Chat Transcript: Talking Kyle Hamilton's future and Notre Dame's without the star safety

Eric Hansen
ND Insider
The stadium lights go dark as fans create a light show using their mobile phones before the Notre Dame-USC football game on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium.

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, North Carolina Week Edition. Please remember to include your NAME and HOMETOWN along with your question.

Before I start, I had a chathead email me about what are the must-do pregame things to do at a Notre Dame home game day beyond tailgating. He's coming up for his first-ever game this weekend. Since,my to-do list (pick up credential, get to my seat in the press box on time, tell Tyler James a corny joke) looks markedly different than what a fan's might be, I'm taking suggestions. Just submit them separately from your questions, and I'll run some of them at the very end of the chat. Thanks.

OK now on to the question queue ...

Hansen:Analysis: The eye test, and who to keep an eye on, during Notre Dame's stretch run

Related:Notebook: Notre Dame football secondary preparing for North Carolina without safety Kyle Hamilton

Rusty Irish from Cincinnati, Ohio: Eric, is it me or is Kevin Austin consistently dropping routine balls, especially at the most inopportune times?

Eric Hansen: There are admittedly some extremes to his play this season. Big drops, but also some very big catches. I don't think that's completely unexpected, given how little he has played his first three years, due to a variety of factors (including injuries). He had six career catches coming into this season. Kevin is on a trajectory to finish with 41 catches for 661 yards and six TDs. Decent numbers, but not those that would suggest the NFL Draft should be his next step. Coming back in 2022 for a fifth year seems like the prudent thing to do. I'm not sure if he sees it the same way, but we'll see. He does have NFL talent. He needs to develop NFL consistency.

Steve from St. Louis: When Brian Kelly provided the injury update for Kyle Hamilton on, I believe, Monday, it almost sounded like it may be a business decision on Hamilton's part not to play against North Carolina. Something to the effect of "all parties having input.”  You certainly can’t blame him, as there is a lot at stake regarding his future. Hamilton strikes me as a team-first guy, so I'm curious what your take on BK's answer was and the situation in general? Also I've never heard of a "fat pad" injury before. Any additional details on that?

Eric Hansen: There are a lot of Kyle Hamilton questions in the queue similar to this one, so I'll try to address most (if not all) in this one. 1. I don't think playing or not THIS week was a business decision of sorts. I think this week was a medical decision. But as the injury heals, I definitely feel the business end of things comes into play.

Right now, Hamilton is projected by most prominent draft analysts as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. That's whether he plays another down for Notre Dame in his career or not. A lot of other factors then start to play into the equation.

What's Notre Dame's postseason trajectory? Are the Irish a playoff team? (Not at all likely, but still possible.) A Cheez-It Bowl team? (With a loss maybe and more likely with two losses.) A New Year's Six non-playoff team? (Ding, ding, ding if they go 11-1).

What's the medical evaluation? Can he injure himself further or elongate his recovery by playing before the injury is fully healed? Can he play through the pain?

I do think Kyle is a team-first guy. He's also a member of MENSA, with a genius IQ and common sense to go with it. He's got a great support system, who would help him make a grounded decision. Hopefully, we'll know for sure soon (perhaps Thursday) if indeed we're talking about a fat pad impingement or something else.

As far as the injury itself, it doesn't seem possible Kyle Hamilton would have a fat pad anywhere on his body. It seems more like an injury a sports writer would get jostling for free press box food. It is an injury with pain and inflammation underneath the kneecap. There are varying degrees of seriousness. For more, click here.

Tim from Vancouver, Wash.: Eric, thanks a lot for all you do and for your insight. Two questions: Does Hamilton suit up again this season? And, did ND make a good enough impression for his heir-apparent out of Iowa? I can’t remember the young man’s name, sorry. Thanks again to you and Tyler.

Eric Hansen: Hey Tim, and thanks. I didn't answer the Hamilton part of this directly in Steve's question, because I don't know the answer and I don't think Kyle knows yet. I will say that it's not out of the realm of possibility that he will return. ... From all accounts, ND made a big impression on Xavier Nwankpa, the five-star safety out of Iowa. But it's a tight race with home-state Iowa and Ohio State. He is set to announce his decision on Dec. 8. He would be in the mix to be a starter in 2022 if he chose ND.

Reno Joe from Reno, Nev.: Finally, a game plan for Jack Coan to show his arm talents, even though the guy sitting behind me didn’t think so. Also loved the runs by Tyler Buchner. How big is the doghouse built for Drew Pyne?

Eric Hansen: It doesn't exist. He's not done enough in the coaching staff's eyes to beat out the other two QBs. But his status as No. 3 is not a punishment of any kind. It's just his reality. That could change in the future.

Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric, love these chats. How many players do you think we'll lose to the NFL Draft and what effect will it have on the chances of us winning the national championship next year?  Thanks, and GO IRISH!!!!!!!

Eric Hansen: Hi Ken, and thank you. I love them too! Now when you ask that question, I'm assuming you're only asking about players with a decision to make and not those who are exhausting their eligibility. Because of the COVID exemption of 2020, there's a huge list — too many to name — though for those granted/exercising it (and there won't be many), there is not an elastic scholarship limit next year as there is this year. The NCAA scholarship limit reverts back to 85 in 2022. We talked about some key ones with The Athletic draft analyst Dane Brugler in our latest Pod of Gold podcast. So let's limit it to those.

Most of these don't involve the COVID option, but the regular fifth-year option or players giving up their senior seasons ... The three that I'd say are in play that would have to exercise their COVID option with a chance to come back are DT Jayson Ademilola, CB TaRiq Bracy and LB Bo Bauer. ... Among those with fifth-year options are WR Kevin Austin Jr., WR Braden Lenzy. C Jarrett Patterson and DE Justin Ademilola. Of those seven, I don't think any are slam dunks to leave, but Patterson and Jayson Ademilola are the guys with the toughest choice at this point. Of the true juniors, I think Kyle Hamilton and Kyren Williams are gone. DE Isaiah Foskey will weigh his evaluation from the NFL's College Advisory Committee after the season.

Having Patterson, Foskey or Jayson Ademilola stay would be a boon for 2022. Most of the others beyond Hamilton and Williams would benefit by coming back. We can review this list in December and put a finer point on it.

Denny from Liberty Hill, Texas: Eric, I thought I read that Nicholas Singleton was visiting Notre Dame for the USC game. Was I mistaken? It seems that no mention has been made of this. Do you think a strong finish this season might attract him to flip his commitment to the Irish?

Eric Hansen: Nicholas Singleton is a 6-foot, 210-pound running back from Reading, Pa., who's currently committed to Penn State. He was not a visitor for the USC game. To my understanding, Notre Dame has not given up flipping him and adding him to this class. I'm not sure a strong finish would sway him, but if Penn State coach James Franklin got involved and took one of the high-profile coaching jobs (USC, LSU), that might get him to reconsider. For the record, we run a list of all confirmed recruiting visitors late in the week (on home game weekends) and update it Saturday morning to reflect any 11th-hour changes.

Jim from Antis Twp., PA: Hello Eric. Will the Rose Bowl in non-playoff years always stick with Big Ten vs. PAC-12, or can ND make another appearance in it, perhaps this season? It was a disappointment to not play in Pasadena last season, and I would really like to see the Irish there. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Yes, the Rose Bowl will stick with its Big Ten/Pac-12 format in non-playoff years at least until the bowl contracts expires in January 2026 or until that contract is renegotiated to accommodate a larger playoff field. So Notre Dame would have to make the playoff at the end of the 2023 season AND be assigned to the Rose Bowl semifinal to play in that game, in Pasadena.

Tim from San Antonio: Thanks for your great coverage of Notre Dame. Lifelong Irish fan but first time submitting a question. I would love your thoughts on how the win against USC, coupled with the new fan experience (light show, etc.), and stellar play of so many freshmen/sophomores resonated with the recruits? Any pending commitments? I truly appreciate your professionalism.

Eric Hansen: Hi Tim. Thanks and welcome. I love San Antonio, by the way. The light show, atmosphere and outcome couldn't have gone over better with the recruits had it been scripted. BIG boost. Having so many former players there didn’t hurt, either. The realistic outcome from the weekend was to make a final impression on the handful of 2022s in attendance and set the table and strengthen the relationships with the 2023s, 2024s and 2025s. And the Irish did. As far as commitments coming, I would expect 2022 offensive lineman Billy Schrauth to make a decision sooner than later. And of the 2023s, five-star in-state linebacker Drayk Bowen has set a Nov. 7 date to announce his decision, with the Irish the favorites to land him.

Denny from Beaverton, Ore.: Hi Eric. You mentioned last week to my question that a concern of yours for the second half of the season on defense would be more consistency. The defense failed to close the door on USC late in the game and the score was allowed to get too close. It seems we play quite a few players, so getting tired should not be a big problem. Any idea how Marcus Freeman's defense this year compares to his defense last year at Cincinnati? I have not heard much about Phil Jurkovec at Boston College this year. I never underestimate USC, so any victory over the Trojans brings a big smile.  Thanks for your great work.

Eric Hansen: Hi Denny, and thank you. I think part of what you might perceive as the defense letting up is USC's ability to finally take advantage of ND playing nickel as its base defense in that game and doing so without Kyle Hamilton. USC has two really good running backs, both transfers (Ingram from Texas and Barlow from TCU), and ND sticking with nickel allowed some inviting running lanes in the second half. Had Hamilton been part of that package, it wouldn't have been so easy to execute some of those runs. North Carolina and Virginia, in particular (if Hamilton isn't back for the latter), may try to exploit that, so the Irish might not be able to fully commit to nickel/dime packages for that large percentage of plays against those teams. ... As far as how this year's Irish D compares statistically to Cincinnati's last season, Cincinnati 2020 was statistically better.

But it was their fourth year in that scheme, not the first. And Cincinnati still has two of the best cornerbacks on any team, Power 5 or not. ... You have not heard much about Phil Jurkovec, because he was injured early in the season and is out for the rest of the year.

Rick from Lake Forest, Calif.: Can a coach for ND or any other team contact a player on another team asking him if he would be interested in going through the transfer portal?  For instance, the kicker from San Diego State does both punting and field goals/kickoffs. Could coach (Brian) Poulin contact him to see if he would enter the portal?

Eric Hansen: Not legally, ethically and directly. The player has to be in the portal for legal contact to happen.

Bill from St Joe, Mich.: Love these chats, Eric. So how many dump O-line coach Jeff Quinn messages do you have in the queue this week?

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Bill. Zero so far.

Jim from Austin, Texas: What are the real chances of closing on Walker Howard, Xavier Nwankpa, Anthony Lucas, Hero Kanu, Aamil Wagner and Billy Schrauth?

Eric Hansen: The only one where Notre Dame is a distinct probability is Schrauth, though that's been a wild one to follow to this point. The Irish reportedly have reasserted themselves. I think if Howard doesn't like the new LSU coach, then ND becomes a probability. I think there will be one surprise among the others, and my guess is it'd be Nwankpa. None of those are a completely closed door.

Larry from Millersville, Pa.: Eric, what is the status of Chris Tyree? Will Brian Kelly give us more details at the press conference tomorrow? Also, while researching North Carolina, I noticed they have two five-star recruits in their 2022 class. Why can't we get these guys?

Eric Hansen: Larry, there was optimism on Monday that Tyree would be available this week. We'll get an update on Thursday, and I will include that in my regular Thursday afternoon notebook. ... North Carolina has commitments from five-star O-lineman Zach Rice and five-star D-lineman Travis Shaw. ND was a finalist for Rice, who chose to stay closer to home. The Irish did not offer a scholarship to Shaw.

Bill from the Florida Keys: Just wondering how the recovery for freshman offensive tackle Blake Fisher is going. I  have seen many friends (myself included) that had a torn meniscus and were full speed within a month. Is there a possibility that there might be more damage than was initially thought?

Eric Hansen: Hi Bill, I have it on my list to ask about with Brian Kelly on Thursday. Originally, the prognosis was eight weeks. Then it seemed to elongate. Then Fisher posted a cryptic message on Twitter the other day that SEEMED to hint at a more optimistic timetable. Keep in mind not all meniscus tears are created equal. And I'm not sure how many of your friends who had tears are 335 pounds and playing a physically demanding sport.

Brian from Indianapolis: Is a large portion of the running game struggles related to the staff believing they were going to have Tommy Tremble this year? I would assume his leaving caught them off-guard and they had been banking on having his expertise this year as they transitioned to four new starters.

Eric Hansen: I don't know that there was a belief they'd have Tremble back. I think there was a hope he and Aaron Banks would return. Neither did. And the Irish felt it.

Dan from Grand Rapids, Mich.: Hi Eric. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss ND football with one of the GREAT's of the newspaper/media business! I need  a little clarification. I saw a runner at the bottom of the screen on ESPN a week ago Saturday that said that the NCAA was not going to have any admission standards for any of its institutions. Can this be right? Or did I mis-read/interpret it? This can't be good news for the NDs, Stanfords, and BCs of the world, can it?  Please tell me I'm wrong. You're THE BEST!

Eric Hansen: Dan, thanks for the compliments. I feel like I should be giving you extra Halloween candy for that. ... The NCAA Standardized Test Score Task Force on Oct. 15 recommended that initial-eligibility standards for high school students preparing to play Division I or II sports no longer include a standardized test score requirement. So this is a recommendation that will look to be advanced further at the committee level in February. It's not yet finalized. The move reflects a shift from schools moving away from standardized testing as part of the admission process for the general student body. This does NOT mean there will be NO academic standards, however.

Erik from Granger: Thanks for being here! Since Braden Lenzy’s production has been so low, is it time to give Lorenzo Styles Jr. more reps, or are there issues other than Lenzy not getting open? I know he was open early in the season but not getting the ball. Has that still been true the last few weeks? I definitely thought we’d see him averaging 4-5 touches per game for 50-100 yards, but he’s been pretty invisible for the most part.

Eric Hansen: Erik, thank you. And thanks for your gameday suggestions. I'm going to post all of them at the end of the chat. ... I think Lorenzo Styles Jr. is earning more reps, regardless of what anyone else is doing. Deion Colzie too, to some extent. Styles got a season-high 15 snaps against USC. Lenzy had a receiver-group-high 52. So it's possible to do both. It's really a rotation of five receivers, and having the freshmen contribute only makes it stronger. Lenzy only got two touches Saturday — a 14-yard run and a reception for minus-2 yards. I know his production hasn't been particularly impressive to this point, but I would not give up on him. He's overcome a lot during his time at ND, and there's talent there and a work ethic and mental toughness to go with it. Let's see what happens in these next few games, particularly if the offensive line continues to advance.

Buddy from Oakland: Eric, with Hamilton on the sidelines, how do you think Marcus Freeman will approach this North Carolina game? Will he turn up the pressure on the quarterback with more stunts and blitzes? Or will he go with a "bend don't break" approach and play it safe?  Personally, I think the Irish have thrived when aggressive and regressed when they go passive. On the other hand, last week's approach was pretty effective where they went passive on the long field, then got aggressive in the red zone. What say you?

Eric Hansen: North Carolina is one of six FBS teams that has struggled with sacks more than ND has, and it turns the ball over too much of offense — both the results of pressure. Otherwise, they're the No. 15 offense in the country with a future first-round draft pick as their quarterback. So yes, pressure needs to be a big part of the game plan to attack those few-but-notable weaknesses. ND also needs to account for QB Sam Howell's running ability, which is something the Irish didn't really have to worry about against USC.

JR from Warren, Ohio: Any thoughts on Rick Neuheisel and Kirk Herbstreit predicting Brian Kelly to USC???

Eric Hansen: My thoughts are you've twisted the narrative, at least from Herbstreit's standpoint. He said USC should pursue Brian Kelly. He did not predict Kelly would end up at USC. As far as I could find, Neuheisel said the same thing.

Nervous in Van Nuys, Calif.: Eric, it's nervous time again. The Irish are in a precarious position this week. They are facing the best quarterback that they will see this season, without their top defender. UNC has had a bye week to heal and scheme. Mack Brown now has tape of Jack in the hurry-up offense.  The Irish will have a huge emotional letdown after their big win against USC. And, ND is still a work-in-progress on both sides of the ball. Eric, when I get nervous, my go-to drink is Jack on the rocks. Tell me why I should stop drinking and start resuming my AA meetings.

Eric Hansen: To be honest, your punch line hits too close to home for a lot of people who have lived with people with addictions. A line about having a drink is fine. The context of AA is crossing a line for  me. Not a fan of it if you're kidding. Feel sorry for you if it's true.

Jeremy from Goshen: What's the over/under on starts for Tyler Buchner this year and why? We'll see set it at 1.5

Eric Hansen: Barring, injury I'd go under. If ND can replicate the purposefulness and production from the USC game with regard to the QB tag-teaming, why change it. Buchner can still develop for 2022 in the role that he's in.

Robert from Virginia Beach: Is it possible to buy scalper tickets outside the stadium, or did the digital transformation take away all such possibilities?

Eric Hansen: You can only get a hard ticket at the courtesy booths near the stadium. I don't see how the mechanics to scalp hard tickets would exist anymore ... or why you'd want them to with all the online options.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric, thanks for the chats!! I am anxious to get Kevin Bauman back on the field. His skill set would be a great complement to Michael Mayer in our two-tight end sets, especially with the offense going to a more quick-throw style. Do you agree? How close is he to returning?

Eric Hansen: Hi Tom. I'll ask about him again Thursday, but I think Virginia on Nov. 13 would be realistic, given earlier timetables. And yes, I think he'd be an asset for a number of reasons.

KJ near the Channel Isles, Calif.: Boo-ya to you, Eric! Scary week after a nice win over the Trojans. Two big areas of concern though. Red-zone offense and tackling. That series after Bo Bauer's interception was horrendous. It totally flipped the momentum from what should have been a back-breaker for USC. Why no Tyler Buchner from the 4-yard line if Tommy Rees was determined to run the ball? And without Kyle Hamilton against the Tar Heels, I'm scared what a dangerous Sam Howell might do with their offense. Please tell me why I shouldn't be scared. And Happy Halloween to you!

Eric Hansen: Happy Halloween, KJ. I agree Buchner would have been a good option to run the offense after the Bo Bauer interception return. Now remember, ND played North Carolina last year with no Hamilton in the second half (targeting) and shut them out. Playing an entire game without Hamilton will be challenging, though, in part because of how balanced the Carolina offense is. The games in which they've struggled to score is when they've succumbed to pressure (through sacks and turnovers) and when they've racked up the penalties. It'll be a challenging game. North Carolina is better than USC. It is scary, but I am predicting a narrow ND win.

Michael from Chicago: On the ITG podcast the players were asked which ND assistant coach they would take a cross country road trip with. The votes were Rees 2, McNulty 1, and Taylor 1 (I was shocked no votes for Freeman, were you?). Which coach would you pick and why? Lane Kiffen was a very popular choice for non-ND coach. Can you see a world in which ND would consider him? Bet most never thought they'd see a light show at ND either. so never say NEVER (unless you're Mike Tomlin re: USC)!

Eric Hansen: Michael, I'm going to assume ITG is Inside The Garage. For those who don't follow podcasts, that's the one with Kyle Hamilton, KJ Wallace, Conor Ratigan and Cam Hart. Yeah I am surprised no one said Freeman. I'd probably go with Freeman or Mike Elston. And the latter in part, because I think his wife would make us some of her famous chocolate chip cookies for the trip. Lane Kiffin would NEVER be a fit at ND, but he would be in demand at other places. 

IrishMike from Altoona, Pa.: Hi Eric! What are your thoughts on a one-loss, to the No. 2 team in the country, Notre Dame team being left out of the top 10?

Eric Hansen: I think it means it's still October, and there's a lot of football to be played. I said this on our podcast the other day. You can't cherry pick just one part of a team's résumé and build your case on that. You've got to look at the totality of it. Notre Dame has a chance over the next five games to distance itself from some of the early close calls with mediocre teams.

Ryan from Caro Mich.: Eric, I thought the drive and play calling following the USC touchdown in the fourth quarter with Tyler Buchner running it in was one of the best drives I have seen the Irish run all year and put them back up by two scores. With Kyle Hamilton out for who knows how long, do you see the Irish offense finally evolving to a point where it will be able to give the defense some rest over the next couple weeks?

Eric Hansen:Ryan, that's tricky, because the uptempo seems to work for them, yet ball-hogging was one of the reasons the Irish beat North Carolina last year. So maybe a little bit of both, and that would seem to work best with Buchner in the game (later on, with the lead).

Lee from Lancaster, S.C.: Hi Eric. I really enjoy reading your articles and your insightful comments in the chat. Your knowledge on ND football is extremely impressive, and you're without question one of the best in your profession. Do you feel that the coaches are more candid in answering your questions or maybe give you more access because they have so much respect for knowledge and work?

Eric Hansen: OK Lee, this is exactly how my kids sound when they need to borrow money. ... Thank you for the compliments packed in that question, but it's not something I've measured or given any thought to. If I need an agent, though, I'm coming for you.

Caleb from Charlotte, N.C.: Eric, what is the role of the team captains besides going out on the field for the coin toss?

Eric Hansen: Leadership everywhere. In the locker room, in practice, in how they conduct themselves away from football. It's not ceremonial, that's for sure.

Shane from White Deer, Texas: Hey Eric. I hope all is well with you. I am so excited. My brother is taking me to my first ND game at South Bend for my 60th birthday. What a great brother. Two questions: First, why do you think our tackling looked like it took a step backwards. Backs and receivers falling forward too many times. Second, at this point in the season, do “style points” matter? Would scoring one more touchdown instead of taking a knee make a difference in the grand scheme of bowls or playoffs? Thanks and Go Irish!!

Eric Hansen: Congrats Shane on coming to the game, turning 60, not having to deal with snow and for having a cool brother. The tackling wasn't overly impressive, but schematically ND was in a mismatch against the run for most of the USC game because of its priority of keeping Drake London from turning into a touchdown machine. Style points matter to a point. If they kind of come organically within the game, absolutely. If you're calling timeouts to pile on and putting the first team back in, etc., it's not a good look.

Cheryl from Texas: To help the pass rush, should ND move Myron Tagavailoa-Amosa to defensive tackle against passing teams like UNC and Virginia?

Eric Hansen: There are packages in which he kicks inside, but he's playing at a very high level on the edge on most downs. I like that suggestion, though, especially fn Jordan Botelho can be used when Isaiah Foskey is in the game as well and if Botelho can be productive.

Joey G. from Philadelphia, Pa: Hi Eric. As fans we get a lot of our information from the sports writers who cover ND football. There was so much hype coming into the season for players like Chris Tyree, Kevin Austin, and Braden Lenzy. After watching seven games, it’s safe to say I’m not seeing what they’re seeing. I don’t think any of them will ever make an impact at Notre Dame. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see them in different uniforms next year. How do you feel these players have done so far in their time at ND? And do you think any might hit the portal?

Eric Hansen: Is this a trick question?

Mark from Orange County, Calif.: Hi Eric, Hope all is well with you and your family. Thank you for hosting these chats and your podcast. Your guests are always contributing great insight, memories and analysis. And you and Tyler ask good questions of your guests. Even with the injuries, ND seems to be playing better as the season progresses. The uptempo offense used against USC seemed to really bring out the best in Jack Coan. Do you think offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is responsible for making that strategic move or did he just implement it?

Eric Hansen: Hi Mark. Thank you. I think most good ideas (and bad ones) are collaborations. Pre-pandemic when I used to spend almost every work day in the office, we'd throw around ideas and kind of build off the original brainstorming. No one took credit for it. That wasn't the point. I think it's the same way with most things involving coaching.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Hi Eric. Hope all is well with you. Will you the grandchildren on Halloween? Saturday against NC, do you expect a bend-and-don't-break defense similar to the USC game? Or will we see more pressure packages? On offense, what will Tommy Rees do differently to show North Carolina something a little different? As always, thanks for hosting.

Eric Hansen: Len, thanks. I think there's a word or two missing from the question about my grandkids. I'm going to guess you're asking me if I plan to raid their stashes of candy. And the answer is no, because they're good at hiding it. The no-Hamilton approach defensively is still one I'm trying to wrap my head around. Had he been playing, I think Hamilton would have lined up against slot receiver Josh Downs a lot. Without Hamilton, I would assume Bracy would get that assignment, which would mean more nickel and more bending. On offense, I don't think Tommy has to reinvent the offense this week, just keep refining it.

Chad from Denver: Eric, it's always enjoyable to read your work. I've heard rumors you’re taking the SC coaching job. Please stay with SBT. ;) What would be your critique of the way Tyler Buchner has been used in games up to this point? Thanks for your time.

Eric Hansen: Ha. No one in the coaching world has ever contacted me. ... I thought the way Buchner was used in the USC game was by far the best. It has always felt a bit desperate in the other games. On Saturday night, it felt like part of a well-planned template.

Bill from Idaho Falls, Idaho: Eric: Thanks for being our go-to source for all our ND Football questions.  1. It was frustrating, as a fan, to see Bo Bauer return a pick to the 4-yard line only to see the Irish fail to punch it in. Why would the Irish not insert Tyler Buchner at QB in the red zone most all the time, given it requires the D to account for him? They did so with a later drive and punched it in instead of a field goal. 2. In your article earlier this week you indicated the Irish needed to build on Coan's performance, not repeat it. What, do you believe, his next steps should be? As always, your expertise is appreciated.

Eric Hansen: Hi Bill, I answered the Buchner part of that earlier, so let me focus on the second part of your question. It's more about taking those elements of the USC game and getting better at them. Better O-line play (and it's coming). More slants. Better accuracy on deep balls. Those kinds of things.

Eric Hansen: OK, I'm going to post all your gameday suggestions. Here they come:

Lawrence from San Diego: Game day tip: Breakfast at South Dining Hall. For lunch get a steak sandwich and soda at the Knights of Columbus building. They both go with just walking around South Quad, maybe throwing a football around.

Bill from St Joe, Mich.: RE first-time visitors to ND campus See the Grotto. On the way there or back go inside the Basilica (hats off please). On a football Friday or Saturday, Trumpets “under” the Dome (but due to COVID restrictions it’s Trumpets in from of the Dome/Administration Building). Shortly thereafter, watch a short band concert on the steps of Bond Hall, followed by the band’s “March Off” to the ND Stadium. If you follow the band to the stadium, make sure you hustle to your seats to see the band step onto the field and play the Notre Dame Fanfare!!! For those interested in food, I would recommend the steak sandwich on football Saturdays Just look for the long line on the main quad in front of the Knights of Columbus (if it hasn’t been renamed yet) building. Still only 10 bucks with a soda and a bag of chips.

Erik from Granger, Ind.: My gameday to-do list: Player walk, trumpets (especially when they’re inside the dome, but this year they are around the Jesus statue), band concert on steps of Bond Hall, band march out to the stadium. Get inside in time to watch the band come out of the tunnel. Cheer until I lose my voice for two days. Stay in the stadium through the alma mater no matter what.

Phil B from  Litchfield, Conn.: Gameday to-do list: Hit the bookstore for your necessary clothing and swag. Listen to Band warm-up rehearsal on the steps of Bond Hall (6 p.m.). Trumpets under the Dome inside the Admin Building (5:30 p.m.). Say a prayer at the Grotto. Buy a burger, dog, or brat at one of the campus fundraiser stands to support their cause (i.e., don't buy food in the student center!). Touch Rockne's nose for a photo op in the Rockne Memorial Building. Follow the band as they step off from the Dome to the stadium (6:45 p.m.). Player walk to the stadium in front of TD Jesus/Hesburgh Library (5:15 p.m.). All activity for the weekend listed at:  https://gameday.nd.edu/weekend-events/north-carolina/

Gerry Labelle from Waltham, Quebec: Re things to do pregame: Friday get on the field from tunnel. Later check out the painting of helmets at the tunnel entrance. Go to the bookstore, attend the pep rally — if at 7, get there at 6. Saturday have breakfast at South Dining Hall, and make it to the pregame band concert on the steps of the building near main building.

Jeff from Phoenix: ND campus visit musts, a) With a campus map, take the elevator to the 12th floor of the Hesburgh Library. Great view of the entire campus from the corner windows. b) Visit the Grotto.

Eric Hansen: Ok I'll do a couple of more questions ....

Steve from Findlay, Ohio: It seems that Brian Kelly has a great record in November. Do you have any stats which months his teams perform better?  Seemed like before Brian we struggled down the stretch.

Eric Hansen: Kelly is 31-13 in November while at ND. Charlie Weis, by comparison, was 10-12, losing nine of his last 10 November games.

Myliah from El Cerrito, Calif.: Eric, we survived the Pineapple Express dumping historic rains on us here in California. How did things fare in your corner of America? Now that we've seen quite a few freshmen play this year, from what you've seen, who (besides Buchner, whom you've already raved about) do you expect to be a breakout star this year or early next year, similarly to Kyren Williams, and why?

Eric Hansen: We've kind of had an extended Indian Summer here with temps just starting to get fall-ish. Pineapple Express sounds like something that would be delicious, to be honest with you. ... To your question, I'd expect Blake Fisher, Rocco Spindler and Joe Alt all to make big strides on the O-line. I think Mitchell Evans at TE, and Logan Diggs and Audric Estime at running back could move the needle. Certainly Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie will surge. On defense, there's going to be opportunities at safety for guys like Justin Walters and Khari Gee. Prince Kollie seems like a guy who will compete for playing time next year at linebacker. Kahanu Kia and Gabe Rubio could push into the D-line rotation. Your question was to point out who might be on a par with the 2020 version of Kyren, but hopefully this gives you a better idea of who might be ascending.

Eric Hansen: OK, that's going to have to do it for this week. Thanks for all the gameday suggestions. Thanks for the great questions. We'll be back next Wednesday at noon ET to do it all over again.

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI