football Edit

Chat Transcript: Talking Hartman's fit in the new ND offense, O-line search

One of former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees' favorite formations, with four tight ends.
One of former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees' favorite formations, with four tight ends. (Notre Dame Athletics photo)

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat, Freezing Rain Outside Edition.

Some quick programming notes:

► Our Inside ND Sports Podcast presented by Dead Soxy records Wednesday night this week. So be sure to look for it on our homepage or on your preferred podcast platform including: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Podbean and Pocket Casts.

Tyler James and I have introduced our new weekly offseason Notre Dame Football YouTube show, Football Never Sleeps. In our latest episode, we break down new offensive coordinator Gerad Parker’s message and vision from his first press conference, assess head coach Marcus Freeman’s take on the offensive coordinator search and spin forward to assess the pending hiring of QBs coach Gino Guidugli and take a look at the top candidates to become ND’s next offensive line coach. When you can’t catch us live, you can watch us anytime during the week, as the show keeps its shelf life going through the entire week.

Eric Hansen: As for today's live chat, here are the rules:

Eric Hansen: Please remember to include your NAME and HOMETOWN along with you question(s).

Just to start out with, there are scads of questions related to the recent offensive coordinator search and all of its tentacles. The biggest challenge in answering some of those is that only a long and detailed answer will suffice. Another challenge is some of you weren’t able to follow the story closely enough to keep up with a drastically shifting narrative and are basing the questions on outdated or bad information. My suggestion is to read this column (How Notre Dame moves on from OC search is now what matters most) first — or after — the chat. You should find your answers there. I still plan to get to some questions related to it, but the more-specific ones and those that are especially relevant moving forward.

Off we go.

Jim Tal from Valley Center, Calif.: Hi Eric, never a dull moment on the Irish beat, right? Listen, I heard Coach Freeman say during Monday's press conference that running the ball would be the fundamental emphasis for the offense. I don't quite know why but I got a bit of a bad vibe when he mentioned that. Sure, toting the rock is hugely important but with a gunslinger like Sam Hartman onboard, throwing the ball has got to be every bit as vital. The passing game shouldn't suffer because of too much focus on the run. In your opinion, is there any chance that a Freeman/Parker offense could somehow underutilize Hartman and thereby prevent him from maxing out and putting up the kind of numbers the Irish need in order to have a special season in 2023? And thank you as always for your much-appreciated work.

Eric Hansen: Jim, thanks. Part of the lack of dull moments is what makes covering Notre Dame football so special -- and yet too much of anything is ... LOL. To your question, I don't share the same vibe you're getting, and here's why. When done right, running the ball well isn't an alternative to the passing game but an enhancer. The more you can put a defensive coordinator in a pass/run dilemma during the game, the more difficult your offense is to defend. So for example, Drew Pyne's limitations both as a runner and deep passer, allowed defense to cheat and overemphasize stopping ND's run game last season. If Hartman and the improving WRs play up to expectations, defenses won't be able to do that.

The two more important/constant metrics that national championship teams have on offense (along with run defense, total defense and turnover margin) are rushing offense ranking and pass-efficiency. Georgia this season was 19th in rush offense nationally and sixth in pass efficiency. And maybe run efficiency is more accurate. You don't need to be prolific in both, but you do need to do both well -- run and pass.


Norris from Singer Island Fl.: Thanks for your candid evaluations of ND football. Is it worse than we thought? Was Harry Hiestand forced into retirement over Superbowl weekend so that Andy Ludwig could bring along his own offensive line coach. Jim Harding, with him from Utah, only to have it all blow up over money on Monday? Second, I may have missed them, but what were the nice words which MF had for TR when he bolted for Alabama, and was that lateral move caused by a desire to bring in a seasoned offensive evaluator to oversee TR?

Eric Hansen: Norris, this is an example of what I was referencing off the top about outdated info and shifting narratives. It's very difficult for fans in the offseason when maybe you're looking for news every few days rather than every day. And as an entire body of media, we presented readers an inconsistent picture. So your misperception is not your fault. It's on us. So, let's get this right, now. Harry had decided about retirement before the offensive coordinator search had gotten much traction. It was decided to hold onto that news until Super Bowl Sunday. I was told by a source (who I trust) that the new OC was then going to have strong input into who the next O-line coach should be. So Collin Klein, had he taken the job, could have brought his own guy or weighed in on ND's search process. Same with Andy Ludwig, who preferred his own Jim Harding from Utah. Gerad Parker now has a strong voice and his preference is that the decision be collaborative.

As far as Marcus Freeman commenting on Tommy Rees' departure, that's not normally something ND does with coaches leaving for other jobs. They did put out a press release re Harry Hiestand, because that was a retirement. Tommy will have a senior analyst working with him at Alabama as well as former Irish tight ends coach John McNulty, also in an analyst role. That concept was not a motivation to leave. I would say most media members and people in the coaching profession don't see that offensive coordinator job at Alabama as a lateral move. One friend I have in college coaching told me if Tommy does well there, it will change the trajectory of his career. Certainly, the last several OCs from Alabama moved on to very good jobs after spending only two or three years at Alabama.

Tom from Sister Lakes MI: Hi Eric, It appeared from the timing that Harry Hiestand retired when it looked like Ludwig was going to be the OC. Since then the job went to Parker who worked with HH for a year. Do you know if MF and GP are trying to see if HH would change his mind

Eric Hansen: Tom, that's a really good thought, but in exchanging a few texts in the past week with Harry, I don't get the idea he's having any second thoughts about retirement.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, I hope you’re having a great week. Since Jared Parker’s playcalling experience is fairly limited, do you see Freeman bringing in one or more senior analysts to help with the offense? I know Parker has worked with David Cutcliffe. So maybe him or someone very similar to him. Can an analyst give input during a day game or are they limited to Monday through Friday? Now that you’ve had a minute to think about it, who are your top three candidates for the O line coaching position? Thanks for hosting the chat and for all your great input.

Eric Hansen: Hi Marie. It's February and yet there's a lot of football to chat about, so that makes for a great week in my book. So let me start by saying there are strong offensive line candidates (some, not many) who have offensive coordinator experience. If one of those are selected, that may affect how analyst roles are filled. The analyst roles may be changing soon, as the NCAA is giving a lot of thought to letting them do on-field coaching. There seems to be some momentum that this will eventually happen, perhaps before next season. As it stands now, the gameday restriction on analysts (and during the week too) is that they can't do on-field coaching.

From the story I did on the offensive line coaching search a few days ago, my top three choices would be: Joe Rudolph (Virginia Tech), Matt Luke (formerly of Georgia) and Brian Callahan (Minnesota). Also really like Arkansas' Cody Kennedy.

Joe H from Williams Bay, Wis.: Hi Eric After a very busy and chaotic last 10 days my head is still spinning In your opinion do you think that Marcus Freeman is still the one to lead ND to that next level or will he be another victim of the Notre Dame administration unwillingness to do the things necessary to compete nationally

Eric Hansen: Hi Joe. The column I referenced at the top of the chat will help answer this question in more depth and maybe clear up some details or misconceptions (and then maybe not). I probably have more conviction than before that Marcus Freeman is the right man for the ND head coaching job right now.

Kevin from Sleepy Eye, Minn.: Eric!!! What better way to spend time in a blizzard than this? Am I wrong to be excited about Parker? He has to prove the doubters wrong...he has to coach with a chip on his shoulder vs Ludwig. He clearly wants this job. He aligns himself with Freeman's vision. Is Ludwig a superior recruiter? Would Ludwig outwork Parker? I was never excited about Ludwig so all the chaos from not getting him never made a lot of sense to me.

Eric Hansen: Kevin!!! Thank you so much for making me appreciate South Bend's own brand of crappy weather. ... I think you're well within the bounds of sanity to be excited about Gerad Parker. He certainly made a good impression at his Monday press conference. And Marcus' faith in him scores points with me. But vs. Ludwig, to me, Parker represents greater risk. That doesn't mean the reward won't ultimately be better, but the risk must be acknowledged. Knowing what I know today, I'd still pick Ludwig. The wild card in this mix is soon-to-be announced QBs coach Gino Guidugli. As far as recruiting, I think Parker is a more willing/energetic recruiter. But in terms of results, Parker's sample size at ND is small and Utah is going to attract more diamonds in the rough than elite, finished prospects. So it's not a fair comparison. My question with Parker isn't what his impact will be vs.Navy, Wake and Pitt. It's how he holds up vs. Clemson, Ohio State and USC. But again, he made a strong first impression.

Roger From Peoria: Eric: Your commentary on the Ludwig situation was the absolute best. It was measured and reasonable and, unlike nearly everything else I read, did not make the Irish leadership appear to be "babes in the woods snookered by an administration that knew what it was doing." There are probably some Irish faithful who cannot understand why any high school recruit would not want to be a Notre Dame recruit and others who cannot understand why any coach would not want to be the Irish O-Coordinator. When all is said and done, all that will matter is how the Irish offense performs in 2023 and 2024. My question calls on your lengthy career covering Notre Dame Football. Can you recall any prior occurrence when the Irish did not land its #1 or #2 choice for a coaching position, and if you can, can you report how that "lesser choice " candidate then performed? Keep up the good work!!

Eric Hansen: Thanks Roger. When you're talking about assistant coach openings (and not head coaching ones), it's hard for me to recall a situation that comes close to this past one. Certainly, there's a lot more focus on these assistant coaching openings than there was 10-20 even five years ago. A lot more play by play. The irony is Notre Dame is WAY more competitive from a salary standpoint for assistant coaches then they were when I first got to South Bend in 1988. The one that does come to mind is Marcus Freeman's search last offseason for a defensive coordinator. The name that came up early was Jon Heacock of Iowa State. He was not interested. The Cyclones stunk this year (4-8 overall, 1-8 Big 12), but the defense was pretty good. They were fourth nationally in total defense. ND was 22nd.

Tim from Kansas City: Eric, Thanks for your many years of insightful coverage of ND football. Your thoroughness and humility shine through and are much appreciated. It is my understanding that in the waning years of the Lou Holtz era that he was undercut by administration as he was viewed as too much of an icon. 1. Do you feel that is accurate and 2. Could that history bear on concerns of whether Coach Freeman gets the support he needs in terms of staff, facilities, NIL, etc to have a reasonable chance of fielding a championship level squad?

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Tim. Any time a coach deals with an athletic director regime change, there's a risk the relationship won't be as strong as it was with the AD who hired him. When Dick Rosenthal replaced Gene Corrigan, there were no issues. When Mike Wadsworth replaced Rosenthal, there were huge issues. And VP Father Beauchamp was in lock step with Rosenthal. I don't know that he was viewed as too much of an icon, but those two sides knocked heads on a lot of issues. And when Lou pondered leaving, they didn't push, but they held the door open. But projecting that to Marcus' situation, I don't think is congruent. Yes, Notre Dame's mission combined with sometimes clinging to the past for no good reason, is always going to make the job a challenge. Coaches and ADs are going to have to fight for things. Brian Kelly spent 12 years at ND doing that. And the fight will have to continue as college football around ND changes and evolves. The administration is at a critical juncture because of so many seismic changes recently.

Denny from Beaverton: Hi Eric...This has certainly been an interesting week and many things have been said. Is there a question in your mind remaining? If so, who would you ask and what would be your question? Thanks for the great coverage you provide.

Eric Hansen: There's a point in the OC search narrative when ND moved on to Parker. The question I had and couldn't get answered was: Did Jack Swarbrick, Marcus Freeman or both make that decision? In his press conference, Marcus referred to Ludwig turning the job down. But was it a turn down or indecision? Marcus has a great track record for authenticity, but there's still a little wiggle room in my mind that both could fit within his explanation.

Noelle' from New Oxford, Pa.: Why do you think we never got a Farewell speech from Tommy Rees?

Eric Hansen: That's pretty standard procedure not to have one. In fact, I don't believe Rees has had a press conference at Alabama, just this statement from a press release: "I have the utmost respect for what Coach Saban has built at Alabama and the tradition of this program. I'm excited to have this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to getting in the meeting room and on the practice field with this team."

Aaron from Washington, D.C.: Hey Eric, great to have a chat again today. I vote for a chat every week (not that you asked for my opinion though). Two questions. One defense, what is your sense that we will see marked improvement on the defensive line? It's hard to see improvement based on the departure of multiple seniors yet improvement is critical. Do you get any impression that Coach Freeman sees the critical need for improvement on the d-line? On offense, do you see hiring of the o-line coach as more focused on an elite coach or bringing in someone that Coach Freeman (or Parker) know and trust? The best option may not be someone they know. Always appreciate your time and perspectives.

Eric Hansen: Aaron, thanks for your vote. If an offensive line coach has been identified by then and we've had a chance to talk to Sam Hartman, we'll definitely do one next week. In fact, between now and the end of spring practice, we might miss only once. ... Regarding defensive line improvement, we need to see some practices. There are a lot of unknowns, but that doesn't mean there's not talent. A lot of that talent resides in the sophomores-to-be. Then there's two big wild cards in DEs Jordan Botelho and Javontae Jean-Bapriste. All of that will reveal a lot about D-line coach Al Washington's development skills.

As far as the O-line search, there are candidates in both categories and one who probably checks both boxes — Darrell Funk of BYU. I like him as a choice, but I think there are better candidates in the pool of coaches they have not worked with previously.

Bill from St Joe, MI: As far as you know, has Andy Ludwig provided more clarity on what happened during his interview for the ND OC job? I’ve been unable to track down any comments he may have made either on or off the record.

Eric Hansen: Bill, I have not seen anything from Andy since he interviewed.

Tom Kennesaw, GA: Hi Eric, never a dull moment.... Couple of easy questions. Do you know how involved Coach Parker was in the recruitment of Sam Hartman and if he has any meetings with Sam since being promoted to OC? Mu take on the discussions with the UTAH OC was that once he went back to Utah and hesitated that Freeman and Swarbrick decided to move on because they wanted someone who was all-in with ND. Does that have any merit?? Finally, when does Spring Practice begin with hitting and contact? Thanks and have a great week. Go Irish!!!

Eric Hansen: Tom, not as easy as you think. I don’t think Gerad Parker was involved in the early discussions with Sam Hartman, but I’m sure they have talked by now, even before the promotion. … I think your scenario has merit. … Spring practice will be condensed with the start date to be officially released soon. It will not be one of those start — stop for spring break — then resume.

Curt Warsaw In: Eric, do you think coach Freeman is frustrated with the administration?

Eric Hansen: I think Marcus Freeman knew the challenges of the job when he took it, so I don't think frustration is the right word. Would he appreciate less resistance? I think that's fair, but I also think he's optimistic that his message is reaching open minds even if movement is slow.

chuck-westfield indiana: good morning eric, looking forward to spring football and your insightful thoughts on how the team is progressing. has ND looked at andy heck as an OL coach. He was at ND when Lou was coach and Joe Moore was OL coach. your thoughts on ND interviewing him. He has two super bowl rings. Thanks for your thoughts here and your thoughts on who ND is interviewing for the OL position. thanks for having these chats, just really great

Eric Hansen: Hey Chuck. Thank you. Even with very little college coaching experience, Andy Heck would be an awesome choice. At this stage of his career (he's 56) and how much success Kansas City is having, I'm not sure I can think of a compelling reason why he would want to walk away from that.

Pete Cuozzo, Naples FL: Hi Eric, great job with all of your ND coverage as always. Can’t wait to hear more of your insights on the football coaching shuffle, including the O-Line derby (I vote Watt even though I have no vote). But my question is in a totally different direction. Given the loose NIL guidelines, does any of that money filter down to the high school coaches? I realize payments to HS coaches have been made “illegally” in the past, but I am wondering if any of that is now above board in the new (dysfunctional) era of NIL? Given the significant influence high school coaches have on their players, George Orwell and I can easily envision universities paying meaningful “marketing fees“ to those coaches to close a deal on a player. Your thoughts? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Pete, thank you. I am not going to be able to give you a nuanced answer, because I haven't studied it enough nationally, but it is prevalent in college basketball, probably much less so in college football. Hopefully, this all changes and we won't be having these discussions, because that's not what NIL was supposed to be. But we're not close to that happening yet.

Tom from Toronto: Hi Eric, Coach Freeman has sure been on a roller coaster the last few weeks. I hope that he has been able to keep his sense of humour. A positive result of all that happened is that Coach Freeman may get to spend more time in dealing with the offence than he originally planned. I expect that he will learn quickly and that the results will be positive. A couple of questions, both of which may require a crystal ball or research. Do you expect that Coach Freeman will call some of the offensive plays from the sidelines this year? Second, do you have a sense or even some statistics as to whether head coaches who call their own offensive plays get better results in the win/loss column? As usual, thank you for your excellent work and your valuable insights.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Tom. I don't think that Marcus is close to calling offensive plays, but it's very evident he's much more invested in and knowledgeable about the nuances on that side of the ball. I could see him having more suggestions on play calls, but not edicts. I don't have stats on head coaches as play callers, but it really depends on the situation. Brian Kelly was far and away a more effective play caller at Cincinnati than he was at Notre Dame. My theory there is that he was simply pulled in some many more directions at ND and couldn't focus as much on it. I think another variable is a particular coach's expertise in offensive play-calling. But if you look at Georgia, Kirby Smart wasn't making a lot of decisions on offense, for instance.

James from Columbus: Hi Eric, really enjoy your coverage and the podcast with Tyler. My questions is Bill Rees still with the football program or is he moving on as well?

Eric Hansen: Thanks James. He's gone.

Jorge, Rowlett, TX: Don't you think this whole situation with Ludwig was a little overblown by the media and fans? We have to keep in mind that none of us on the outside looking in are privy to the inner workings of negotiations between prospective coaching hires and UND. I read and saw so many headlines regarding ND's unwillingness to pay to compete and not wanting to pay the buyouts for coaching prospects. It felt like so many folks were ready to throw Freeman and Swarbrick under the bus for messing this situation up. Could it have actually been an informed to decision to not offer him the position based on interviews, scheme, culture, etc.? Please be the voice of reason Eric...

Eric Hansen: Jorge, always love your questions. However, when someone starts out with "Don't you think" rather than "Do you think" it kind of suggest to me what you hope my answer will be. Where things blew up was in the small window when it was seemingly universally believed that ND refused to play a coach's buyout and that ended that coach's candidacy. But then there was an alternative narrative in which the buyout wasn't balked at. If the first were true, that's a huge story, because it struck a nerve with the fan base like I have rarely seen in my career. If Marcus did not feel fully supported, that's a huge story. Whichever narrative you're a fan of, Marcus Freeman said with conviction on Monday he feels the administration has his back. On-the-record statements matter, whether you agree with them or not.

So much of the reporting in this story was from anonymous sources and even some of that in my case was from sources who requested some info not be reported at all, because it would reveal their identity. So it became "background" for me to chew on. The sources with whom I spoke I feel very confident about their integrity. But not everyone talks to the same people and I'm convinced some people might not have reliable sources at all. And that's where this story went sideways. And that's why I stand by the column I referenced at the top of the chat, that How Notre Dame moves on from OC search is now what matters most.

Tim from Atlanta: Freeman and Parker alluded to different run calls/plays/schemes when defenses stack the box as a possible "enhancement" to Rees's offensive structure. From your perspective--and without having seen Parker's ND offense will--what could this running game or scheme look like? To recall Aaron Taylor's comments during the season, I imagine the stacked box look and d-line stunts will be the blueprint against ND until the offense consistently exposes their weaknesses. Given your knowledge of the Irish, what did the offense fail to do in those moments? The losses as well as the late Navy comeback come to mind... Thanks!

Eric Hansen: Hi Tim, the oversimplified answer is Notre Dame did not have a passing game beyond Michael Mayer that could make opposing defenses pay. And until the Gator Bowl, they did not have a quarterback capable of making them pay with his legs, either. In Sam Hartman, ND has a quarterback who can make those defenses pay.

Sean, Portland OR: I've stepped away from the day-to-day ND FB news since the bowl game win for the most part... However I've had people sending me rumblings about a bungled OC search. Do you still expect this offense to take a good step forward next year? Losing Rees/Pyne/Mayer/Lenzy/Patterson/Heistand... taking in Parker/Hartman/Buchner and growth of the WR's... are you taking the 2023 offense or the 2022 offense?

Eric Hansen: Sean, I can't tell if you're messing with me or not in your opening disclaimer, but I'll just answer your question. I'll take the 2023 offense over 2022 without blinking.

Irish Mike, Altoona, PA: “In our line of business, part of college football and college business is we negotiate buyouts. Any coordinator or position coach that has a buyout, we talk about those things. We discuss it.” This is a direct quote from Marcus Freeman’s press conference. Do you think the word “negotiate” is a telling sign with Ludwig’s turning down the job? And, has Ludwig spoken, publicly yet, about the reason he stayed at Utah?

Eric Hansen: I don't think negotiate has a deeper meaning in that sense that it's standard definition. It becomes part of the math when determining the overall offer. Ludwig's was just freakishly high for an assistant coach. And it's been asserted to me by a source that the number originally submitted to ND was a much lower figure than what it ended up being. We can debate all day who's fault that was, but I was told on background how it happened and I'm buying that.

Jeff from Phoenix: Good morning Eric! Given the challenge of maintaining recruiting contacts/momentum through coaching changes, I have to think that if there was a podcast called “Football Recruiting Never Sleeps” that Marcus Freeman would repeatedly smash the ‘like’ button. So where do we stand with recruiting and the Blue Gold game exactly 2 months from today? Will it be a major event and will it be more focused on 2024 or 2025 targets? Does Chad Bowden have any new marketing approaches for the campus visitors? And finally, I see Kyle Hamilton is back on campus - is he informally involved with on campus visits? Good on KH for returning to finish his ND degree. Thanks-

Eric Hansen: Hey Jeff, thanks for the programming suggestion. Just as long as we can accomplish it without a new reality show: Eric and Tyler never sleep. As of this moment, there are no visitors scheduled for Blue-Gold weekend, but plenty in the weeks before the game starting in late March. Most are 2024s, which is the current cycle. I think as we get closer, there will be more prospects invited to and attending the weekend of the Blue-Gold Game (April 22), including the current commits. ... We're actually trying to work out a date to have Chad on the podcast. So unless he changes his mind, we'll let him tell his story. ... Not only is Hamilton back but Cole Kmet is too. Right before this tsunami of news, I was working to set up talks with both. Now that things are settling down, I'll revisit that and get you an answer. We are in a dead period for recruiting. So once, prospects start visiting in late March, I would imagine both players will be of assistance.

Mike -: Cincinnati, OH. I'm sure there will be lots of ranting and raving after the last few weeks of tumult and Coordinators and Coaches coming and going. I'm counting on you, Tyler, and the rest of your team to help us make sense of it all and separate fact from fiction. And if you've had a chance to talk to any of the players, let us know how the students are faring. As always, thanks for the insightful and great job you folks are doing.

Eric Hansen: Mike, thanks. We got a chance to interview the defensive newcomers a almost two weeks ago. I think as soon as Gino Guidugli is named QBs coach, we'll get to talk to Sam Hartman, Kaleb Smith the elder and the six early enrolled freshmen on offense. Maybe even late this week.

Sean, Schaumburg, Il: Eric, I'm aware of your MLB allegiance. Second most WS Titles. I got Cubs over 77.5 wins. They win 83. I was encouraged by Freeman/Swarbrick presser/email statements. It had to be said to clear misunderstandings. I'm more concerned about Parker/O line hire. Hartman gives the whole team a higher ceiling. Will Parker enhance Hartman/WR play? Do the O lineman have that intrinsic knowledge to carry/propel Hiestand's teachings and meld them with the new O line coach? Like you both said on Football Never Sleeps-Parker/O line coach hires could define MF tenure. Al Washington MUST be better. What I haven't heard asked is(I may have missed it)-Why did Rees leave Notre Dame with, possibly, the best QB of his OC tenure? Some ascending WRs and studs at RB. Did Saban reach out first to Rees? We all knew Rees would leave eventually. Leaving now seems odd timing. Wouldn't Rees choreographing a top 15/10 offense lead to the opportunities he's seeking? Good thing Parker can ease into the season with Navy/Tennessee State.

Eric Hansen: Sean, thanks for the cryptic baseball prediction. ... Here's some aspects about the Parker hire that may not aleve your hesitancy. He's coached WRs more often than any other position and he has a large pool of offensive systems he's worked in from which to pull. He also brings some continuity in terms of terminology and familiarity with much of ND's offensive personnel. Now the question, can he channel all that into a better offense? We'll get our first clues in the spring. I think Gino Guidugli, who will coach QBs and has coordinator chops, will be a valuable asset for Hartman and the offense. How much? I need to see with my own eyes first.

I think the coach who can perpetuate both the relentless devotion to technique-driven teaching and the strong culture is the home run hire. If Chris Watt elects to stay on in his current role, he becomes someone who can smooth the transition even further. ... With Rees' departure, there was never going to be a good time. Wait a year, now here comes CJ Carr. But the Alabama opportunity may NEVER come around again for him.

Jerry M. from Dallas. Eric, How do you think the defensive line will be this year?

Eric Hansen: Jerry, if I could answer this, I would qualify as a psychic and it shouldn't be that complicated. Just too many unknowns coupled with a position coach with something to prove.

Paul from Toronto: Hi Eric. Going through a winter storm up here so the comings and goings of the coaches is a good distraction from the weather. Has the OC coaching search put Sam Hartman behind in learning the play book not knowing what offensive scheme he could be running and does the hiring of Parker make that easier?

Eric Hansen: Hi Paul. Given that spring practice won't start early, I think Sam Hartman won't be trying to play catch-up. Especially given his experience level. I do think Parker's promotion makes things easier in the short term, though Andy Ludwig and Collin Klein would have brought schemes that were at least philosophically similar.

Len from the Jersey Shore: Hello Eric, Thanks to you, Tyler and Kyle for keeping us informed in a time like no other. A comment and a question. With Hartman having a sixth year and being a previously successful QB I expect besides QB that Wide Receivers, TE's and running backs to be very potent and to flourish this year. What ND needs is the right O line coach to make it all work. On D I believe that CB's and safeties will be playoff quality. My concerns are with the front seven especially the D line. I cannot remember when my concerns would be with the D line and O line. More on that in future chats. With the changes in college football the Head Coach will need more support. Coach Freeman has a strong bond with Coach Parker. Do you see a scenario where Coach Parker becomes Asst. Head Coach assuming some additional responsibilities and Coach Freeman appoints(QB Coach) or recruits a new OC. This works whether NCAA adds another coach to the staff or not. Your thoughts as always are appreciated.

Eric Hansen: Hi Len, your thoroughness is always appreciated. I do think I got lost on your math. If the NCAA does NOT add an 11th assistant (and John Brice on a recent podcast believes that's coming soon), you could add AHC to Parker's OC and tight ends coaching duties, but if you're going to hire yet another OC, Parker would still have to coach the tight ends and I'm not sure if he'd see ceding OC duties as a promotion.

Brian from Wauconda, IL (not Wakanda): What is the timeline on hiring a replacement for Kyle Kelly?

Eric Hansen: Our recruiting writer, Kyle Kelly, has moved on to another opportunity, and we wish him well. (Sounds like a coaching press release but we do). The ND OC search slowed us down. So we're looking at sometime in March.

Bill from St Joe, MI: Do you think that Tommy Rees felt Coach Freeman “threw him under the bus” when commenting that we should not have been throwing the ball under those circumstances which resulted in the 99 pick 6 against South Carolina in the Gator Bowl?

Eric Hansen: I think Tommy Rees would have said the same thing about that play.

Don in PHX: Eric, probably missed the live chat. No questions as I will read your answers to others. I certainly over responded to the OC search. Lesson for me is to listen to the folks on the beat not the voices on twitter and the net.

Eric Hansen: Thanks, Don.

Dan from Plymouth, MIch.: I am a HUGE Chris Watt fan and want to see him be given the opportunity to be our next OL Coach. Does he have a chance?

Eric Hansen: I am a huge fan of his too as are many others. The hang-up is experience. Only one year as a full-time assistant coach. So, he will get a look but as a long shot.

Tom from WA: Any idea why the QB coach announcement is taking this long?

Eric Hansen: It always does with outside hires. It goes back to the George O'Leary debacle.

Doug from Sunny Florida: Eric, I felt that one of the best attributes of Harry H. was his ability to teach the o-line position and it's intricacies to young players which provided such a solid base in their development in later years. Which of the aforementioned options for his replacement would you regard as more of 'teachers', if any. Do any fit the mold of solid recruiters that Coach MF requires from his assistants? Lastly, who do you see as the frontrunner or feel will be the new o-line coach and will he be able to fill the shoes that HH leaves behind?

Eric Hansen: Hi Doug in unrainy/unfreezing rainy Florida. I think being an outstanding teacher is way up on the list of priorities, so anyone who doesn't fit that will be eliminated quickly. Joe Rudolph has a great track record there. I think the candidates we've mentioned all check that box. As far as recruiters, Matt Luke is incredible and Cody Kennedy is growing into a real strong recruiter, but someone like Brian Callahan with ND's resources, could turn into one. I'll have a better idea of the frontrunner, hopefully, by tomorrow when io can dig in.

Eric Hansen: OK, that's going to do it for this week. Thanks for all the great questions. I'm leaning heavily toward doing this again next Wednesday at noon ET. Will let you know via Twitter if the plans change.




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