG Academy pushed back the date to take more visits and hasn't set a new date.
Mike from Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greetings, Eric, and thanks for the great coverage that keeps ND fans on oxygen as the team evolves. How is the morale among running backs as their production is held back by challenges in the evolution of the O-line? Thanks.
Eric Hansen: Hi Mike, and thank you for being a part of the chat. Those guys are very supportive of the line, and Kyren Williams leads the way. It's one of many reasons why he's such a good captain.
Ced Walker from Saginaw, Mich.: Will ND take a fourth wide receiver in this recruiting class? Any new offers? Who is leaning right now? We are ND. Go Irish. Love thee Notre Dame, our mother. Pray for us.
Eric Hansen: Notre Dame would like to take four. They are focused on trying to make the Amorion Walker commitment more stable, foremost. There are a handful of other prospects they're monitoring and that list will likely become more relevant after the USC game.
Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric, I noticed in one of your recent articles you suggested the possibility of playing defensive ends Isaiah Foskey and Jordan Bothelo at the same time. Coming out of the spring, I always thought that was going to be the plan, with moving Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa inside on key passing downs. Why has this not been done yet this year? There were too many opportunities for a sack or hurry in the Cincinnati and VT games that broke down, because the back side lost contain. What is your expert take on this situation? Go Irish!!!
Eric Hansen: Tom, if you and I were coaching the team, that would have happened already. I think Botelho missing a couple of weeks to start with has limited his opportunities other than in the Wisconsin game. If the coaching staff can get him right during the bye week, I think the exact scenario you laid out makes a lot of sense, and I may run it by BK this coming week.
Jake from Saratoga, N.Y.: Hi Eric, my thought is that after watching the game this past weekend and hearing Brian Kelly speak afterwards that when reading between the lines I believe Kelly wants to hand the keys over to Tyler Buchner. Do you have the same impression?
Eric Hansen: I think he wants to accelerate Buchner's growth curve, as well as some of the other freshmen's — particularly on offense. They all responded well to their increase in responsibility and opportunity against Virginia Tech. That’s a great sign.
Jeremy from Goshen, Ind.: Which 2023 QB recruit do you think ND has the best chance to land?
Eric Hansen: I think ND has positioned itself well with a lot of elite 2023 guys. If I had to name one, I'd feel pretty good about linebacker Drayk Bowen from Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind. He’s a top 50-caliber player nationally and a heck of a baseball player, too.
Will from Seattle: Hello Eric. Thanks as always for doing this. ND’s locker room chemistry looks great on Instagram. Is this chemistry truly as good as it’s ever been under BK, and will it translate to recruiting results?
Eric Hansen: Culture beats scheme, but it's great to have both. I think ND's team chemistry has been strong since Kelly's coaching reboot after the 2016 season. I think it has been and will continue to be a positive bump in recruiting. Kids want that kind of close-knit family atmosphere, especially if they’re going to be a long way away from home.
Steve from Findlay, Ohio: Eric, I didn't mean to make an accusation. I just wanted to know how you justified putting a team that was beaten soundly in a head-to-head matchup in Columbus ahead of the other team with the same record. I wasn't impressed with OSU win over Minnesota (who BG beat) or other wins over teams, like Akron
Eric Hansen: That was a seven-point game in Columbus, and OSU's defense looked bad. But teams aren't static. Some improve. Some regress. I didn't put Stanford ahead of Oregon and they won by the exact same margin Oregon did in Columbus. If you look at the two teams statistically, OSU is better than Oregon in every significant statistical category: rush offense, pass offense, total offense, scoring offense, pass efficiency, rush defense, pass-efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.
In some cases, the difference is staggering: Total offense. Ohio State is No. 1. Oregon is 53rd. Pass efficiency. OSU is 3, Oregon is 70. That's below Notre Dame. ... Both teams are top 11 in turnover margin. The great thing about an October poll is that there are more games to play, and each week we get more information about teams we didn’t have before. The Buckeyes have at least three games left against top 10 teams — and a fourth if they get to the Big Ten title game. So we'll find out soon enough if the defensive improvement is real.
Dave from Cincinnati, Ohio — home of a rising, highly rated football team: Thanks for all your great work in spite of Gannett taking over the South Bend Tribune.
Eric Hansen: Thank you, Dave.
Dan from Grand Rapids, Mich.: Hi Eric. The highlights showed that the ND line looked much improved — running game included. Was it? What's your opinion of it the rest of the year? Thanks as always.
Eric Hansen: I thought there was tangible evidence that there was real O-line improvement. Is it sustainable? We have Mike Golic Jr. on our podcast Thursday to get his take on those kinds of questions.
Eric Hansen: That's it for this week. Sorry if I got a little feisty. Great questions and conversation. I'd like to buy all of you a beer — if I had the budget. We'll be back next week to do it all over again — at noon ET. (The chat part, not the beer buying.)
Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI