Chat Transcript: The next moves in ND's QB recruiting, depth solutions
Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, late June edition. PLEASE remember to include your name and hometown along with your question(s).
Lots of Dante Moore questions today. I'll try to hit those which are more specific than open-ended.
Steve from Kenosha Wis.: Hi Eric. Do you see ND, or perhaps they already have, pursuing other QB options for 2023, seeing that Dante Moore has quickly faded from the picture? If so, any insights on who they might be? And, any idea as to when ND may officially clear up the picture of CJ Carr reclassifying? Thanks as always!
Eric Hansen: Hi Steve. It's difficult at this point to see a pathway for Dante Moore to end up at Notre Dame after feeling like a probability (but never a certainty) for months. Having 2024 five-star QB CJ Carr commit on June 9 changed that dynamic. Before ND can make a move in trying to grab a 2023 QB or pursue another in the 2024 cycle, it must resolve the reclassification question with CJ Carr. He's 17 years old and would be 19 as a freshman if he stays in the 2024 class. I think staying in that class benefits him. If he reclassifies, I think it helps Notre Dame. If the Irish are going to get a quality 2023 QB, they're going to have to poach him out of someone else's class and in a short time frame. Whereas, there are some pretty good 2024s with ND interest who have not yet committed. When Carr committed, he didn't think reclassification was likely. It may be gaining momentum in the past few weeks. Ideally, this gets resolved by August, if not sooner.
Jon Borchers: I wish the Irish would have gotten a veteran QB like they did last year with Jack Coan. So many questions with Buchner. His durability when he runs the option, and his accuracy with passes over 30 yards. Ohio State will force him to throw the ball. Hoping for the best.
Eric Hansen: Jon, they would disqualify you on Jeopardy for not phrasing in the form of a question, but I'll try to answer your statements.... I talked to Marcus Freeman on Monday, and his and the coaching staff's belief in the progress of both Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne is the reason they didn't give the transfer portal a serious look at that position. I think durability is a legit concern. I don't think arm strength and accuracy will be one in 2022.
David from Grand Rapids, Mich.: How concerned should we be about Avery Davis not being cleared for football activities at this point?
Eric Hansen: Avery Davis is cleared to run and he is making progress, but it may be some time later in September when he plays his first game of the 2022 season. Joe Wilkins Jr. is likely an October return. How concerning it might be depends on the summers that sophomores Lorenzo Styles, Jayden Thomas, Deion Colzie and freshman Tobias Merriweather have. Those four plus Braden Lenzy and Matt Salerno will be ND's WR corps for the Ohio State game. ND does have a glut of capable tight ends, which will help. Avery is actually a little bit ahead of schedule if that is your concern.
Mike from Lemont, Ill.: Eric, I saw that you dropped the depth chart the other day. IMO, it looks good, and this is a team that should challenge for a playoff spot. Ohio State is a difficult task out of the gate, but after that we should see improvement going forward. ND seems to have plenty of weapons with Chris Tyree, Michael Mayer, Loenzo Styles, Braden Lenzy and Deion Colzie, etc. Please tell me Matt Salerno is not a starter with the talent this team has at WR? Hope all is well and the BBQs are plentiful this weekend. Cheers!
Eric Hansen: Hi Mike. I don't think he will be, but the trick to doing the depth charts when there are injured players is keeping some semblance of the actual positions when everyone returns. So for Ohio State, you're probably looking at Styles and Thomas/Colzie outside and Lenzy in the slot. Or Lenzy outside and Styles inside. Merriweather, although I have him listed as a field receiver, might play some boundary. So no I don't see Salerno as a starter, but I'm sure ND appreciates him with the low numbers and what a great teammate he is.
Dave from Washington, D.C.: Brian Kelly appeared to embrace sports science and analytics as it relates to player-load monitoring, recovery, and physical progress. You'd hear him mention it frequently in press conferences. Do you see Freeman continuing this?
Eric Hansen: Dave, I do, because it was Matt Balis, ND's director of football performance, who introduced it to Kelly and who continues to refine it at a very high level. I think you'll eventually hear Marcus talk about it more, but he and BK definitely have different talking points as head coaches.
JIm Tal from Valley Center, Calif..: Hi Eric, hope all is well with you, and thanks as always for the chance to discuss some Irish football. From all that is being reported, it seems as if freshman cornerback Jaden Mickey is making quite an impression with his play, confidence and overall vibe. That being said, what role do you foresee for Mickey in 2022? Could he possibly start somewhere down the line and might he also be used as a return man, an area where he excelled in high school? At least on the surface, this young man appears to have big-time potential. Thanks again for all that you do.
Eric Hansen: Hi Jim, and thank you. Jaden Mickey currently is not in line to start, but Marcus Freeman told me Monday he'll have a significant role on the defense. What might that look like? He could be an extra DB in certain packages. He could eventually challenge Clarence Lewis for a starting spot. He'll be valuable on special teams. And he and guys like Ryan Barnes will allow the corners to roll in and out more. And yes, he could end up helping in the return game with the numbers being so low at wide receiver and running back.
Kevin-Sleepy Eye,mn: ERIC!!!!!! Whatever happens in QB recruiting; are we supposed to believe our current QBs can't win a championship? We can't win a championship without a five-star QB? Of the last 10 national champions, I wonder how many had five-star QB's?
Eric Hansen: Kevin!!!!! To answer the last part of the question, there have been three five-star quarterbacks who have led their teams to national titles in the past 10 years -- Jameis Winston (FSU), Deshaun Watson (Clemson) and Trevor Lawrence (Clemson). You may not need a five-star, but you need someone who plays at that level. Here are the team pass-efficiency rankings nationally for the last 10 national champions (going backward from 2021): 4-1-2-12-10-18-34-2-1-1. Notre Dame's numbers for their two playoff teams and their BCS national title runner-up team: 43rd-43rd-74th. The best mark in any Brian Kelly season at ND was 20th in 2019.
Joey G from Philadelphia: Hi Eric. I can’t understand why we can’t recruit and develop first-round NFL talent at the WR and CB positions. It seems as though Marcus Freeman, who is an unbelievable recruiter, is having the same problem as Brian Kelly and his staff. Do you feel ND can win a title with their current WRs and CBs?
Eric Hansen: Joey, I think you're way off on the talent at those positions in the 2023 class (and likely 2024 too). I'd tap the brakes on that part of your complaint. There's two elite WRs in the next week (one tonight) who are likely to announce for Notre Dame and two elite cornerbacks who are expected to do the same. As far as pre-2023 cycle, I think your assessment is fair. And cornerbacks and wide receivers are two of the positions that have held the Irish back, along with QB play, in their playoff/BCS title game years.
Rick Dierolf from Sinking Spring, Pa.: Hey Eric. I hope you are having a great summer. What happened with Dante Moore? Seems like we had a ton of momentum with him, and after the commitment of CJ Carr it all changed
Eric Hansen: Rick, here's my best read on that situation. I believe Dante said all the right things to the coaching staff starting in January and increasingly in March and April that led them to be optimistic that he'd end up being Irish. So they stopped prioritizing Jackson Arnold (Oklahoma) in January and later Christopher Vizzina (Clemson) to show Moore how much of a priority he was. The hope was that they could wrap it up quickly after his two-day visit in late March, which seemed realistic. The visit, by all accounts, went great. But then Dante and his family decided to elongate the process. Perhaps June now would be the decision date. I think ND was on board with that as long as he came back for an official visit in June. Meanwhile, momentum was picking up with some elite 2024 QBs, including CJ Carr.
At some point actions speak louder than words. Moore did not prioritize ND in June and so then Carr committed. Because Carr could reclassify, it gave ND leverage that they had lost when they put all their eggs in the Moore basket. To me, taking Carr was the right move (as much as I love Moore's game). There's a sense in the recruiting community that Dante will pick a school based on NIL guarantees. That' may not be not fair to him, but that likely will be a perception he'll have to fight. He has not ruled out Notre Dame, but it's hard to envision that happening now.
Joe H from Williams Bay, Wis.: Hi Eric. I was wondering if you think it’s still possible to get any help from the transfer portal at the wide receiver or running back positions. And if we don’t, do you think that we’ll have enough on the current roster to carry us to a successful season?
Eric Hansen: I had that conversation with Marcus Freeman on Monday, and he said there's nothing left in the portal. Running back Lyn-J Dixon just recently put himself in the portal for the second time in less than a year. He was committed to West Virginia after starting his career at Clemson. But because he wasn't in the portal by the May 1 deadline, so he's going to have a battle on his hands if he wants to play in 2022. Marcus thinks there's enough talent at those positions, but ND is going to have to stay fortunate with injuries.
Antoine Cuthbertson from Charlotte, N.C.: Has the ship officially sailed on Dante Moore?
Eric Hansen: It's no longer anchored.
Len from the Jersey Shore: Hi Eric, Happy summer! Thanks for the great coverage of ND baseball. That team was a great compelling story, and you brought it to life for us readers. And thanks for hosting. I have so many areas to ask about, but today let’s ask about culture and leadership in relation to recruiting. Coach Brian Kelly drew a line about recruits. He only wanted commits from future players who were truly committed to ND. How does Coach Freeman feel about this? Is he more open to defections while he continues to pursue a much higher-rated recruit list than coach Kelly? And how will that affect the culture in the locker room and the program? Won’t it hurt that cohesion? And leadership? It was that culture, more than anything else, that created this run of consecutive wins against unranked opponents? It's hard for a verbal recruit to recruit others when he isn't 100% committed himself? And what about leadership after the recruiting season is over?
Eric Hansen: Hi Len. Thanks for the feedback on baseball. Although there was probably some bandwagon-jumping, the overall interest in the baseball team far exceeded our expectations. So we continued to funnel resources in that direction. I think you're making an assumption about players who change their mind that might not be quite fair. During the Kelly/Freeman Era through the 2022 recruiting cycle, ND has lost 36 recruits to decommitments and signing elsewhere but gained 62. Among them were some really strong leaders in JD Bertrand, Jarrett Patterson, Houston Griffith, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, Shaun Crawford and Drue Tranquill. Where Marcus draws a line is committed recruits can't take official visits. They can take unofficials. And while they don't encourage that, it's a price you pay for chasing more five-stars and high four-stars. But he's not going to sacrifice character. Not everyone is a character fit.
Tom from Kennesaw, Ga.: Hi Eric, hope you were not planning on a peaceful summer! It seems as though recruiting and the accompanying media have become a season of its own. Not sure the real story with Dante Moore, but I feel that Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees did all they could to convince him to come to ND. I'm sure there will be fans who blame them for him going somewhere else. When he continued to delay his decision, it was very concerning to all involved that other teams and people were swaying him away from ND. It also cost us some WRs who were considering joining him in South Bend. With CJ Carr, hopefully, coming next year or the following year what is your take on the QB position and the development of Tyler Buchner? I am very nervous about the commitment of Arch Manning to Texas and the possible impact on some of the top WRs that are leaning to coming to ND. Would not surprise me if we lost one or more to Texas — your opinion? Regarding the possible position shuffling along the O-line, what do you think will be the determining factors? Go Irish!!
Eric Hansen: Hi Tom, agreed that there's no such a thing as a quiet summer anymore. but I'll settle for nice weather. ... To your Buchner question, you guys didn't get to see him in the Blue-Gold Game (because of injury), but the Buchner we saw in practice (albeit limited windows) was a much more advanced version of what you saw in 2021. When I asked Marcus Freeman about him on Monday, he smiled and was happy with the summer progress. I've always been high on Buchner and continue to be. I hope to have a more detailed answer for you in August. ... Remember, recruiting is about strong relationships, so I think the only WR that may give Texas a longer look is Jaden Greathouse, who was already considering the Longhorns. I think CJ Carr helps ND in recruiting, and Greathouse is still considered a Notre Dame lean. Texas already has three WRs committed in that class, so they're filling up fast.
Regarding the offensive line, Jarrett Patterson and the tackles are absolutes in terms of inclusion, though Patterson could be a center or a guard. So it comes down to who are your fourth- and fifth-best offensive linemen? If Josh Lugg is healthy, I believe Harry Hiestand thinks he's No. 4. So it's Zeke Correll vs. Andrew Kristofic (and some guys like Rocco Spindler trying to play their way into the discussion).
Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric. I hope you’ve had a couple of great weeks. Since it looks like Dante Moore is becoming unlikely for Notre Dame if CJ Carr were to reclassify, who are some of the quarterbacks you think Notre Dame would go after in the 2024 class? Conversely, if CJ Carr does not reclassify, who do you think ND will pursue in the 2023 class, either uncommitted or trying to flip? What is the current status of the attempt to make college athletes employees, and what is your opinion of this idea, pros, and cons? So glad the chat is back this week. Thanks for everything you do.
Eric Hansen: Hi Marie. Thanks for checking in today. Let's start with the 2024s. A lot of the elite QBs in that class are starting to commit or at least narrow things down. And while Julian Sayin was very high on ND, Carr committing is a game-changer for him whether he reclassifies or not. He's probably trending toward Georgia now. With the 2024 QB dominos starting to fall, ND will likely look more at ascending QBs if Carr reclassifies. Those who were at the Irish Invasion Camp with Carr were Ryan Puglisi, Jake Merklinger, AJ Surace, Isaiah Marshall and James Resar. ... There's not a strong push at this time to make athletes employees. That could change over time. It's not a concept I would embrace, but there may be some advantages when it come to things like guaranteed health care, etc. Not yet in my wheelhouse. Very nice to chat with you too.
Dan from Syracuse: Hi Eric — longtime reader, first-time questioner. Love the work you, Tyler, and Kyle are doing! My question is about the distinction between unofficial and official visits that recruits take. My limited understanding, which could be wrong, is that recruits pay their own expenses for unofficial visits, but have their expenses covered by the university for official visits, of which they have a limited number they are permitted to take. Apart from these practical differences, what distinguishes what a recruit experiences during an unofficial visit as opposed to an official visit? Can, or do, recruits have the same experiences and receive the same treatment on unofficial visits as they would on official visits? Thanks, Eric!
Eric Hansen: Hi Dan, thanks for jumping in with a question and for the kind words. Full disclosure, I used a phone-a-friend lifeline to Kyle Kelly on this one. Here's his response:
I think one of the main distinctions is recruits typically have a player host on official visits. Usually, there's much more on the plan, because it's typically a two-day visit. I think unofficials are more or less a check-in with the coaches and an opportunity to see the campus. Whereas officials are much more detailed. For example, ND took the kids golfing, had cookouts and all kinds of other things during the June officials.
Also, not all unofficials are the same. When Dante Moore unofficially visited campus in late March, it was a detailed two-day visit. Whereas other kids basically come up for a day to check things out.
Bill from St Joe, Mich..: Nice to have the chat back, Eric! My original question disappeared into the internet ether when I placed my iPad down to watch Aaron Judge hit … (a two-run homer into the left-field bleachers) … so here is my shorter observation /question: I believe that Marcus Freeman was the right hire under the circumstances. There’s no doubt as to his impact in recruiting, and he may be better suited to the head coaching position than as the defensive coordinator. I say that, because I believe that Clark Lea was more effective with his halftime adjustments, and hopefully Al Golden who has made statements in the NFL, one has to make adjustments after each possession rather than wait for halftime to do so. Do you think I’m off base with that halftime-adjustments comment?
Eric Hansen: Hi Bill. It's nice to be chatting in June. Thanks for joining us. Clark Lea was uncanny with halftime adjustments. Not just by Notre Dame standards. He did have the advantage of working in a familiar scheme that he and Mike Elko had put together. If you track Marcus at Cincinnati, they had growing pains in year one, but from year 2 on, they were really good with original game plans and refinements at halftime. I take nothing away from Clark. His consistency was remarkable. As far as a head coach, Marcus has better material to work with than Clark has at Vanderbilt, but his recruiting prowess gives him an advantage over Clark as ND's head coach, had BK left a year earlier and Clark been named.
Kevin from Fort Wayne, Ind.: Eric, with the injuries at running back, is there any discussion on converting another current position player to help add depth?
Eric Hansen: Not yet.
CJ from Kokomo: Great work covering the baseball program and the road to CWS, outstanding. Wondering if Jaden Mickey might be a good candidate to move to wide receiver?
Eric Hansen: Not yet, and maybe not ever. He'd be good at it, but you're taking away a future starter at corner. There are no easy answers with the numbers also low at running back. ...and thanks for the feedback on the baseball.
Tom from Toronto: Hi Eric. I hope that you and Tyler are pleased with your work changes. I am not sure that I understand how the informal practices work. A concern is the serious injuries that at least two players have sustained. Are these to be expected and come with the territory? Are there changes that could be made with the setup that would reduce the likelihood of these injuries? Second, does it look to you that Marcus Freeman may be spreading himself too thin? Seven hour-long interviews on one day, for example. I am impressed with all that I read about his dedication to the job, but worry about burnout. Any thoughts? Thank you.
Eric Hansen: Hi Tom. Thanks, we really are enjoying what we're doing and still are close enough with old friends from the old place to meet for lunch or a beverage. To your question, injuries are expected to come with the territory, unfortunately. These are generally non-contact injuries. And there are strict protocols for warming up, etc. ND does so much with sports science that there really are fewer offseason injuries in this day and age, even though it may not seem like it. ... To be clear, Marcus did seven 30-minute interviews, not one-hour interviews. If this were August, that would be crazy. As I mentioned in yesterday's story, he's not a control freak and that does cut down the wear and tear on him. He really does trust his assistants and the other people around him. Now, having six young kids ... my son has six with almost identical ages, so that's where he's working some magic.
Don in Phoenix: Eric, hope you are enjoying summer. It's hot here but was away last week and it was surprisingly hot there. Read the Marcus interview summary and like him and think long term he will be a success. It's the upcoming season that concerns me. Brian Kelly was a seasoned head coach and he made quite a few mistakes his first year at ND. What does Marcus Freeman need to consider that perhaps he hasn't talked about that might be problematic?
Eric Hansen: Don, thanks. It's a perfect 76 here at the moment. Wish I could see my computer screen outside on the deck. Oh well. I think the mistakes Brian Kelly made and the ones Marcus might be prone to are different. With BK sometimes it was stubbornness and thinking he had all the answers. He had trouble understanding the different demands on him at ND and got pulled in too many directions without properly delegating. I think for Marcus, it will be more about logistics and communication. He's not granularly into the offense, so how does he affect change there on gameday when he wants/needs to. The Fiesta Bowl is a good starting spot for him in terms of what he needed to address/learn this offseason.
Doug from Sunny Florida: Eric, the time that coach MF spends on recruiting is well documented and may be a blueprint going forward, especially for younger and/or new head coaches. This time is probably being taken away from his other commitments as the head coach. Where do you see this time coming from and have you seen any other areas being adversely affected by the time spent recruiting? Could he possibly just be delegating other facets of his position to others?
Eric Hansen: From what I've seen so far, he's delegating well. And he's also extremely efficient. So, for example, when we ask him about Tyler Buchner in a press conference, he's not going to be able to provide the level of detail that BK did ... or tell us in detail why Billy Schrauth is likely going to be an All-American someday. He knows what's going on, but he is not as buried in the details. For example, he trusts his assistants to run the OTAs when he's not available. Then they report it him. I hope I'm explaining this clearly. If he micromanaged as much as BK did AND put as much into recruting as he is, then I think you'd have a potential burnout situation.
Jay from Cincinnati. If we land Charles Jagusah, Rico Flores, Micah Bell and Christian Gray that puts us at nineteen commits for the ‘23 class. That leaves maybe room for say five or six more recruits. Who are the recruits you’d like to see the Irish focus on to finish this class? Thanks and I appreciate your work.
Eric Hansen: I think ND might end up going over 25 scholarships in this class ... maybe 27. Off the top of my head I would prioritize a quarterback, two more wide receivers (Ronan Hanafin and Greathouse), safety Caleb Downs, LB Jaiden Ausberry, DT Jason Moore, Jeremiyah Love or Richard Young at RB, and either OT Monroe Freeling, DE/OLB Samuel M'Pemba or CB/WR Micah Tease. ... OMG I've turned into Dick Vitale when he's including 78 "deserving teams" in his 68-team NCAA Tourney bracket.
Joe from Kansas City: Eric, as always thanks for doing these! Do you have any insight for the BYU game in Vegas as far as tickets go? I saw none are being released to the public in a few weeks when ND does the ticket sales. How does that work if you are a season-ticket holder? Obviously, you can buy them on secondary market … but ouch! Thanks again.
Eric Hansen: Joe, you're not the only one with questions about BYU tickets. I had some info, but I don't think it's quite up to date. Please email me (ehansen@insidendsports) and I'll get back to you in short order.
Ced Walker from Saginaw, Mich.: Do you see Eli Raridon playing as a true freshmen that can help at wide receiver?
Eric Hansen: The expectation is that Eli Raridon is a strong candidate to play as a freshman, and that he does offer some versatility in being a tight end who can play detached.
Bob from Chicago: What are your expectations for Tyler Buchner? In the limited time we’ve seen him, has there been growth? Do you think he sees the field and is an accurate passer? Do the turnovers concern you? Thanks.
Eric Hansen: I like the growth curve he's on. I like the way he handles pressure and big moments. I love his maturity. He'll make mistakes and he'll learn from them.
Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, glad to be back chatting. My concern and question is about special teams. My anxiety started with the combination of a new coach, punter, and place-kicker and the sub-optimal performances in the spring game. Now the attrition at running back could put more stress on Chris Tyree at the kick return position and make fair catches there the more prudent option. I realize we had new kickers join the team in June, and Mason has a good track record pre-ND. But, when we start at OSU, who do you expect to do the punting, place kicking, and returning, and do you see Freeman possibly going for fourth and short more often early in the season vs. a field goal? Thanks!
Eric Hansen: Jeff, I understand your concerns. You partially answered your own question. Coach Brian Mason has a strong, strong track record. He was also smart enough to scout the country for the kind of walk-ons who could provide real competition. Spring issues on special teams are not uncommon in the spring. If we're having this conversation the second week of August, then we can talk about going for it more on fourth and short. As for projected starters, I think Blake Grupe's experience will pay off in that position battle. I'd expect Bryce McFerson to be the punter. I'm still thinking Chris Tyree on kickoff returns and maybe a mix of personnel there. Brandon Joseph has the inside track at punt returns.
Bill from St Joe, Mich.: RE the BYU game: If you are a season-ticket owner, you will be able to purchase up to four tickets when they go on sale. That is what I was told when I purchased my season tickets. Although all other games are on sale, the ND Ticket office has yet to release the Vegas game yet. After the season-ticket owners are satisfied, then I expect the lottery rules (i.e. the bigger your donation) go into effect.
Eric Hansen: Thanks Bill!!
Rog from St. Louis: With the huge NIL numbers being reported to lure football commitments, do you know if ND is offering financial adviser assistance and or tax help? I can see a huge problem developing when these young men get that much cash with all the scammers and questionable agents, not to mention the IRS tax issues with this money. If that QB that committed to Miami is really getting $10 million, I hope he has honest people to help him learn not to get fleeced or indicted on tax fraud.
Eric Hansen: Roger, good question. It's something I haven't really considered. I'm sure ND has. They do have staff dedicated now to helping student-athletes navigate NIL. I'm sorry I don't have more details.
Tim from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.: Hi Eric. I frequently see recruiting analysts using the term "must get" when referring to a recruit or recruits. Seems a bit hyperbolic to me, with the implication being — if you follow the logic — that if you "don't get" a "must get", then your program is going to fall short of its goals. In other words, if I don't get "must get" QB "A", then it follows that whatever QB I do get is less than the standard I need to win. Do you too see a bit of overuse of the term "must get", or am I just making something out of nothing?
Eric Hansen: Tim, yeah there's some hyperbole there, yet it might be the best/most concise way to get the concept across. I think you might be parsing it a little too carefully. If you're an English teacher, that's what you should be doing. If you're not, have fun with it.
Stan from Chester Va.: Is it possible that Michael Mayer, as talented as he is, could be used as a WR if there is someone in the works with enough skill at TE to fill that role this year?
Eric Hansen: Stan, Michael Mayer is such a mismatch at tight end, you'd want to keep that as his primary position. But he's talented enough to move him around the formation, so you're on point with thinking his versatility could be an asset.
Eric Hansen: OK, that's going to do it for today. Thanks for all the great questions. We will move back into weekly mode in August with the chats. Thanks again for joining in today.
• Talk with Notre Dame fans on The Insider Lounge.
• Like us on Facebook: Inside ND Sports
• Follow us on Instagram: @insideNDsports
• Subscribe to the Inside ND Sports channel on YouTube.