Chat Transcript: Dishing on statues, recruiting and Notre Dame's future beyond the bowl

Eric Hansen
ND Insider
Notre Dame football players during practice for the Fiesta Bowl, December 28, 2021, at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat.

This not only will be the last chat of 2021, but it will be the last live chat I'll be doing for the South Bend Tribune/ND Insider. After 33-plus years, I'll be walking away from the Trib on Friday night and on my own terms. I'm very blessed to be able to say that. And Tyler James is coming with me.

We'll still be covering Notre Dame sports but at a new site that we're not at liberty to reveal until midnight on New Year's Eve. So, essentially I'm giving you a word salad, but reluctantly so.

The live chats will be a part of the new venture as will the podcasts. The podcast just will have a different name.

OK, let's get on to the fun stuff — your questions. PLEASE include your name and hometown along with your question. Since this is the last chat, the "no bare feet" and "no drinking" rules have been rescinded ... except for me.

Let's do this.

Dave from Livonia, Mich.: Hi Eric. I wish for you and your family a very happy and healthy New Year. I have two questions. One is on Rocco Spindler. What is his status? Is he healthy? I see Blake Fisher is back and ready to play in the bowl game. It seems like both came in highly regarded. But Blake seems to have progressed more than Rocco. Is that a fair statement? Rocco's dad, Marc, was on a local radio interview a couple of months ago. And though he didn't say too much, the feeling was there was disappointment in his playing time. My other question is on Jack Coan. What do you think his future is in the NFL? Middle-round draft choice or even undrafted? Always respect your opinion and love the chats.

Eric Hansen: Dave, thanks. And Happy New Year to you and yours as well. Rocco Spindler is going to be a star. Period. Just not this year. He's been healthy and working toward competing for a starting spot in 2022. Keep in mind, Blake Fisher and Joe Alt are the eighth and ninth freshmen to start at some point on the O-line as first-year players in the past 50 years. Only three of the nine have been guards. And none of ND's recent first-round NFL Draft pick O-linemen played as true freshmen (Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey). So no one should be disappointed. It's normal. ... I don't think Jack Coan will get drafted, but I do think he'll get a chance to compete in a training camp as an undrafted free agent.

Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric. I hope that everyone in the Hansen family had a great Christmas, and best wishes to y'all for a Happy & Healthy New Year!!! In my humble opinion, recruiting is heading in a great direction. Despite a couple of good prospects jumping ship, this year's class still had 14 players rated in the Top 200. In 2019, we had eight; in 2020, there were 10. And last year, there were nine in the Top 200. That looks like a nice, healthy increase to me. That being said, and with the emphasis coach Freeman is putting on recruiting, how do you see that impacting his assistant coaching hires for someone like Harry Heistand? Nick Lezynski? Seems to be well thought of in the ND program.  So, do you think that he is a viable candidate for the special teams coaching position? Seems like a great place for him to move up onto the coaching tree. If you could pick three players to return next year NOT named Isaiah Foskey, Jarrett Patterson or Kevin Austin Jr., who would they be? Thanks for keeping us so informed all year and talking us off the ledge from time to time. Go Irish!!!!

Eric Hansen: Thank you, Tom, and same to you. Let me answer the last of your questions first. Based on both the talent, the numbers, and who else is on the depth chart, the three I would add are DT Jayson Ademilola, WR Avery Davis and WR Braden Lenzy. Bo Bauer at linebacker would be a close fourth. But you need numbers and quality at wide receiver, and Ademilola has the potential to play at an All-American level. As far as Nick Lezynski, who is serving as interim special teams and linebackers coach, I think he is a viable candidate for special teams coach permanently, but he's going to have to beat out two very good external candidates.

Finally, to your Hiestand question. Here's who signed during the six cycles in which Harry was at ND (and Harry left before the 2018 cycle was complete):

2013: Mike McGlinchey, Steve Elmer, John Montelus, Hunter Bivin, Colin McGovern. Elmer would have had an NFL career if he had wanted to do that.

2014: Quneton Nelson, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, Jimmy Byrne.

2015: Trevor Ruhland, Tristen Hoge, Jerry Tillery ... Tillery was a stud O-line prospect who got flipped to defense because of need. Would likely have been an All-America O-lineman as well.

2016: Liam Eichenberg, Tommy Kraemer, Parker Boudreaux.

2017: Aaron Banks, Robert Hainsey, Josh Lugg, Dillan Gibbons.

2018: Jarrett Patterson, John Dirksen, Cole Mabry, Luke Jones.

So what am I missing? Other than 2018, there's not a lot to knock here.

IrishMike from Altoona, Pa.: Happy New Year, Eric, and thank you for hosting these chats! Harry Hiestand is rumored to be a candidate for the O-line coaching position! Harry is known as an excellent technician, but not as a renowned recruiter! Is he a fit for Marcus Freeman’s assertion that all of his assistants must be able recruiters?

Eric Hansen: See previous answer.

Joe from Waverly, N.Y.: Eric, I'm a Notre Dame alum and long-time admirer of your reporting on the ND program. This is my first time contributing to the chat. Your objective and insightful stories, interviews, comments etc. are the best there is. This became even more evident during the roller coaster of the last month in the ND universe. However, you saved the best for last with the incredible story about your family's Christmas traditions in last week's chat. It is obvious where the balance in your reporting originated. My New Year's wishes are for peace, health and happiness for your entire family, that you continue to provide your insight on ND football/university for years to come, and that I get to share a beer or cocktail with you during a 2022 football game. Go Irish !!!

Eric Hansen: Joe, thank you many times over. And I'd be happy to share a beer or cocktail, though DURING the game might break protocol. Maybe after? For sure. Thanks again.

John from Texas: I get why ND hired Bob Davie after Lou Holtz, but looking back, it was obviously the wrong move. I respect Ty Wllingham as a coach and man, but again looking back, probably not the right move. In my opinion, those are the hires that set ND football back into an age of mediocrity. I’m not saying he would’ve been the second coming of Lou, but George O’Leary, as best I can remember, was pretty decent at putting a program together. Where do you think ND football would be if O’Leary hadn’t lied on his résumé and actually gotten a chance to coach at ND? Is our major bowl record better? Would he have a statue out front? I always wonder what would have happened, if …

Thanks and Go Irish!

Eric Hansen: John, there's no real way of knowing, but my sense is he would have done better than Willingham and Davie, but not better than Charlie Weis. Certainly no statue. He went 81-68 at UCF during the program's growth years and he did a really good job emphasizing academics. But coaching at UCF at that time, and coaching with the scrutiny that the ND coach gets are two different things. I'm not sure how he would have handled it. UCF also had NCAA violations in 2011. And there were allegations of player mistreatment. He would have not gotten away with that at ND. So a shoulder shrug from me.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Hi Eric. Happy New year! December has been eventful for the Irish! So much emotion!!! This on top of a season that had a roller-coaster beginning followed by a lot of growth with many season-ending injuries at various points. Emotion can be uplifting but also can be draining.  Is the staff and the team ready to seize the moment and capture the Fiesta Bowl experience? Or will all the turbulence they have experienced yield an emotional trough right after kickoff?

Eric Hansen: Happy New Year, Len. If ND doesn't win the bowl game, I don't think it will be because they didn't have the right mindset or were emotionally drained. I think they've had tremendous focus heading into the game.

Jim from Oakwood, Ohio: Hi Eric, and Happy New Year! Thank you for sharing your wonderful Christmas story at the end of the last chat. That was beautiful, especially the ending: "So each Christmas, as we open presents, I remind myself how lucky I am to have family and presents." An excellent thought for all of us. I hope you and your family enjoyed your Christmas and created some new memories this year. Have you had any media access with the team during the prep weeks? Do you have any information, or thoughts, as to how the QB snap breakdown will be divided or is that a "flow-of-the-game" decision? I thought that Ian Book did as well as he could Monday night for the Saints ... under very difficult circumstances. The stat that amazed me was that Miami blitzed on 70% of the snaps in the first half. What are your thoughts ... what did you see? Enjoy your time in Phoenix, and be well and stay healthy in 2022.

Eric Hansen: Hi Jim. Happy Holidays to you, too. Thanks for putting up with my family stories. We got to view one practice while the team was in South Bend (part of it actually, but very valuable), which I think is a first. We also did lots of interviews in person. Those are continuing in Arizona, but via Zoom because of the COVID surge. I think the Jack Coan/Tyler Buchner breakdown will remain as it has been — flow of the game. A lot will depend on ND's ability to run the ball with Jack Coan in the game and how well the O-line can protect him. If both of those things are problems, expect to see more Buchner. ... Didn't see much of the Saints game. Just bits and pieces, as I was working on ND stuff at that hour. Read about it, heard about it. I can only add, I don't think that game will end up defining Ian Book.

Rui from Westchester, N.Y.: Hope you and your family enjoy/enjoyed this holiday season. As many other fans are also looking forward to a change taking place, how serious were the Hartline rumors coming to ND as WR coach? I feel this coaching position choice is WAY more important vs O-line( also hoping that Heistand returns). What are you hearing? And I assume that a young energetic and — most important — top recruiter will fill out the wide receiver coaching position. Thoughts? And thank you ahead of time.

Eric Hansen: Hi Rui, and yes we did enjoy it immensely. And I hope you did too. The Brian Hartline rumor persists, but it doesn't seem realistic, even though the current OSU receivers coach and Marcus Freeman were college teammates. Given the coaches moves in this cycle, never say never. I wouldn't say the wide receiver coach opening is more important than the O-line opening. Del Alexander not being retained isn't official, but that is expected. Same with Jeff Quinn at O-line.

Gerry Labelle from Waltham, Quebec: Hope your Christmas was special this year! What are the chances Notre Dame honors Brian Kelly with a statue? In my opinion, that would be embarrassing! He was not a great coach. Your thoughts on that possibility?

Eric Hansen: Happy New Year and Happy Belated Boxing Day. I think this is a first — two statue questions in one chat. You only asked my opinion about statue-worthy and not greatness, so I'll answer it simply, no — no statue.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and that you are enjoying the weather in Phoenix. I know the team has a lot to play for and assume they are really excited to play for coach Freeman. Any concerns that they will be too hyped up for the game? Along those lines, is Dr. Amber Selking still on staff? Also where would you rank OSU relative to the other teams on the schedule this year? (Are they the best team ND will play?) And also where would you rank their offense and defense relative to the other teams played this year? Have a great time at the game. Happy New Year, and thanks for all your hard work.

Eric Hansen: Hi Marie. Great Christmas here. Hope yours was, too. No concerns about being too hyped. I have every reason to believe Amber Selking is working with the team, though I have not checked on that. I would be shocked if she wasn't. ... I think Cincinnati is a better team than Oklahoma State, and then the Cowboys would be next, with Wisconsin third. How do their offense and defense rank? Okie State is 65th out of 130 in the FBS in total offense. Among ND opponents, that's seventh. They're third nationally in total defense. Wisconsin is No. 1 nationally and UC is No. 7 — and none of the other opponents are close. Happy New Year.

Jim from Berlin, Conn.: Hey Eric, how are you? I'm back to being just plain Jim after spending a week as Frank (see last week's chat). My question this week concerns COVID and how much it has taken a toll on teams that were supposed to play in bowl games this season. As of today, five bowl games have been canceled due to the virus. Has Coach Freeman taken special steps to ensure the Irish players remain healthy heading into New Year's Day? I echo the sentiments of so many others who have found your chats incredibly informative throughout the year, and I wish you and your family all the best in 2022.

Eric Hansen: Hey Jim/Frank. Thanks for the kind words. It's not only Marcus Freeman, but head trainer Rob Hunt and team physician Matt Leiszler who have been diligent and vigilant about trying to give the team its best chance of being healthy for the game. But the virus has a mind of its own, and so it's difficult to predict who is going to be successful with those extra measures.

Chris from San Diego: Hi, Eric. I’m grateful for all your ND coverage and live chats, and really appreciated your family Christmas story from the last chat. I shared it with my wife, because it felt in the spirit of some of the old-fashioned Christmas stories she had been reading as part of her free, daily Christmas/Advent video series, featuring traditions from around the world, stories, and songs (sort of Mr. Rogers meets Julie Andrews).  http://www.ashleywagnerarts.com/christmas

I’m sorry your time at the Tribune is coming to an end, but hope the new situation is as/more fulfilling for you, and I look forward to reading more from you there.

Eric Hansen: Hi Chris. Thanks on all fronts. I am so glad some of you liked the Christmas story. I was hesitant to share it, because I thought it'd bore you all to tears (and maybe I haven't heard from that group yet). So thanks.

Jeff from Schererville, Ind.: Eric, I have no question today — only words of gratitude and best wishes for you and Tyler as you begin your new path covering ND football. You've given us fair and honest coverage over the years, and I know I speak for many chat participants when I say that these chats are highlights of our weeks in and out of football season. I wish you all the best, and I do the same for your colleagues at the South Bend Tribune and ND Insider who will continue to cover the Irish. Hope 2022 is a happy and healthy year for you and your family. Thanks and go Irish!

Eric Hansen: Thanks Jeff. I'm sure the Trib will get great replacements. Tyler and I are really excited about the new venture.

Tom from Hillsdale, Mich.: Just want to wish you the best of luck and appreciate all your great coverage over the years! You’re not going to LSU are you? LOL. Who do you think will get most of the carries?

Eric Hansen: Tom, thank you. And no, I will be staying right here in South Bend (and near my grandkids). A funny thing, though, our former colleague, Carter Karels, ran into Brian Kelly at a Baton Rouge restaurant the Friday after BK was named coach down there. Wild story, which Carter will have to tell someday. ... I think Logan Diggs will get the most carries for ND.

Jude from Watertown, N.Y.: Eric — I just want to say that I'm thrilled that your next destination is completely of your making. I'm ecstatic that you'll still be partnering with Tyler James. And, as someone who loved writing for a newspaper but did not love the low pay and long hours, I hope your contribution to our understanding of Notre Dame athletics — which has been exemplary for 30 years — is rewarded with a generous pay increase.

Eric Hansen: Thank you, Jude. I hope to reward you with some Voodoo Donuts on one of your trips here ... if we ever get one.

Ryan from Mars, Pa.: Good afternoon, Eric. What do you think about the season Kurt Hinish has had so far? He’s played great. Looking forward to the bowl game. GO IRISH.

Eric Hansen: Ryan, I think he helped his future AND Notre Dame by taking the COVID exemption and coming back for 2021.

Mike from Lemont, Ill.: Eric, wishing you and Tyler the absolute best! You guys are fabulous! Media members and analysts love to talk about momentum. Coach Lou did not believe in it. Almost everyone thinks that if ND wins the Fiesta bowl that gives them "momentum" for next year. I say BS. In 1987, Notre Dame lost badly to Texas A&M, 35-10. The next year they went out and won the title while playing one of the hardest schedules EVER. Although I do think it is important to finish the year strong and get the New Year’s Six bowl win, I believe that next year will be determined by who the captains are, who comes back and who decides they are going to make an impact in 2022. What do you say?  Thank you for everything that you do, and I think almost everyone on this chat owes you a couple of cold ones to go along with some good BBQ. Maybe we could host an ERIC HANSEN appreciation day?!   God Bless and Go IRISH!

Eric Hansen: Wow, Mike. Can I adopt you? Wait 'til I show my sons this transcript. Appreciation day? What a concept LOL, love it. Your question is particularly intriguing, because I don't think the answer is universal, year to year or school to school. I think there are times when a program really needs that win at the end of the year. Brian Kelly and ND needed it in the 2010 Sun Bowl after everything that happened that year. Then in 2011, they looked awful in the Champs Sports Bowl. What do they do as an encore? Go 12-0 and play for a national title. A bowl win Saturday would be meaningful, because it would be against a top 10 team and in a major bowl and continue the positive buzz around Marcus Freeman.

But there are other elements — including recruiting and assistant coaching hires — that will have greater impact on both the short-term and the long-term health of the program. ... So, in short, you are (mostly) right.

Eric from Bristol: Hello, Eric. Thank you for your great reporting during an eventful season, to say the least.  A few weeks ago during the week that Brian Kelly made his exit, you fielded a chat question from a journalism student asking what you were hearing from your sources. Your response mentioned that some sources contact you, whereas other sources require you to make a contact. I've always been curious about how professionals in your field develop the proverbial "source within the program who wishes to remain anonymous" that requires you to make a contact when the time comes. As much as you're willing and able to share: Is it a matter of simply asking someone in an initial interview or conversation if they'd be willing to serve as a future source and asking for their number? How do you report information without angering program leadership and/or getting the source into hot water? Is there ever a time when the source is actually the head coach or the AD, but they're not ready to put their name on the quote yet?

Eric Hansen: Eric, all great questions. But the No. 1 rule about developing sources is never betraying them and breaking your promise of anonymity. So I'm going to have to pass on all your questions. I'd be happy to share other aspects of my job, but I can't do it in this case.

Jake from Saratoga, N.Y.: Hello Eric, hope you had a nice holiday. I believe Tommy Rees can take a three-star or four-star QB and help them develop, but I’m concerned as to whether he has the capability to take a high-end, five-star QB and maximize their potential. In other words, does he have the ability to get Tyler Buchner to that high end level of passing. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Eric Hansen: Jake, we don't know that one way or another, because there's not a track record you can point to. I would think those skills would be transferable (from less-touted to elite prospects). Given what Tyler Buchner's been able to accomplish this year with one year of high school football bodes well.

Ken from Pensacola, Fla.: Eric,Happy New Year and hope you had a joyous Christmas! In previous years a lot of emphasis was placed on the “goodies” team members were given for bowl games. Are team players going to get any this year? Also, what’s your gut feeling on our team winning? Thanks and as always “GO IRISH” !!!!!!

Eric Hansen: Happy New Year, Ken. The centerpiece among the bowl swag is a PlayStation 5 console for the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. Bet the players are glad it's not still the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl. As for the gut feeling on winning, I'm picking ND, but don't know by what score yet. Tough matchup for both offenses.

Shane from White Deer, Texas: Hey Eric. Hope you have the happiest of New Years. Two random questions. Do you ever get to just enjoy the splendor of Notre Dame, or is it all work for you? Second,  why does it seem like anyone who gets their hands up and around the face, there is going to be a flag, but running backs seem to have free rein when it comes to hands to the face. To be honest, my brother asks me that second question every time we see it on TV. Thought you may help in giving him an answer and some peace in his life. Thanks for the insights and answering my questions this season. Go Irish!

Eric Hansen: Shane, thanks and Happy New Year to you, too. Shane, I'm not sure I am interpreting your first question correctly. I'll answer it like this: The best thing about covering Notre Dame football is the people you meet — players, coaches, administrators, fans. And I'll never take that for granted. … Running backs are able to use the stiff arm move to avoid a sloppy tackle, but it comes with restrictions. They can't use a closed hand to make that move or a punching motion. It must be an open palm. Also, no grabbing or locking their fingers on the opponent’s face mask.

Alan from Whiteland, Ind.: Eric, going into next season, do you believe Joe Alt and Blake Fisher will stay at left and right tackle, respectively, or do you anticipate them switching sides and putting Fisher back at left tackle? Thank you.

Eric Hansen: I think there's a good chance Fisher will be back at left tackle and Alt at right, but the coaches and players have a chance to mess with that in the spring, and the new O-line coach will have some say in that. Alt says he doesn't have a preference and is comfortable on either side. The biggest reason they didn't make that move for the bowl game (Fisher to left, Alt to right) was that it created more moving parts in a short adjustment time.

Will from Seattle: Eric, thanks for another great season here with the chats, with Pod of Gold, and all things Irish football. After reading last week’s chat, I was wondering whether many of ND’s players who opt for fifth (and now sixth) year do receive master’s degrees staying with the program, or, do most just pursue additional studies? Are there any great stories of players taking advantage of the additional academic opportunities? Thanks again, and let’s go Irish in 2022.

Eric Hansen: Hi Will and thanks. I think it's increasingly less often that players pursue the master's, but there's still a blend of those who do and those who don’t. If they're not getting their master's, it allows the player to take a light load in the fall and really have plenty of time for film study and body recovery. Drue Tranquill took this option, and it helped him boost his draft stock. Cody Riggs, a grad transfer from Florida, got a master's in a year and actually had to study on draft weekend for exams he had the ensuing Monday and Tuesday. Chris Stewart, notably, was in law school, during his final season of playing football for the Irish.

Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, greetings from a rather soggy but Fiesta-ready Phoenix. My questions are around the ND team psychologist, Amber Selking. I would see her on the sideline during games, usually not far from Kelly. First, do you know if she is staying with ND and if coach Freeman sees her as a key contributor to the team’s success?  I think Jonathan Doerer worked with her on his kicking mindset, but are there other players that benefitted in 2021?  And finally, are there a couple of players you think could benefit from time with Dr Selking during this offseason to help match their high physical potential to an improved game impact and leadership? Thanks, and I hope the road rises up to meet you both personally and professionally in 2022.

Eric Hansen: Hi Jeff. It's hard to imagine why Dr. Selking wouldn't stay on. And the stories about what she brings to enhance the program are plentiful. Jack Coan spoke of Selking's influence recently:

“For me personally, I think the world of it. She does such a great job of getting us information we can use on the field. And even if a guy takes one little thing from it, it’s just going to help us that much more on the field. I think she does an outstanding job, and I’m sure I’ll keep in contact with her for a while.”  —Jack Coan

I think Tyler Buchner would benefit greatly as he transitions to being QB1 ... Here's Brian Kelly on how Selking benefits the QBs: "I think if you look at the quarterbacks in particular, it's (about) decluttering. It's taking away a lot of the noise, if you will, associated with the position and keeping things a lot simpler."

Sean from Greensboro, N.C.: Eric, just wanted to wish you a Happy New Year, and thank you for all you do to keep us informed.

Eric Hansen: Thanks and Happy New Year to you, Sean.

John from Champaign, Ill.: A few months ago I asked you if you thought Brian Kelly could become a Tom Osborne or Bobby Bowden … win a championship at a place where it took many years to build an elite program, but the end result was legendary status. You did not think BK had many coaching years left. I really think Marcus Freeman will win before BK. How long do you think BK stays at LSU? In your heart of hearts do you think BK will regret leaving ND even with the $100 million?

Eric Hansen: Hi John. I think Brian Kelly is a very good coach. The cultural fit and the SEC grind are going to test him in new ways. I would be surprised if he coached more than five more years. And I do think he'll end up regretting leaving ND. I'm not wishing that on him, just answering your question.

Bill from St Joe, Mich.: Eric, congratulations are more than in order for your new assignment! You are the best … and that’s not limited to your coverage of ND football! You are the best sportswriter in the business, and I’ve spent more than 50 years in the NYC media market!

Would I be off base if I believed that Harry Hiestand would never think about considering returning to Notre Dame if Brian Kelly remained. I say that, as I recall a couple instances when BK was still in his sideline tantrum years. I recollect BK was heading over screaming at an O-lineman when I saw Harry head him off, and it seemed as if he was saying, ‘You get away from my guys.”

Eric Hansen: Wow, it feels like Christmas all over again today. Thank you, Bill. ... I don't think Brian Kelly's presence would have been a detriment to a Harry Hiestand return, even though they may have had their moments (not uncommon). If it happens — and momentum is building — it's because the timing is right.

Steve from Kenosha, Wis.: Eric, you and your team have been the foremost authority on ND football.  Looking forward to your announcement. Count me in!

Eric Hansen: Thank you, Steve!

Mark from Orange County, Calif.: Happy New Year, Eric. Wow, last Tribune live chat. Best of luck to you in your next job. I will be following your work wherever you are.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Mark!

Jeff from Schererville, Ind.: I don't know if he's here today, but I feel like in honor of Manny someone should say one last time....Eric!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eric Hansen: Haha. Thank you Jeff!!!!&^$%#)($!! I'm still tickled that Manny named his wife's new puppy "Marcus."

Ken from Portage, Mich.: Congratulations on a spectacular career with SB Tribune/ND Insider. Look forward to seeing what venture is ahead for you and Tyler. Any word on how the NFL grades came back on those players that had their names submitted?

Eric Hansen: Hi Ken. The only one I know of for sue is Kevin Austin, with a return-to-school grade. Not surprising. It's either Round 1, Round 2 or return to school. That doesn’t mean he will take the advice to heart.

Steve from Kenosha, Wis.: Eric, I’m curious as to the reasons why ND isn’t considering renewing Jeff Quinn’s contract. Any speculative thoughts on your end?

Eric Hansen: Marcus is trying to put together the best possible staff. If you're chasing Brian Hartline as a wide receivers coach, that's kind of the gold standard. And so, it's not a matter of Jeff Quinn not doing a good job, but is there someone out there who's elite? And there is.

Mike McFadden from Williamsport, Pa.: Man o'man, Mr. Eric. Now THAT came out of nowhere. Good luck to you. You will do good, I am sure. Thanks for the ND coverage !!!

Eric Hansen: Thank you, Mike.

Mark from KC: Hate to hear this. You will be missed on this site. Good luck with your new venture.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Mark.

Mike McFadden from Williamsport, Pa.: Hi Eric. Why all the rage about LSU? I don't understand. ND beat LSU the last two times we played them and three out of the last four!!! My eyes are partial and prejudiced to the Irish, but I see more upside on the ND side of things then I do for LSU. I see their 2019 natty team as an anomaly, and the 2020 and 2021 proves it, as they went south with a very experienced coach and supposedly more inherent recruiting because of 2019.

Eric Hansen: I think they're both very good jobs but for different reasons. Certainly you can win and win big at LSU without having to recruit nationally. There are fewer academic restrictions, but there are different challenges than ND has. It'll be interesting to see how Brian Kelly handles those.

Chris in Albuquerque: Hey Eric. Happy New Years to you! I keep reading that Del Alexander may be gone after the season. I know we missed on a few wide receivers in the past recruiting cycle. What makes a good wide receivers coach compared to what Del did/did not do. And if the rumors are true about Del being gone, who makes a make a good replacement?

Eric Hansen: Happy New Year, Chris. The wide receiver coach on most coaching staffs needs to be one of your best recruiters. Del has been hit and miss on this, and attrition has been a big problem as well. Ideally, you don't sacrifice player development to get that elite recruiter. Ideally, you get that in one person. That's why Brian Hartline is so highly regarded and why he’s a target.

FX from Cincy: How would you rate the following strategies moving forward for wide receiver? 1) Circle back to Kevin Coleman and DJ Allen (offered not yet committed); 2) Offer less-promising uncommitted wide receiver; 3) Try to flip already committed elsewhere; 4) Portal; 5) Retain Austin, Lenzy and/or Davis; 6) Position Switch; 7) Stand Pat.  [Did I miss anything?] Happy and Prosperous New Year and a Fiesta for Fiesta.

Eric Hansen: Happy New Year to you. I would say the top priority is retaining as many of the following as possible: Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy, Avery Davis, Joe Wilkins. No. 2 would be the portal. No. 3 would be looking at the uncommitted WR prospects to see if there's a fit. ND is involved with quite a few elite WR prospects in 2023, so that’s good news on that front.

CHUCK from CLEVELAND: Happy New Year, Eric! Best of health to you and your family in 2022. Watched Ian Book get sacked eight times last night for New Orleans; the O-Line must be all USC ex-players! Will Chris Tyree play any slot to get him in open space, and which running back is the best pass blocker of the three? Irish 27, OSU 16.

Eric Hansen: Happy New Year, Chuck. Yes, I think Chris Tyree will play some in the slot. I think Logan Diggs is actually the best pass blocker of the three RBs.

Ken from Portage, Mich.: In your 33 years of covering ND football, is there one or two, players or coaches, that gave you the best interviews?

Eric Hansen: I would have to give that a lot of thought, which would make for a boring wait time for you all. Off the top of my head, Louis Nix III, Every single time. Including calling me from the hospital after he has been shot. And calling me to talk about life, once he was home from the hospital, shortly before he died. ... One of the interviews was for the summer annual magazine we used to produce. I tended to form long-term bonds with the players featured in those, because we spent so much time together and somehow they didn't get sick of me. And I got to spend time with their families. And what a treat that was.

Steven from Athens, Ga.: Hey Eric! Hope you have a Happy New Year. Over the last eight years, give or take, I think of the talent that has come through the linebackers room, one of my favorites over that time has been Bo Bauer. Can he come back one more year or will we see the last of the "Wild Man" on New Year’s Day?

Eric Hansen: Steven, he can come back, and I'm hearing that is the direction he's leaning, but it's not final yet. We'll get all those after the bowl game. There is a lot of talent walking in the door in that freshman linebacker class. Happy New Year.

Jim from Middletown, Ohio. You are the very best and will be missed. How or where will be able to get the news about your new job? Best wishes my friend.

Eric Hansen: Thank you, Jim. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I'll post it there seconds after the ball drops in Times Square.

Eric Hansen: That's going to do it for my final live chat with the South Bend Tribune. Keep in mind, we'll do this at the new place — and soon with the same chat software and same format. Thanks for all the great questions and warm thoughts. The next chapter awaits.

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI