ago football Edit

Chat Transcript: Projecting the ascending Notre Dame position groups

Notre Dame freshman wide receiver Cam Williams (17) goes through a drill during a recent Irish spring practice session.
Notre Dame freshman wide receiver Cam Williams (17) goes through a drill during a recent Irish spring practice session. (Jeff Douglas, Inside ND Sports)

Eric Hansen: Welcome to Notre Dame Football Live Chat as we close in on the halfway point of spring practice.

Some quick programming notes:

► We’re going to stay on Wednesday at noon ET for the chat times, barring major breaking news, at least through the end of April.

► If you missed the last episode of our aspiring-to-be-viral Notre Dame Football YouTube show, Football Never Sleeps, it keeps its shelf life long after the live presentation. We’re back in our normal Monday at 7 ET time slot. Remember, if you miss the live show, you can catch up anytime on YouTube.



Related Content

New AD Pete Bevacqua shares his vision for Notre Dame's next national title

Confirming Notre Dame's expected midweek recruiting visitors

Undersized, overlooked Rino Monteforte tackling the odds at Notre Dame

Notre Dame Football 2024 Scholarship Chart

Notre Dame football depth chart projection after spring practice No. 6



Tyler James and I will be back in weekly podcast mode starting this week. Look for a new episode on Thursday. On our most recent Inside ND Sports Podcast, Notre Dame point guard Hannah Hidalgo joined us. Hidalgo became the first freshman in program history to be named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press. Days later, in a much less prestigious honor, she became the first Notre Dame basketball player to appear on the Inside ND Sports Podcast. Hidalgo joined Tyler James and me to discuss her All-America honor, how a loss to NC State ignited ND's late season run, what she's learned from injured junior guard Olivia Miles, where Hildago's defensive tenacity comes from, the influence of her parents, how she withstands hitting the court so much, her mindset going into the NCAA Tournament, why she's able to succeed at her size and more. The podcast can be listened to via SoundCloud or on your preferred podcast platform including: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podbean and Pocket Casts.

► Finally, we’re in the thick of Notre Dame spring football coverage and discussion at WSBT radio season. And Darin Pritchett and I are together this week on Wednesday and Thursday on Weekday SportsBeat (960 AM, live streaming at The weekday shows run from 5-6 p.m. ET. You can download episodes as podcasts.

As far as this week's chat …

Please include your NAME and HOMETOWN along with your question.

And if you're going to brag about the weather where you are, then you better invite me to dinner.

Here are the rules:

Eric Hansen: And we're off ...

Kevin from Sleepy Eye, Minn.: Eric!!!!!! The quotes from Bevacqua from the articles I have read warm my heart. He's seems every bit the right man for this job; Jack was too. With spring football: Name 2 position groups that will be noticeably improved when we watch the Blue & Gold game:)

Eric Hansen: Kevin!!!!!! Thanks for starting us off with a healthy supply of exclamation points! And thanks for the plug on the Pete Bevacqua article. There's more to unpack in Part II, which drops Thursday. ... To your question, the two position groups that I think will be noticeably improved when you watch the Blue-Gold Game on April 20 are: Wide receivers and linebackers. And I think linebackers may be a surprise. But there's so much depth, so much athleticism and the younger guys have really picked things up well. Wide receivers, it's speed and depth at the position. I think there will be more position groups that will fit in this category once we're into fall camp, including QB, but these are my two for now.

Rich from Key West: What would you consider to be the most important contributions Jack Swarbrick made to the football program during his tenure? What areas do you feel he could have done more to help the football program move forward?

Eric Hansen: Hi Rich. I'm going to try to boil the first one down to a singular concept: He gave his head coaches the resources they needed to be successful, whether it be assistant coaches' contracts and salaries, to fighting for a progressive approach to the transfer portal, to modernizing the Notre Dame Stadium experience, etc. What could he have done more of? Continued to fight the NCAA to get the vacated wins back.

Great Dane of Niles, Mich.: Do you think Notre Dame has a legitimate shot at a championship this year? I know we experience these pie in the sky dreams every year as ND fans. Something just feels different this go around, like they might actually have the dogs to finally win the "Big Fight."

Eric Hansen: Hey Dane. One of the things I look for during spring football is national title potential on one end and possible dead ends and unfixable problems on the other. Spring is about impressions, not conclusions. And my impression so far is Notre Dame does not project as a national title contender THIS YEAR. A playoff team, yes. However, I haven't seen any dead ends. To me, they have to be very fortunate with injuries in the fall. They need a lot of tumblers to align perfectly. I think the assistant coaches are going to make a difference. The QB and O-Line positions, which we need to see much more of in August, can raise both the floor and ceiling of this team ... if ... But again, I think a playoff team is a more realistic trajectory at this point.

Sean in New Jersey: Appreciate the chats, Eric. Aamil Wagner appeared to be a good bet for a starting role at right tackle before Tosh Baker won the role for the bowl game. Which of the two do you think has a higher ceiling? Does Wagner have a good chance to win the starting role for opening day (one assumes adding and keeping good weight will be a factor)? Also, is there a position battle at left guard and, if so, do you expect Pat Coogan will hold off Rocco Spindler (and other ascending underclassmen)?

Eric Hansen: Hi Sean. I appreciate you, too. The ceiling is a little hard to judge because their journeys are so different. I think Baker is a guy who finally puts it together late in his college career after struggling early. Aamil is still growing into the position physically, but I think is super plugged in mentally. All in all, I've always been intrigued by Wagner and remain convinced he is the higher-ceiling prospect. ... As far as Pat Coogan, O-Line coach Joe Rudolph LOVES his raw strength and physicality. The challenge for Pat is to make those assets translate better from weight room to the field. I wouldn't rule Rocco out. He rose to the top of the depth chart last August, not in the spring. But as of a week ago, I'd say Coogan was maybe the lineman in best position to fend off challengers, judging from Rudolph's comments.

Brian Habermehl: Missed the youtube show. Needed to speak at a Kiwanis meeting for the non-profit I work for. When will you guys be back covering spring practice?

Eric Hansen: Hi Brian. If you miss us live on Football Never Sleeps Mondays from 7-8 ET, you can always catch up anytime via YouTube. The only difference is you won't be able to ask questions during the show (unless you do so telepathically and we develop a skill to receive them). We were able to take in stretching and the first five periods of practice today (Wednesday) and also talk to some of the wide receivers and cornerbacks as well as DBs coach Mike Mickens and WRs coach Mike Brown after practice.

Griggs from Dallas, Texas: Hi Eric, wondering what the first impressions are of Cam Williams thus far through spring practices. Obviously coming in with a lot of hype within a position group that fans have been clamoring for star power, so I hate to add fuel to unfair expectations. Just interested to hear what the eye test has indicated thus far and how the group projects so far. Should be a fun position group to watch develop.

Eric Hansen: Hi Griggs. Cam Williams so far in practice physically looks the part and mentally is drinking through a firehose. And I don't think that's a bad spot to be in as an early enrolled freshman. He's at the field receiver spot and so far grad transfer Kris Mitchell has been as advertised and sophomore KK Smith has come out of nowhere. My sense is, given Cam's talent, intelligence and work ethic, he'll begin to stand out more when we get into August.

KP from South Bend: How would you rank the receivers regardless of field boundary or slo?

Eric Hansen: Hi KP, I am going to give you a snapshot of where they are now, not where they might be on Aug. 31, when the Irish open up at Texas A&M. And I will not include transfer Beaux Collins or freshman Logan Saldate, since they don't enroll in June. Also leaving out Jordan Faison, since he is doing more watching than practicing. 1 Jayden Thomas (who's limited by injury at the moment), 2. Jaden Greathouse, 3. Kris Mitchell, 4. Deion Colzie (back today from finger surgery), 5. KK Smith, 6. Micah Gilbert, 7. Jayden Harrison and 8. Cam Williams. This is no reflection on ceiling. Otherwise, Cam Williams would be much higher. There's not a huge difference between Nos. 4-8. Jayden Harrison is really fast. I want to see him in a full practice.

Click here for more info!
Click here for more info!

Mike from Ann Arbor: Hi Mr Hansen. Thanks for continuing these chats. We are enjoying your same dreary weather up here, only 12 hours later and slightly colder.I have lately heard that Notre Dame’s base defense these days is nickel. Does the recruiting staff specifically recruit that position? Is it typically a corner or safety profile that fits that role? It seems that they have been recruiting mostly tall corners who may not fit the nickel role as much. They have brought in a nickel from the portal the last 2 years, suggesting that the previous staff did not previously identify or recruit to this need. And considering that safeties often grow into linebackers and linebackers often grow into defensive ends, it seems like they should be bringing in at least five or six defensive backs yearly since their base defense requires 5 of them on the field at a time. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Eric Hansen: Hey Mr. Mike. Thanks for making me feel better about our weather (and aren't you glad I DIDN'T SAY here's my two-cents' worth on the nickel). I think since prototypical rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah moved on to the NFL, Notre Dame finds itself more in nickel than it does playing with three linebackers. I think Jaylen Sneed and Jaiden Ausberry have the potential to do some JOK-like things, and Ausberry is probably closer to that. The recruiting staff does look for players who have nickel traits. Micah Bell, for instance, has the speed and cutting ability to play there. But what many offenses due when a team plays nickel, they try to take advantage in the run game against a player who might lack physicality. So ND likes its nickels to be fast enough to cover a slot receiver, but physical enough to stand up ikn the run game. Given those demands and the nuances of the position, I think Notre Dame will continue to gravitate toward grad transfers and usually players that maybe played safety but have cornerback speed. So it's not a lack of targeting nickel corners in recruiting. It's that the portal might be perpetually the better fit, or at least more often than not -- just like kickers are turning out to be.

Jules, Joliet, Ill: Have you gotten any feedback on the job Coach Landow is doing. I am curious how the upperclassmen feel about him in comparison to his predecessor. Thanks for all of your great work.

Eric Hansen: Hi Jules. I ask almost every player I interview about Loren Landow and mostly quietly compile that info unless it enhances a feature story I'm working on about a particular player. I think Loren and predecessor Matt Balis have very different approaches, and yet I think the players really embrace them both for different reasons. But they have been won over by Landow quickly, because they are seeing results quickly.

Robb from Durango, Colo.: This might be me trying to read too much into it, but it seems like CJ Carr is as good as hoped. Any chance he is QB2 by August or at some other point in the season?

Eric Hansen: CJ Carr is impressive to watch and is impressive when you talk to him. He's kind of quietly going about his business. The ability is there to move up to No. 2 in the fall, but I'm not sure — barring injury — the opportunity is there. I think the way he's looking at it, and the way I would anyway, is learn as much as you can this season to position yourself to compete for the starting job in 2025.

Mark from Orange County, Calif.: Hi Eric, as always thank you for hosting these chats. I hope you had a great Easter.

Eric Hansen: Thanks Mark. I hope you did too. That was the easiest question of the day so far.

Marie from Atlanta: Hi Eric, I hope you’re having a fantastic week. I’m going to revisit my question from last week about looking in the transfer portal for a cornerback, now that Clarence Lewis has entered the transfer portal do you think they will consider a cornerback from the portal? Also, did you find the timing of his transfer a little bit unusual, right in the middle of spring practice, if so, do you have any insight into the timing? Switching gears, of the 2026 quarterbacks that Notre Dame is pursuing, who do you personally like the best, and why? Who do you think Notre Dame is most likely to end up with? As always, thanks for hosting the chats, and for the great insights.

Eric Hansen: Hi Marie. It's always a great week when football is happening. I hope yours is going well too. So let's start with the CBs. Tyler and I led with this topic on Football Never Sleeps, so if you want some more depth on the topic ... Unless there is a setback to Ben Morrison in his recovery, I don't think the transfer portal perusing is urgent, but you want to cover your bases. But it's a tough sell, especially if Morrison is going to be healthy -- which is the expectation. "Come to ND and be at best the fourth option?" But again, keep an open mind and see where things are in late April.

Eric Hansen: So, I included all the 2026 QBs Notre Dame has offered so far, their measurements and their star ratings. Only one is off the board so far. The 2026s are a little out of my lane, but there's a lot of good options here. So if I'm going to take a stab at which one is best, I would go with the five-star Smigiel and for the one ND lands, I'll guess Brady Hart.

Bill from St Joe. Mich.: Barring injuries, do you believe the starting O Line for the Blue Gold game will be the starters against Texas A&M?

Eric Hansen: Not necessarily. It wasn't last year. Rocco Spindler and Pat Coogan won jobs in August. Notre Dame could still go to the transfer portal. And Aamil Wagner's viability as a starter includes him adding strength and weight. So, I would almost be surprised if all five BG starters were the Aug. 31 starters. Maybe four of them.

Matt from Austin: Hey Eric, good day to you. Sorry about the no shoes today as it is 77 in the ATX. Two quick questions. With your extensive involvement in the ND women's basketball program, do you see our (very exciting) team being pre-season top 5 with Ms. Miles returning and Ms. Koval arriving to supplement our big 3 or 4 returning stars? Secondly, if I may, with the injury to Leonard, do you see any chance that he could be supplanted as the presumed game 1 starter given the Spring performances, or are the other qb's fighting for spots in the two deep? Thank you as always.

Eric Hansen: Hi Matt. I don't mind mixing in some WBB questions since I covered them from this season. Who starts the year in the top five is going to be greatly affected by the transfer portal, both incoming and outgoing, but I think it's a realistic expectation that barring injuries and unexpected departures that the Irish will be a top 5 team in preseason and during the season. I think that's reasonable.

As to the Riley Leonard question, I should note he was at practice today in an ankle brace and did participate in some of the throwing drills -- just not the ones that requited him to roll out, etc. Even if Riley Leonard hasn't had the injury setback. I believe this was a Leonard-Angeli race and it will remain so until the end. If Leonard has an injury setback this summer or in August, then I think Angeli starts the season as No. 1.

Don in Scottsdale: Eric, Great article on Pete Bevaqua. Interesting to read the focus on a national championship. Thinking about it coaching, facilities, institutional commitment, players, and luck seem to be the ingredients for an NC. Are there any others and from your view where does ND stand on the 4 variables in their control? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Thanks Don. And there's more to come Thursday. I think there's momentum in all those areas, and I'd add the new media rights deal as significant. The talent and depth of that talent must continue to upgrade. But again, there's positive momentum in all of those areas.

Tony from Lake Mary, Fla.: Hey Eric, any insight on roster math. Iirc currently there are 90 on scholarship. When I look at those with jr or Sr eligibility I didn't see 5 names that popped out as "a transfer makes sense". I wouldn't assume a lot of fr and soph eligibility guys would go there yet. Also curious on the analysis that the roster is very light on jr eligibility, and how that is affected by covid year, portal, and affects future roster management. Seems like large recruiting classes will be hard.

Eric Hansen: Hi Tony. I try to avoid publicly speculating about where I think roster attrition is going to come from, though privately I have ideas. And in this day and age where transfers are so easy, they don't always make sense. I think the type of player who is likely to strongly consider it is someone at a position where the numbers are maybe overloaded and they've been jumped on the depth chart by a younger player or simply been stalled there. How spring position competitions play out will influence some as well. And I think ND will continue to amass decent size classes, despite the lack of junior-eligibility players. There's just so much player movement. There's actually 15 players with expiring eligibility AND no COVID exemption on this year's roster, which is more than double what was on the roster last year ... and ND still brought in a large class.

Roger from Peoria: Hello Eric: As we near the halfway point for Spring practice, do you have any impression how the o-line is progressing? And, while it is not uncommon for the Irish (or presumably other teams for that matter) to be over the 85-player limit in the Spring, and while the Irish (and presumably other teams) always seem to reach that number through transfers or injury retirements, if the totally unexpected were to happen and there are 86 players the day before the 85 player limit must be met, can ND inform a player "You are no longer on the roster and cannot practice, dress for home games or play, but you can remain an ND student to pursue your degree? Thanks and GO IRISH!!?"

Eric Hansen: I think we were able to gain some valuable insight into where the O-Line spring experience is headed when we interviewed O-Line coach Joe Rudolph and some of the linemen earlier this spring ... but I think the next real checkpoint to get an eye test is coming up next week, when we get to see a full practice with competitive periods. There's not a lot of measurable activity for O-linemen in the partials we're seeing and they go outside for some of those periods, even on a drizzly day like today, and we can't follow them out there. So unless someone sends me a Ouija Board, I'm going to wait until that media-open full practice to give you the answer you deserve.

As far as the scholarship numbers game, Notre Dame is so good at roster management, it's kind of like asking me if I might get spacesick if I decided to be an astronaut tomorrow. It's that remote of a possibility ... almost. But they could rescind a walk-on's scholarship or allow someone to continue on as a student without football. I just can't picture it ever being that close.

Bob from Oxnard, Calif.: Who is our fastest defensive back?

Eric Hansen: Hi Bob. ... Micah Bell on the track and probably on the football field too. Lots of speed, though, throughout in that position group. I asked Deion Colzie today who the fastest WR was and he gave Kris Mitchell a slight edge over Jayden Harrison.

Al from Syracuse, N.Y.: When the WBB team played Kent State in round one, Kent State was led by Katie Shumate, who scored 20 and had 11 rebounds — both team highs. Is she the granddaughter of John Shumate? John was a 6'9" center/forward at ND from 71-74 and a two time AA. He scored 24 points in the famous 71-70 win in 1974 over UCLA that ended their 88 game win streak on the team led by Bill Walton. John was also the 4th player taken in round one of the NBA draft. According to the Kent St web site Katie's high school BB coach was her dad, JR and she has a sister playing at Ohio State and a bother playing professionally in Europe. Quite the basketball family.

Eric Hansen: Hi Al. No relation to John Shumate but you are right, quite the basketball family.

Drue from Springfield. Mo.: Greetings...hope you dodged all the bad weather that went through here last night headed East...very scary. Since I consider your opinion in as high regard as any I could seek, tell me what upgrades per position group makes you think this team will be better than last year with a better record? Also, after seeing Angeli's strong performance against OSU, why do you seem to give Leonard the nod? It is hard to see what RL can do better than what SA has shown us on the field....which makes it very difficult for me to distinguish a clear advantage between the two. Thank you.

Eric Hansen: Hi Drue, now that you buttered me up, can't you blindly accept my opinion? I kid. Steve Angeli's performance against Oregon State should not be minimized. While the Beavers were missing key pieces from their defense due to opt-outs, so was the Irish offense. And if was an instance where Angeli was scouted and game-planned against. Having said that, Leonard brings a dimension with his legs that few quarterbacks in the country can match -- if any, now that Jayden Daniels is headed to the NFL. He also has an offensive coordinator who can enhance that.

Where he has room to develop is as a consistent passer. And that's why he's at ND and that's what this offseason should show us. He has more experience than Angeli as well. And he beat a very good Clemson team that Sam Hartman, at least, struggled against. I'm not trying to change your mind necessarily, just give you some insight into my process ... and the coaches' process.

Ced Walker from Saginaw Michigan aka sagnasty: Saginaw pride with Clarence Lewis transfer micah bell and Jordan Clark will get more reps at nickel here come the irish trust the process the golden standard rally we are nd god country go irish love thee notre dame our mother pray for us

Eric Hansen: Ced, I love the new nickname, or maybe it's just newly revealed for Saginaw .. that is if nasty means the Janet Jackson sense of the word. … Yes, Jordan Clark was and still is the No. 1 option at nickel. Now Micah Bell is two. DBs coach Mike Mickens told me today when I asked him the third option is now converted running back Devyn Ford, who's also working at safety.

Skip from Houston: If I may slip in a basketball question, please help me with what is happening with Carey Booth and what do you think the chances are he will end up at Notre Dame? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Hi Skip, that is out of my lane. I do follow the MBB team, but only covered a couple of their games. Way more plugged into the WBB team. Carey Booth expressed that a return to Notre Dame is possible, but what I'm hearing it is not at all probable.

Ryan from Mars, Pa.: Good afternoon Eric how has Chris Terek and Cam Williams and Kennedy Urlacher looked So Far in Spring Practice GO IRISH ☘️☘️🏈🏈

Eric Hansen: Hi Ryan. I mentioned Cam Williams earlier, so I won't repeat that one. Neither Chris Terek, not Kennedy Urlacher project as guys this spring who are going to shake up the depth chart. Terek at guard has good size and strength, but he's not in the mix for playing time. I'll get a better look at him next week in competitive periods. Urlacher is not in the mix either to dent the two-deeps at safety, but he is active and physical and could find a role in special teams.

Micah B from Erie, Colo.: Hi Eric - appreciate the balanced coverage from you and team, recognizing thoughtfulness is not easy or commonplace. Question about the running back room, after the FNS discussion on Monday: Do you have any insight into GiBran Payne as the incumbent 3rd down back, including last season with Estime? Coach McCullough's comments have been clear around valuing certification, knowing assignments, etc. … Continuing with Payne / 3rd down backs - it seemed like Payne may have been assignment-correct, but was overpowered by defenders in pass protection at key points. Could we assume other backs are truly inferior at pass protection?

Eric Hansen: Hi Micah, and thanks. .... Deland is very good about trying to carve out roles and then letting his backs earn those. And that's one of the best ways he's able to keep five backs happy, or at least content, at the same time. I was with Deland when he was talking about Gi'Bran and his value. He emphasized that not only was he reliable but he has more talent that people give him credit for. To me, what will be interesting is if say Kedren Young can show the same kind of reliability and consistency eventually and in a bigger, more powerful body. Young hasn't been 100 percent for most of spring, so that's probably something to find out in August. Price may also prove too good to take off the field on third down. I'm not trying to write off Payne, just present some different scenarios that could unfold.

So just reacting to the second part of your question ... pass pro is something that need to master regardless of Payne's status ... and I would expect to see improvement across the board at that skill.

Jeff from Phoenix: Hey Eric, I just watched the 2 min comments from Mickens and there was nothing on the health of Ben Morrison. Will you be able to find out anything more about his injury and recovery schedule? Thanks.

Eric Hansen: Hi Jeff. I was only with Mickens for a couple of questions, then got pulled in a different direction. So I don't know yet if he actually addressed that, but I would be surprised if he did -- at least directly. The assistants like to let Marcus Freeman speak to injury timelines, and Marcus prefers that too. What I did hear him say was how mentally engaged Ben Morrison has been since the surgery and how confident he'll still benefit from spring practice even largely as an observer. We share transcripts of the coaches among the beat guys, so as soon as that one is done, I'll make sure to check to see if there's any more info and can let you know. Otherwise, we don't get Marcus again until late next week.

Eric Hansen: OK that's going to have to do it for today. Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back to do it all over again next Wednesday at noon EDT.


• Talk with Notre Dame fans on The Insider Lounge.

• Subscribe to the Inside ND Sports podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean or Pocket Casts.

• Subscribe to the Inside ND Sports channel on YouTube.

• Follow us on Twitter: @insideNDsports, @EHansenND, @TJamesND and @cbowles01.

• Like us on Facebook: Inside ND Sports

• Follow us on Instagram: @insideNDsports