Chat Transcript: Dishing on Hiestand, portal QBs, Kelly's legacy and Notre Dame opt-outs

Eric Hansen
ND Insider
Freshman running back Audric Estime (24) eyes the ball during Notre Dame football practice for the Fiesta Bowl on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, inside the Irish Athletics Center at Notre Dame in South Bend.

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Holiday Edition. We'll do one more of these before the bowl game — next week, most likely on Wednesday.

As a reminder, PLEASE INCLUDE your NAME and HOMETOWN with your question or risk ending up on the naughty list. Off we go.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric. Merry Christmas! I hope you get to enjoy some quality time with your family before heading to the Fiesta Bowl. By showing some interest in Kedon Slovis, the staff has indicated that they would consider a QB from the transfer portal. In the case of Slovis, he would be a player who would want to start and not be a depth player. Do you think this could have a negative impact on the QB room and also recruiting? If you bring in someone who wants to compete to be the starter, do you think your current QBs are getting the message that they are not good enough. Would they more seriously consider transferring? Also, would it make recruits think there is a problem with QB development if ND keeps having to go to the portal? I know last year Brendon Clark was an unexpected loss, but that is not the case this year. I certainly understand wanting to bring in a depth addition at QB but I think a potential starter could be problematic. What do you think? Thanks for hosting the chat, and for all your great work.

More:Notre Dame freshman safety Khari Gee enters the transfer portal

ND vs. OSU:Watts lights up his Notre Dame future with willingness to make a move — or two

Eric Hansen: Merry Christmas, Marie. Let me explain Notre Dame's philosophy regarding the transfer portal — and I think it's a good one — and then I'll get to your individual questions/points. Just because you reach out to a player in the portal soon after he submits his name doesn't necessarily mean the intent is for him to end up at ND. But you have to cover all kinds of scenarios that may unfold in the coming weeks and months. And if you wait until later to probe mutual interest, you could lose out.

A good case in point was 2020 with NC State cornerback Nick McCloud. The Irish staff reached out to McCloud in January, when he first submitted his name to the transfer portal. But they didn't make a move right away. Their thought was to monitor two things — McCloud's continuing recovery from a knee injury and the progress of the young Irish cornerbacks in spring ball. But COVID came along and negated 14 of the 15 spring practices, McCloud was healthy and still available, and so ND made a move for him in May.

There are other players who have been in the portal, who ND contacted but did not make a move on for various reasons. ... USC QB Kedon Slovis was looking to make a quick decision, so ND might not have been a match for him anyway (he quickly chose Pitt). He may not have liked the fact he'd have to compete for the position at ND. So again browsing the portal is way different than actually plucking someone from it. The fact that ND browsed, I don't think, will affect the QB room. I think they get that.

Can it affect recruiting? Not necessarily. Oklahoma had three starting QBs in a row who were transfers — Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech), Kyler Murray (Texas A&M) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama), and still landed the No. 1 QB in the country in both 2019 (Spencer Rattler) and 2021 (Caleb Williams). Now, Lincoln Riley has a much better rep than Brian Kelly at developing QBs. That now falls on Tommy Rees to project a reputation of being able to do so. That Ian Book played way above his recruiting star rating and that Jack Coan is a much better player than he was at Wisconsin is a good start. Keep in mind ND can still add portal players after spring practice concludes at any position.

Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, are there any unsigned recruits in this cycle that ND is still involved with?  Or has the ship sailed for this year and the focus moves to the portal post-Fiesta Bowl. Cheers and gallons of eggnog.

Eric Hansen: Notre Dame doubled back on some wide receiver prospects, some of whom went ahead and signed anyway earlier this month, some of whom did not. They also are looking to expand the board at safety. And the portal may play into both positions. Spring injuries could also nudge ND in the direction of the portal. Once the bowl game is over, the degree to which the Irish may end up adding high school prospects in February will become much more clear.

Dan from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.: How can two team captains opt out of the bowl game? It is the ultimate sign of individual over team. Does a captain not feel a greater responsibility to the team?  Should Marcus Freeman make as a condition of becoming a captain an understanding that opting out of a bowl game is unacceptable?

Eric Hansen: I skipped these kinds of questions last week, because it's difficult to give this issue the bandwidth it deserves in a chat format. So I'll try to condense my thoughts. I think fans have as much right to be outraged as the players do to skip the bowl to protect their future. Where there is some legit concern on the fans' part is: Where does it end? If you're willing to skip the bowl, why not opt out of November games if a team falls out of playoff contention? From a players' standpoint, I support their choice. I saw what happened to Jaylon Smith. There was a semi-happy ending there and Jaylon says he has no regrets having played. Still, the insurance isn't enough for elite prospects, and the NFL does not look down on players who do opt out anyway. So there's no incentive not to opt out of a bowl game. The ND coaches and players are supportive of Hamilton's and Williams' decisions. And I really think that's the bottom line in this particular instance.

Chuck from Cleveland: Merry Christmas, Eric from the land of the Cleveland Guardians. In honor of this sacred Holiday, I will refrain from my usual multi-part question and restrict myself to one. I am more concerned about both OSUs — now and on 9/3/22. Our offense must be better for the first OSU, and our defense must be better for the second OSU, in my humble opinion. Biggest challenge for coach Freeman is re-recruiting. What KEY players do you see coming back for 2022? I certainly hope that you understand your extreme VALUE to us, diehard fans. You make pandemics and coaching changes and recruiting ups and down very tolerable. THANK YOU and God Bless!

Eric Hansen: Hi Chuck. Thanks for the kind words. So the players you're asking about essentially are Jarrett Patterson, the Ademilola twins, Isaiah Foskey, Bo Bauer and the four senior wideouts (Kevin Austin Jr., Avery Davis, Braden Lenzy, Joe Wilkins Jr.). There are others (Josh Lugg, Houston Griffith, TaRiq Bracy, C'Bo Flemister, etc,), but the aforementioned have the toughest decisions and also would impact the 2022 roster the most. I'm not sure they've even decided (publicly none of them admit they have so far). Marcus Freeman has to win some of these re-recruitments. Given the fact they're all playing the bowl (if healthy) means they're all still in play for 2022. I think the toughest to convince will be Austin, Patterson and Foskey. I'd say Austin will be the toughest sell and Patterson has the least to gain from a draft stock standpoint for coming back.

Mark in Grand Rapids, Mich. Best wishes to you and family for a Merry Christmas!! Looking back on Kirk Herbstreit’s comments about Brian Kelly and the USC job, do you think Lincoln Riley beat Kelly out for the USC job?

Eric Hansen: Mark Patrick asked Kelly about whether he had an interest in the USC job and other jobs on Patrick's national radio/streaming show, and Kelly uncomfortably danced around it. He claimed his agent handled those kinds of things and really didn't keep Kelly abreast of the details until/unless it really mattered. I think Lincoln Riley was USC's first choice, but I think Kelly would have been open to talking to other schools about their openings beyond just LSU.

Kim from Wichita, Kan.: Eric, first thing — may your whole family have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! Do you think Kedon Slovis or anyone is needed, and how would that affect the quarterback room? Also thanks for all that you do. You are GREAT!!!!

Eric Hansen: Hi Kim, thanks, and Merry Christmas to you and your family. I don't think Slovis is needed, but I think ND needs to keep the portal possibility open. A current QB could transfer or get hurt in the spring. Ron Powlus III hasn't played or practiced this season. So you can't go into the fall of 2022 with just two healthy scholarship QBs. If that’s the case, then portai it is.

Jim from Berlin, Conn.: Eric, what is your take on the growing number of players either in college or still in high school already signing up to earn money from their NIL?  I'll be frank, (even though I'm Jim!): I think it's a terrible idea that the NCAA allowed it to happen in the first place. I think it will only lead to jealousy and discontent among the majority of players who don't benefit from the program, and it will, in some cases, destroy the chemistry of teams, regardless of the sport. Am I totally misreading the issue?

Eric Hansen: Surely you can't be serious? I am serious and quit calling me "Shirley." ... Jim, your misread is that there's any way this will ever go away. Now NIL (name, image, likeness) may eventually get some needed modification and definition, but the NCAA lost lawsuits that opened the doors for NIL. So the best strategy is to learn to live with it. So, as a coach, as a program, you need to have a strategy on how to handle the dynamics you referenced. So far, I really haven't read/heard about even anecdotal evidence of problems with team dynamics. It could certainly evolve into that in the future, and again if it does, the programs need to have a strategy for that.

Jeremy from Goshen, Ind.: Is there any truth to the rumor of Harry Hiestand rejoining the Irish coaching staff? Or is that just wishful thinking of fans? I know he wasn't a very aggressive recruiter before but still brought in high-quality talent and then worked hard to develop them.

Eric Hansen: It's not just wishful thinking. ND's elite O-line coach from 2012-17 would be in play if Jeff Quinn (2018-present), as expected, is not retained.

Bert from Windermere, Fla.: Hi Eric, any truth to the rumors that Logan Diggs and the two freshman wide receivers have been homesick and considering transferring. Wish you and your family a very blessed Christmas

Eric Hansen: Bert, Merry Christmas to you, too. In my experience, it's much more likely than not that ANY Notre Dame freshman will have to fight off transferitis. I just did a story on Braden Lenzy's journey. I did one in August on Kyren Williams and how hard it was for him to stay put as an early enrollee. If Logan Diggs and the wide receivers were at a point where the portal talk was serious, then we'd report on it. On Thursday freshman safety Khari Gee submitted his name in the portal. If the freshmen are just going through the normal freshman adjustment, it's not news. There will be roster attrition after the bowl game of some kind. There always is.

John from St. Pete, Fla.: Hi Eric. Thanks for all your great coverage this past year. Hope you and your family enjoy the holiday season! Of the 2023 QB recruits, who do you see as the best fit for Notre Dame and who of the five QBs they have offered do you think the Irish have the best chance of landing?

Eric Hansen: John, Happy Holidays to you. You are correct to have eliminated two of the seven offers (Arch Manning and Malachi Nelson) and are focusing on five. Those five are Dante Moore, Nico Iamaleava, Jackson Arnold, Christopher Vizzina and Avery Johnson. All but Johnson are top 100 prospects per Rivals, 247Sports or both. Johnson is No. 154 on 247Sports. Moore and Iamaleava will likely end up five-stars. Vizzina and Arnold are both dramatically ascending. I would say all are good fits. My favorites would be Moore or Iamaleava. I'm worried I'm sleeping on Arnold, who may be the most likely to end up at ND of those five.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Hi Eric. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Do you expect QB Tyler Buchner to have a greater than usual improvement from year 1 to year 2 because he had played so little prior to enrolling? Seems he might have a bigger bump than someone who played his sophomore and senior years in high school.

Eric Hansen: Merry Christmas, Len. You and I are thinking the same way on this. I've leaned into my fascination with Buchner from the start and continue to do so. Love his maturity, his mental makeup and his skill set.

Jack from Strongsville, Ohio: Eric, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family. Looking back on Brian Kelly's tenure at ND, what do you think of the perception that he was unable to develop quarterbacks during his period — especially because that was thought to be a strength when hired.

Eric Hansen: I think it was the rule rather than the exception. And it was puzzling. The QBs tended to level off or regress statistically as they got more experienced. Some of that had to do with the surrounding cast (DeShone Kizer) for instance. But most of the time it did not. Kelly's player development model overall for all positions, however, was outstanding, but the QB development deserved to be scrutinized.

Jim Tal from Valley Center, Calif.: Hi Eric. Wishing you and yours the happiest of a holiday season. As of late, there have been some prominent talking heads that have labeled Brian Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame as having been great. Huh? No major bowls wins and painfully disappointing efforts in the playoffs and in a championship game. Sure, Kelly did a nice job of returning the Irish to relevance and he deserves credit for that, but he was nowhere close to being great. Will you please help put an end to this nonsense and provide your honest appraisal of Kelly's tenure in South Bend. Greatness is reserved for only the very elite, and Kelly didn't come close to meeting that standard. Your thoughts, please, and many thanks.

Eric Hansen: Hi Jim. Best wishes to you and your family. Again, this is such a broad and deep topic, I'm probably doing it an injustice trying to address it in a chat format. But darn it, I'd want an answer to this question, too, if I were in your shoes. So let me give it a try. I guess it starts with what your definition of greatness is versus everyone else's. Going into this season, Brian Kelly was widely regarded by the national media (and they wrote about this) as the third-best current coach in college football behind Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.

He was 44-6 in his last four seasons at ND with two playoff appearances and almost a third. The next step in his evolution and in shaping his legacy was winning on the big stages, not just getting there, Longevity at a place like Notre Dame means something. He was the only ND head coach who coached into his 60s at ND. And returning the Irish to relevance shouldn't just be a footnote. So I am not going to brush aside the nonsense. The fact that he left to go to LSU shouldn't affect any of that. The WAY in which he left WILL affect it, and justifiably so. In my opinion, Kelly had his flaws, but to put Notre Dame in position to compete for championships under the next coach and helping to build the infrastructure to do so, to me, means Notre Dame is better off for Brian Kelly having been here. Perhaps the next few years will also reveal that they're better off without him now. We'll just have to see.

Shane from White Deer, Texas: Hey Eric, Merry Christmas to you and your family. I hope Santa will be good to you this year. Out of your years covering Notre Dame football, how would you rate this year’s regular season from how the team started until they finished compared with other seasons? To come from some near disasters at the first of the year to just missing the playoffs has to make this one of the most exciting years in a while. What do you think? Also, I think we will see just how far our offensive line has progressed when we play the Cowboys. How do you think this matchup will play out? Thanks for all you do. It has been a great season. Go Irish.

Eric Hansen: Hi Shane. Merry Christmas. It was an interesting and exciting team to cover. It's one of my favorite seasons, in fact. I think part of that was having fans back this year, too. Brian Kelly has had some teams in the past make impressive strides during the season — 2010 comes to mind ... 8-5 after a 4-5 start. The 2019 team post-Michigan and the 2018 team also rate along those lines. But I would put this team at the top of the heap for in-season improvement in the Kelly Era. Absolutely, the Okie State defense is a test. They would have been a test for the Joe Moore Award winners in 2017. But I do believe ND's O-line improvement is real and having multiple weeks to put together a game plan should help some.

Rick Dierolf from Sinking Spring, Pa.: Merry Christmas to you and your family, Eric. Do you think, now that Kelly is gone, we will see Tyler Buchner get some drives in the bowl game that let him throw the ball and not just run it. I think this is imperative to success next year. Thanks, and go Irish.

Eric Hansen: Hi Rick and Merry Christmas. I think it's imperative that Tyler Buchner gets to do those things in PRACTICE, and he has this month. But Marcus Freeman made it very clear several times that this bowl game isn't about 2022. It's about finishing 2021 off right.

Neil from Naples, Fla.: With taking recruiting to a new level being the No. 1 need for the program, what impact on recruiting would Marcus Freeman losing his first two games as ND head football coach have?

Eric Hansen: What impact do Lou Holtz losing his first two games have on winning a national title in his third season? What impact did Knute Rockne winning only three of his first six games have on his coaching career at ND? How telling was Tyrone Willingham's 8-0 start? Charlie Weis' 2-0 start? Brian Kelly's 1-3 start? It would be great for Marcus to start his head coaching career with two wins over two top 10 teams. But how he fills out his coaching staff and how he restructures recruiting, with himself as the lead recruiter, will have far greater impact — short and long term — on recruiting than the outcome of those two games.

Alan from Whiteland, Ind.: Eric, a tough question but here it is: In your opinion, is Brian Kelly's leaving for LSU and the subsequent hiring of Marcus Freeman the unknown facelift the Notre Dame program needed to move into this new era of college football that now features constant recruiting, the transfer portal, name/image/likeness and a sustained presence on all social media? I know this is a complex question, but your expertise is most appreciated.

Eric Hansen: Alan, I think that could have all happened under Kelly at ND. But Freeman's involvement in the recruiting process vs. Kelly's approach, I think, will pay dividends and is the biggest difference in the areas you mentioned.

Patrick from Fort Wayne, Ind.: Eric, thank you for hosting a Christmas Eve chat. This is a stocking stuffer for all die-hard ND football fans. Jan. 1 will be Marcus Freeman's first game as head coach.  What should I be looking for to get an idea of how he will coach going forward? I still can't get over Brian Kelly calling a pass to the end zone (interception) when a field goal would have won the game over Tulsa in his first year and his reasoning afterwards about his philosophy of coaching.

Eric Hansen: Thank you, Patrick for being a part of the chat. Now first off, you need to let go of the Tulsa thing. That was 11 seasons ago, and maybe this will make you feel better: In the past few years, I've asked Kelly what his biggest regret was during his time at ND. From a player standpoint, it was not handling Dayne Crist better. From a player-usage standpoint, it was not maximizing Jaylon Smith's full skill set. And from a game standpoint, it was not kicking the field goal vs. Tulsa. So there you go. ... I wouldn't put a ton of stock in how Marcus Freeman coaches on Jan. 1 will clue us into what that will look like in September. There's too much newness and duct tape involved now.

Mike from Des Moines, Iowa: Thanks for the chats! Long-time reader, first-time asking questions. 1) Thinking about Lawrence Keys III entering the portal in October, why not wait until after the season?  Did he save eligibility by announcing in October? Other reasons?  2) With Marcus Freeman as head coach, will ND be deferring to defense when we win the coin toss? Thanks again. Enjoy the holidays!

Eric Hansen: Hi Mike. Thanks for joining in. Lawrence Keys III did not gain any additional eligibility by opting out early. He said he had a big academic load and wanted to focus on that, so he could graduate in December. That was his reasoning. ... I have no idea about how Marcus will approach the coin toss. I am glad I answered that question for the last time re the Kelly Era, to be honest with you.

Ron from Delaware: Again, Merry Christmas to you and your family. Shayne Simon apparently leaving  kind of a surprise as I thought this would be his year to put it together. Do you think he wouldn’t get a fair look with all linebackers? Curious how Eli Raridon tore his ACL. Was it from playing basketball?

Eric Hansen: Ron, Merry Christmas. I think Shayne Simon would get a fair look, but his chances of starting would have been minimal. With Marist Liufau coming back, with JD Bertrand, Jack Kiser and Prince Kollie returning, with four stud linebackers coming in and the possibility of Bo Bauer and Paul Moala coming back, Simon at best would have been a reserve. He'd like to get a shot to start. ... Regarding Raridon, Ron, you lively minx, you need to read my stories. I had that info in there in the recent tight end overview, but yes it was basketball.

Chris in Albuquerque: Hey Eric. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Anything new on the wide receiver front? Secondly, do you think Marcus Freeman will deal with players differently than Brian Kelly did behavior-wise?  It seemed, admittedly from the far outside, it was hard for players like Kevin Austin to get out of BK's dog house once they were in it. Thank you, sir!

Eric Hansen: Chris, Merry everything to you too! The wide receiver situation will start to define itself shortly after the bowl, and that includes wide receiver coach Del Alexander's status (he is not expected to return). As far as BK's doghouse, I'm not sure that's a fair portrayal. Austin was suspended for a year by the university, not Kelly.

Lawrence from San Diego: Are Brian Hartline and Harry Heistand just pipedreams? Could HH work with Freeman’s “gotta be a recruiter” criterion?

Eric Hansen: The two you mentioned are candidates for two positions that aren't currently open but are expected to be after the bowl game. I think Hartline is a pipedream. He's Ohio State's wide receivers coach and one of the best recruiters in the nation. That Freeman is aiming THAT high bodes well for where that search ends up going. Harry Hiestand certainly recognized talent and developed it, and his reputation will attract it. If Harry doesn't get in the weeds quite as much as the other staff members with recruiting, I think you can more than live with that. Tommy Rees could certainly tag-team on the offensive linemen. I'd take HH on the staff in a heartbeat.

Steve from St. Louis: Merry Christmas to you and your family. How many coaching vacancies will coach Freeman have to fill after the bowl game and where do you expect ND to look? Sounds like a couple of the current coaches may not be retained. Any truth to the rumor Marcus Freeman reached out to Brian Hartline at OSU? James Laurinaitis as linebackers coach? Thanks for your great work, Eric.

Eric Hansen: Steve, I've got some good feelers on the kind of candidates and some specifics on all the openings and will share those in depth once it gets serious after the bowl game. Notre Dame has two openings — defensive coordinator/linebackers and special teams. And then two more likely to open on Jan. 2, wide receivers and offensive line. Hartline, I just mentioned. Laurinaitis might fit as an analyst.

Norris from Singer Island, Fla.: Two recruiting Kool-Aid questions:1) If you glorify your O-line talent, declare yourself “Tight End U” and brag about your bevy of running backs, how do you also recruit an accurate/throw-first QB or a tall/fast “get me the ball” receiving corp? 2) The defensive strength of the new class seems to be the linebackers in a 3-3-5 scheme. How many linebackers and safeties/corners play on first downs? On third downs? Short- or long-yardage situations?

Eric Hansen: Hi Norris. 1) Alabama has no problem doing that ... In fairness to your question, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees knows his pitch needs to be that "we'll tailor our offense to who we have on the roster." And it's true. It is his approach. He needs to amplify that. 2) ND didn't really play a 3-3-5 scheme. They were in four down much more than three down, and the rover is much more of a linebacker in Freeman's scheme than a hybrid. How many linebackers you play on passing downs depends on who the rover is. With Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah's skill set, you could leave him on the field in nickel and dime sets. This year, not so much. When Nolan Ziegler is ready to play, you may be back to keeping the rover on the field on third down. Notre Dame has played three safeties in its nickel coverage before, but went with three corners this year, because of personnel/roster strengths.

Marty in Lake Oswego, Ore.: Greetings Eric, O mystic of sport. Will we see a more open offense from the Irish Jan. 1? And how much playing time do you predict for Tyler Buchner? Has the last three weeks been the most turbulent of your career? Anything like it during your time at covering IU? Thanks and Merry Christmas.

Eric Hansen: Hi Marty, O mystic of Oregon. Merry Christmas. I don't think you'll necessarily see a more "wide open" offense on Jan. 1 — not that you won't see that in 2022. The reason? The way Oklahoma's defense is constructed is going to limit deep passes and require some extra blocking help from the tight ends and/or running backs. … How much Tyler Buchner? I think that hinges on how well ND can run the ball when Jack Coan is in the game. … Had the coaching search been protracted, it would have been a lot more turbulent. Unpredictable and draining? Yes. Exhilarating? Hell, yeah. This is why I do what I do. It gets my adrenaline going. Now I need a nap.

Greg from Natrona Heights, Pa.: Hi Eric. Thanks for another great chat. I believe that this program is three position groups away talent-wise from being considered elite and a national title threat — those being quarterback, cornerback and wide receiver. I firmly believe that the dogged recruiter that coach Freeman is, that he will address that by landing the bodies at those positions and have us among the Alabamas, Georgias and Ohio States and take us from being a very good/great program to a top 5, national championship contender on a yearly basis. Would you also agree with that assessment? Merry Christmas to you and your family Eric!

Eric Hansen: Merry Christmas, Greg. I'd throw safety into that pot as well. Otherwise, it'll look like to the teacher we were looking  at each other's papers.

Jude from Watertown, N.Y.: Merry Christmas, Eric. I loved hearing your story last year about the memory of your grandfather and his ketchup and baked beans at Thanksgiving. Does your family have any Christmas or New Year's traditions that you hold dear?

Eric Hansen: Thanks Jude. I don't know how interesting this will be to anyone but me. But here goes. So when my grandma Mary Valverde Fatibeno was alive, we almost always had Christmas at her house. And as you opened your present — and she did this consistently — she'd tell you where she bought the present, how much she paid for it and how much she saved. And, for the record, that was irrelevant to kids. The story behind it was how proud she was to be able to afford presents and how proud she was to have saved money. When my mom was a little girl, my grandparents were so poor, she had to go live with her grandparents, while her sisters stayed with their parents.

My mom had one dress. She wore it every day to school and her grandma, Lucia, washed it every night. Before any of that happened, during the Great Depression, my grandparents got in arrears with their rent. When the financial tide turned (slightly), my grandma approached the landlady with a plan to pay it back. The landlady said, “Your debt is forgiven.” When my mom's next sister was born, my grandma named her Dona, after the generous landlady. So each Christmas, as we open presents, I remind myself how lucky I am to have family and presents.

Neil from Bucks County, Pa.: Here's a hope and earnest prayer that Marcus Freeman can reel back Harry Hiestand. It was almost amazing to hear so many Irish O-line stars gush praise on him during (and after!) their tutelage under HH. You can count more than a dozen players who were drafted (many in early rounds) and have played at high levels in the NFL. How say you on the odds?

Eric Hansen: It's not a long shot by any means.

Eric Hansen: OK, that's going to have to do it for today. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll do this one more time before the bowl, likely next Wednesday at 1 p.m., but I will confirm it early next week on my Twitter account. Merry Christmas to all of you.

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI