Chat Transcript: Dishing on ND's portal possibilities, decommitments, life beyond the bowl

Eric Hansen
ND Insider

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Post-Signing Day Edition. Please include your name and your hometown along with your question.

Dave from Ponte Vedra, Fla.: Happy Holidays to you and family. I’m curious how active the Irish might be in getting an experienced QB from the transfer portal. With very limited experience at the D1 level on the roster, I’m greatly concerned about that position in 2022. It seems risky going into next season with a starter with very little playing time, who last played a full game in 2019 against extremely weak high school competition.

Eric Hansen: Happy Holidays, Dave and family. At least when Brian Kelly was the head coach, there was less concern about experience in the QB room for 2022 and more concern about numbers. That's why the Irish tried to flip LSU commit Walker Howard and kicked the tires on a few other committed QBs in the 2022 class. I still think with Marcus Freeman now the head coach, the numbers issue is more the concern than experience. If I were running the show, it would be the same thing. Here's why: First-year starters have done quite well for themselves at Notre Dame and elsewhere. Eight of the last 12 national champions were led by first-year starters at QB. The other four? Second-year starters.

If top seed Alabama wins this year's national title, it'll be nine out of the last 13 led by first-year starters. Provided Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne head into spring fully healthy, ND believes it has QBs it can win with. And Buchner got a lot of snaps and got much more of the playbook later in the season. Just-signed Steve Angeli will be enrolled for spring semester, and that helps. So ND can either sign another high school QB in February or browse the transfer portal for depth.

Most QBs in the portal are there because they want a great chance at starting at their new school, so that's a delicate dance. You don't want a portal pickup to push Drew Pyne into mulling his future with the Irish. It’s not an absolute that the Irish wouldn’t pursue a potential starter, just highly unlikely.

More:Defensive line coach Mike Elston explains why he stayed at Notre Dame

Recruiting Bios:Meet the Notre Dame football 2022 recruiting class

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, I hope you’re recovering from a busy signing day. Do you think in the future it is possible that ND will consider addressing the hurdles of getting non-graduate transfer football players into the school? It seems like the transfer portal is going to become a very big part of building the roster for the top-tier teams. They will just cherry pick who they want to fill their weaknesses, much like Nick Saban did with Jameson Williams this year. It seems in order to keep up with the top teams, pulling from the non-graduate portal will likely be necessary. Also, do you anticipate any regulation of use of the non-graduate transfer portal? For example, could the NCAA  limit How many players a team takes from the non-graduate portal per year? As always, thanks for your fantastic insights. The work you do is greatly appreciated.

Eric Hansen: Marie, thank you. I have fully recovered and am shifting into bowl mode and defensive coordinator search mode. And I appreciate your consistently provocative questions. Keeps me on my toes. ... I'm not so sure ND can't do well with just the grad transfers, because of how well they are recruiting and developing talent. Even if that wasn't a sufficient formula, there's not a lot Notre Dame can do to accommodate underclass transfers who don't have transcripts that will stand up to admissions. And remember, it's not just about getting someone into ND. It's about them being able to compete in the classroom and stay at ND.

It's not impossible to get the transcripts to align. Dara Mabrey, for instance, was able to come in from Virginia Tech in women's basketball. But it's not the pure free agency for Notre Dame that it is for most of the other schools. As far as limiting transfers, the NCAA does have a rule in place. Click on the hyperlink for more info. So in this cycle, teams can sign up to 25 high school players and then add up to seven more transfers to replace players who may have transferred out — as long as the schools stay within the 85-scholarship limit.

Tim from Vancouver, Wash.: Hello Eric and Tyler, I really appreciate you guys. I wish you and yours a blessed and very Merry Christmas. I have two questions: When do you expect coach Freeman to complete his staff? (I think that might have been an issue with Amorion Walker.) Secondly, do you expect ND to bring in a transfer (or two) at wide receiver?

Eric Hansen: Thanks, and Happy Holidays to you, Tim. There's a bunch of questions in the queue, it looks like, that are related to wide receiver depth. So let me kind of bundle all those issues in my response to you. ... First, the coaching staff question: I would anticipate that process lingering into January, after the bowl games. Once those are over, Marcus Freeman will have time to move quickly. There are two jobs open — defensive coordinator/linebackers coach and special teams coach. There are two more that might be open — offensive line coach and wide receivers coach, given the men currently holding those positions have not been given an offer yet to coach beyond the Fiesta Bowl.

With the wide receivers and the transfer portal possibilities, here's your puzzle: You could have as many as eight wide receivers returning if all four seniors/grad students come back —Kevin Austin Jr., Joe Wilkins Jr., Braden Lenzy and Avery Davis. The talks to convince those guys to return are ongoing. I asked Marcus Freeman about that on Wednesday. Even if they all do come back, you're going to need to add numbers. The others on the roster are the three freshmen — Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas — along with just-signed Tobias Merriweather.

So the portal is the most viable option, but ND could still sign a player or two in February from the high school ranks. You've got to look beyond this season. Even if all four of the older receivers come back, they're not going to be here in 2023. And the portal guys might not be here either, so you'd need a huge 2023 wide receiver class AND more portal bodies. I don't think the Irish coaches want to move Xavier Watts back to offense. He's got so much promise at safety, and the Irish need quality safeties. There are 11 cornerbacks on the roster for 2022 at the moment and perhaps one of them would be a fit at receiver. So lots of questions but lots of potential good answers.

Sean from Summit, N.J.: Thanks very much for this chat, the best Wednesday afternoon entertainment for this 80+-old ND graduate. I came to ND around 60 years ago from South Korea. In the first football game I watched, I thought that this sport is quite hard for a Korean to compete in. In last week's chat you mentioned that coach Marcus Freeman, Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Buchner, and Jordan Botelho all have Korean ancestry. The first Korean football player at ND is Justin Yoon. Do you know what Justin is doing these days? Very proud of all of them. Go Irish!

Eric Hansen: Hi Sean, and thanks for sharing your story. I need to check up on Justin, but I believe he is putting his Notre Dame degree to work on working as a financial advisor.

Andrew from Munster, Ind.: With schedule strength being a major factor in playoff selection and Notre Dame playing five ACC teams per year, is it a bad thing for ND that only one ACC team pulled in a Top 15 recruiting class?

Eric Hansen: Andrew, I think that's a really good question, though Rivals.com has two ACC teams in the top 15 — No. 9 North Carolina and No. 12 Florida State. In a vacuum, this could be an issue if the ACC continued to trend that way over time. But in reality, ND plays Clemson and Ohio State in both 2022 and 2023. And North Carolina in 2022. So which ACC teams are on the schedule matters as well, as does the rest of the schedule. Miami, for instance, might be pretty good in 2024 under Mario Cristobal when the Hurricanes rotate back on to the schedule. If not, the Irish are playing Texas A&M that season and in 2025 — with a road date at Arkansas too. In 2026, the Wisconsin game at Green Bay reappears. And by then we should be looking at a 12-team playoff (if not before), so schedule dips might not be as much of an issue, other than for seeding.

Buddy from Oakland, Calif.: Eric, Tommy Rees has given a number of in-depth interviews this week on national radio programs. This seems to be a departure from the Kelly Era, where the head coach was the sole coaching spokesperson for ND. I learned a number of very interesting things about Rees from these interviews. He is an engaging and intelligent man. As a journalist, how frustrated were you by Kelly's policy of giving limited press access to his coordinators and assistant coaches?

Eric Hansen: Buddy, it was mitigated a bit by the fact that Kelly himself was pretty accessible, and generally a pretty good interview consistently at those access points. But as a journalist, you want to tell the story in the most complete and accurate way possible. And the limited access to assistant coaches made that more of a challenge for both the media and, I think, ND telling its own story.

Chuck from Cleveland: Hi Eric. Merry Christmas! Great job by Marcus Freeman and staff to preserve a Top 10 Class with all of the distractions. In my humble opinion, Signing Day will become more and more anticlimactic. The football rosters will be subject to the same pressure as basketball. In basketball, they leave for the NBA early. In football, they are leaving early for the transfer portal. So, my question is this: Do you envision any enhancements to the portal opportunities (earlier recognition and contact, Director Of Portal Recruiting)? Losing three-star athletes, like Amorion Walker and Devin Moore, are easily replaceable with players who now have college and academic experience from the portal. Lastly, in losing two formerly committed wide receivers,  does the blame fall upon Del Alexander, Tommy Rees, scheme or loss of a head coach? Thank you so much, Eric, for your tenacity in providing insight to we mortals!

Eric Hansen: Hi Chuck and Merry Christmas. Let's unpack your multiple-part question, piece by piece. 1) I think Notre Dame has been diligent with its existing staff in monitoring the portal, even though it has not led to excessive use of it. Part of being portal-proficient is knowing when to pass on a particular player. 2) I think it would be easy to blame the loss of the head coach for C.J. Williams’ and Amorion Walker's changes of heart, but they were restless before Brian Kelly left for LSU.

Williams was concerned about the offensive style and structure. Walker was just kind of a head case. He was flirting with other schools right after he committed to ND, and it never ended. I don't think he was honest with the ND coaching staff. So, I'm not sure there's someone to blame here. But I think Del Alexander could have been part of the solution.

Leo from Auburn, N.Y.: Eric, on signing day both Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees mentioned their philosophy was orienting the offense around the strengths of its personnel. As I evaluate the roster, I see strengths at offensive line, running back and tight end, and weaknesses (and lack of depth) at quarterback and wide receiver. Given that, I expect to see in 2022 the same kind of power running attack that we saw in 2020, with a lot of two-tight end formations. Do you agree?

Eric Hansen: Not necessarily. I think you'll see a blend of formations and personnel, especially if Lorenzo Styles turns out to be as good as I think he will be and if Kevin Austin Jr. returns.

Lorraine from South Bend: As a St. Mary's College alumna, I love cheering for Notre Dame football, but I am growing concerned about whether college football is becoming too consumed with greed. Coaching salaries (even for assistants) are in the millions. and more and more players are looking to cash in on lucrative endorsement deals offered by college donors and boosters. Where does it all end, Eric?

Eric Hansen: Lorraine, it looked like it was going to end — or slow way down — with the pandemic in 2020. Coaches took pay cuts. Sports were cut. Schedules were altered and regionalized for non-revenue sports. I can't tell you how many columns I read about how this was going to take years, if not a decade, to recover from financially. And then we all got whiplash in the past month or so. I'm not smart enough myself to tell you where it ends. I do believe college football can still be a great sport with all the changes going on around it.

Stosh from Canton, Ohip: Eric, are you surprised at the number of high-profile quarterbacks who have entered the transfer portal? What is causing this? A) An instant-gratification generation, B) Seeking the best NIL deal, C) Coaching turnover, D) An unwillingness to compete for a starting spot at their current school, or E) Just a natural development from the new "free agency" in college football?

Eric Hansen: Stosh, I'm dumbfounded, actually. I asked Tommy Rees about this on Wednesday. I think all but B) among your offered answers are true.

Connie from Pacifica, Calif.: Quick question, Eric: Is the transfer portal (with the accompanying rule change that players do not have to sit out a year) good or bad for the longevity of college football? On the one hand, it seems to help level out the talent. But on the other hand, it creates a lot of locker room turmoil. What do you think?

Eric Hansen: Hi Connie. It depends on your perspective. I think it's good for players ... in some cases. For others it has been, and will be, a rude awakening. I think it's a headache for coaches, especially for those who haven't had the time or the ability to establish a strong team culture. There seems to be a lot more knee-jerk decisions to leave. Maybe that will start to ebb over time. I’m still kind of processing the big-picture implications.

Tom from Lansing, Mich.: Two of Notre Dame's "savior" coaches coveted by fans, Jon Gruden and Urban Meyer, are now disgraced former coaches. Doesn't take long to go from the penthouse to the outhouse.  Do you think these two are through as head coaches?

Eric Hansen: Only if they want to be done. There's always going to be someone that's willing to accept the baggage to try and win big.

Manny from San Pedro, Calif.: Eric!!!!!!! I hope you and your family have an amazing holiday season!!!!!! Wish nothing but the best for my favorite ND reporter. I love!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the Freeman hire.  I bought my wife a puppy for Christmas, and we named him Marcus! Knowing what you know with the higher-ups, if he loses the bowl game and then (the 2022 opener at) Ohio State, will he lose good will and will they shut the door like they did in the Bob Davie Era? He needs to be able to recruit his guys to be successful, in my opinion.

Eric Hansen: Manny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Happy Holidays. !!$*&^!! I will make sure to share with Marcus the story about the puppy. Many years ago, one of my neighbors got a puppy and he wanted to name it "Clausen," but his wife vetoed the idea. So they settled on "Rudy." I don't think the honeymoon is over if ND goes 0-2 in its first two games against top 10 teams under Marcus. Lou Holtz went 0-4 in his first four such games, then went 13-4 over his next 17. It's important for ND to show progress (not necessarily perfection) on the field and on the recruiting trail early in Freeman’s regime. That will keep the positive momentum going.

Marty from Lake Oswego, Ore.: Greetings, Eric. You deserve some R & R from the craziness of the last week or so. Question. I keep hearing that Brian Kelly was dissatisfied with the football facilities at ND. What have you heard? In your opinion, do the Irish lag behind other football powers in this regard? Do you think this hurts recruiting? And what do you know about a planned 80,000,000 football project?  And lastly, do you see a sleeper in this recruiting class that is undervalued but will surprise come spring? Thanks, and love the chats.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Marty. I think I may have answered part of this last week, but my brain is scrambled these days, so maybe I was just talking to myself. ... The Brian Kelly Era was defined in part — and a large part — by the battles he took on (and mostly won) to improve Notre Dame's infrastructure. The fact that he was pushing for ND to move up the timeline for the planned Guglielmino Athletics Complex expansion is real. The premise that pushback from Jack Swarbrick led to his abrupt departure to LSU, I believe, is spin from Kelly's agent. It's not that ND or Swarbrick opposed the upgrade. It was — and is — a matter of securing private funding for it.

In fact, if you would be so willing, it could be the “Marty from Oswego” Athletic Center. I do think some of the other elite football powers have more bells and whistles, but the Gug expansion is really quite pragmatic. The building of the Irish Athletics Center was a good incremental step. I don't think the lack of the Gug expansion hurts recruiting as much as it affects the day-to-day functionality of the football program. So it does need to get done sooner rather than later. ... To your second question, I think Nolan Ziegler is the sleeper.

James from Dallas: Eric, what are your thoughts on these NIL schemes and the impact on Notre Dame’s ability to compete with the SEC and other outlaws in recruiting? How do you expect ND to respond in 2023?

Eric Hansen: James, name, image and likeness is here to stay and yet there needs to be more structure to it. And I get it, that's a severe understatement. So is "NCAA president Mark Emmert does very little to justify his salary." Eventually, I think college sports will get there. It just won't be by Emmert's doing. In the meantime, here's what Marcus Freeman had to say about it Wednesday:

“You’ve got to show them (recruits) that you have a plan. But there are certain roles within the NCAA that you can't do. And we can't say we're providing this name, image and likeness deal for you and things of that nature. And so, we know it's real. And they know we have a plan to try to help promote it. 

“But we can't break the rules. And we won't break the rules. But we know it's a part of recruiting in the future and recruiting in the present. 

“We do things the Notre Dame way. And I've told this staff that we're going to do everything we do with integrity and do it the right way. And we're going to win by outworking people. And that's going to be our mindset in football. It's going to be our mindset in recruiting. We're going to outwork our opponents. So, I don't want to do anything that has to do with breaking the rules.”

IrishRob from Scranton, Pa.: Eric, first and foremost, happy holidays to you and yours. I hope things start to resort to a sense of normalcy in the wake of the Brian Kelly exodus. Now, to contradict myself, I offer a BK-based question. I have seen numerous comments from former players and a current commit that seem to indicate Brian wasn't as well liked as perhaps those of us outside the program would've guessed. As someone who literally has his finger on the pulse of this program, did you have an inkling things were where they are? Kyle Brindza tweeted that more alums would come back for games/practices now that BK is gone, which blew my mind. I get that not every former player will like their coach, but the overall general mood of former players surprised me, to say the least. Is this sort of thing normal when a program has a change like this? Or do you think the circumstances played into it at all? Last question, do you think Marcus Freeman was taking some shots when describing his role as lead recruiter or being matter of fact?

Eric Hansen: Rob, just seeing Scranton in your question reminded me of a guy named "Scranton Jack" who called the office on an almost daily basis back in the late ’90s, early 2000s. I wonder if you know who that is? Anyway, to your question, there's not a simple or universal answer to this. The overall experience for players who suited up for ND in 2017 and beyond tended to be much different from BK 2010-2016. So in that light, Brindza's take isn't surprising. His time ended before Kelly became more accessible and amiable to his players. More universally, the WAY Brian Kelly left and how it contradicted what he stood for rubbed a lot of players from all eras the wrong way. And people from the outside looking in.

I don't think Marcus Freeman was taking shots at all in describing his ambition and aims for recruiting. It is fact. And one of the things the old coach has to expect after a change is that there are going to be comparisons. BK did the very same thing in differentiating himself from Charlie Weis back in Kelly's early years at ND.

Mike from Florence, Nova Scotia: Hi Eric. The videos for the recruits were really well done, it seemed to focus on local businesses. Saying that, do you ever visit The Crooked Ewe? We have enjoyed it on our trips. Question: What position do you think ND should try and add to through the transfer portal? Thank you.

Eric Hansen: Hi Mike. I liked the videos as well. I have not been to The Crooked Ewe, but plan to get there at some point. I spend so much of what free time I do have with my grandkids that I don't get out as much as normal people do. Regarding your portal question — and you phrased it as what I think ND SHOULD do. Definitely look at wide receivers and safeties and maybe a depth QB if such an animal exists. If Isaiah Foskey were to wade into the NFL Draft pool, I might look at a high-impact pass rusher, too.

Brianna from L.A.: Eric, I tuned in yesterday to watch Marcus Freeman's presentation on signing day and lingered on to catch a bit of Mike Elston's presentation. He blew me away when he talked at length about the importance of his family in making his decision to stay in South Bend. Eric, while I'm an Irish fan, I have to admit that I don't follow the team in detail. Can you tell me a bit more about Mr. Elston and his history with the team?  Also … is he as awesome a person as he presented himself in that press conference? What an incredible role model for his student-athletes! I hope the families of future recruits get an opportunity to watch his presentation from yesterday.

Eric Hansen: Hi Brianna. Of all the assistant coaches I've covered in my career, Mike Elston is in the top two in terms of what he brings to the table with football and what he brings to the table as a human being. Mike Elston has been at Notre Dame since 2010, when he came with Brian Kelly from Cincinnati. So with Kelly gone, he's now the longest-tenured member of the coaching staff. His wife, Beth, and three daughters really enhance and embrace the family nature of Notre Dame football. Mike has been passed over from promotions to defensive coordinator and has turned down many opportunities elsewhere, because he puts his family first.

I can't do justice to his value in this chat format. But yes, the Mike Elston you saw yesterday is the one Notre Dame gets to see every day.

Phil from Litchfield, Conn.: Hi Eric. Thanks for the great coverage of yesterday’s signing day. I tuned in to the press conference a little late and heard the tail end of coach Freeman’s remarks and then coaches Elston and Rees. Question: To me, they came across as apologetic for a No. 6/7 class of 2022. What was your take on that? How does this make the kids in the class feel? “Hey, you’re pretty good, but we could have done much better.” Thanks, and have a very Merry Christmas.

Eric Hansen: I actually wrote about this: Inside Notre Dame Football's burgeoning recruiting revolution. I don't think they were apologetic. I think they were ambitious. The first thing out of Marcus’ mouth was: “I just want to make sure we start opening up with how excited I am about this class. Twenty-one guys, and I was named head coach less than two weeks ago." Then he got into the nuts and bolts of how he planned for him and the staff to do even better.

Rick from Toledo: Which of the freshmen do you expect will get playing time next year? Do you think Tobias Merriweather sees the field much, given the lack of depth at wide receiver? Are there any other uncommitted wide receiver, safety prospects, or other positions available that ND has had contact with that they might still be interested in for the current class?

Eric Hansen: Hi Rick. Off the top of my head, I'll give it a shot. Remember, it's not just about talent. It's about opportunity and what the depth chart looks like at their position. Keeping that in mind, WR Tobias Merriweather and punter Bruce McFerson will get long looks. I think all four linebackers have a chance to compete for a spot in the two-deeps. If a freshmen corner gets into the mix, I think it will be Jaden Mickey. I think running back Jadarian Price will get a look if there's an injury. Aiden Gobaira at defensive end is a possibility if Isaiah Foskey leaves. Tight end Eli Raridon seems like he'd be an early contributor.

As far as your recruiting question, yes there are prospects ND has had contact with that the coaching staff will circle back to. 

Bill from St Joe, Mich.: Eric, Can you tell us what occurred first, the head coaching position to Marcus, or the “re-signing” of Tommy Rees? Put another way, if Marcus turned the job down, would another head coaching candidate be faced with Rees as his offensive coordinator?

Eric Hansen: As Jack Swarbrick described it at the Dec. 6 press conference, the securing of director of football performance Matt Balis and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees came first. He wanted to make sure there was continuity in the culture — and that's something the players were adamant about in their recommendations about how the football program needed to move forward. It also gave ND some needed continuity with recruiting — not just the 2022s but the 2023 class. So to your hypothetical, yes another head coach would have inherited Rees and Balis, but I think these were all connected storylines with Jack very early determining Marcus was a viable candidate.

Sean from Greensboro, N.C.: Thanks for the great coverage of this hectic time. Can you help me understand what is going on with wide receivers recruiting? We get kids and they transfer. Others decommit. The position seems one of constant turmoil. Thanks, and a very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Eric Hansen: Sean, happy holidays. I think you summed it up pretty well yourself. Six former Irish receivers were playing at other colleges this season. A seventh, Lawrence Keys III, opted out in September and will transfer to Tulane. For me, it's time for new leadership at that position.

Dwight from central Arkansas: It seems there were all kinds of warning signs of Amorion Walker flipping on signing day, which he did to Michigan. He visited numerous other schools, and even though he appeared to “say” the right things, his actions spoke otherwise. ND by losing Walker and C.J. Williams comes out with just one wide receiver. Why did ND stay so patient with Walker when he was clearly looking around, and appeared to have no backup plan in place?

Eric Hansen: Dwight, Notre Dame did look at other options but didn't perhaps push hard enough for those. Maybe knowing the transfer portal was a sufficient backstop prompted them to be patient with Walker and not be as aggressive in pursuing other prospects. This is fixable.

Ron from Delaware: Good morning and Happy Holidays to you and your family. Hopefully, Santa is good to you. I think this recruiting class is really good. It seems from your reporting and Tyler’s as well that C.J. Williams and Amorion Walker were not really committed. If so, they would have not switched. The lack of position coach changes at this time should have eased their concerns. I doubt Brian Kelly had that much contact with them. The loss of safety Devin Moore, however, I don’t understand, as the defensive coordinator is now the head coach and the secondary coaches are still here. What do you think? Also, do they go to the portal for help at receiver or defensive back? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Hi Ron. I hit most of the parts of your question earlier, but let me address Devin Moore's situation. Moore is a really good safety prospect from Naples, Fla., who decommitted right after Kelly left for LSU. ND tried to get him back, but ultimately he chose Florida over the new regime at ND. Honestly, had Kelly stayed, I'm not sure Moore would have ended up in this class. He was restless after he committed and took visits to other schools. As 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong said in my Inside Recruiting story the other day, this is kind of business as usual when you aim high in recruiting. All the top recruiting teams lost some prospects from their classes.

Don in Phoenix: Eric, great work by you and Tyler since the Stanford game. It seems so long ago.  Coach Freeman is now at the helm. What did ND lose with Kelly leaving? What does ND gain with coach Freeman? Regardless of the 2022 season, will ND be in a better position to compete with the elite in 2023? I understand the crystal ball may be cloudy, but your view is usually most clear. Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Don, thanks. This is too broad to get into in a chat format, unfortunately. Hopefully, you've been able to keep up with the stories I've been doing that have touched on elements of this. My latest highlights the differences in recruiting philosophies.

Eugene from Claremont, Calif.: The energy around the program is at such a high level right now, how much do you think a loss in the bowl game would deflate that? Also, do you believe coach Elston will be the new D-Coordinator?

Eric Hansen: I don't think a bowl loss would deflate it, especially with no Kyren and no Kyle Hamilton. ... I think Marcus sees Mike Elston's greatest value being in his current roles — defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. So I expect an outside hire.

Mike from Toronto: Eric, after watching and listening to both coach Freeman and coach Rees on various media, podcasts, etc., I am absolutely stunned and pleased at their humility, honesty and transparency. Their "I don't know it all" attitude is refreshing. I hope it will attract recruits, who will hopefully see beyond the attraction of NIL. Your thoughts?

Eric Hansen: You can now see why BK not letting the assistants talk to the media was more of a disservice to the program than it was a disservice to us in the media.

Eric Hansen: Ugh. I've run out of time, and there are a ton of really good questions in the queue. Please don't decommit from the next chat if I didn't get to you. It wasn't the quality of the questions, but the slowness of my brain and fingers. The good news is we'll be back to do it again next week. I'll share the date on my Twitter account next week, but likely Thursday at noon ET.

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI