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Mailbag: Air Force edition

Oct 24, 2013, 4:34 PM EDT

Another week, another Mailbag. Let’s get into your questions.

jcmpa: Given the struggles of the ND defense this year, last week not included, is Diaco still a legitimate head coaching candidate?

I think you might be taking “struggles” a little too seriously. It’s not as if this Notre Dame defense is getting torched, and when all is said and done, they’ll likely be a Top 25 unit. That’s three straight seasons as a Top 30 defense.

Diaco is young (just turned 40), energetic, passionate and a good looking dude. That said, I don’t think he’s in a hurry to move his family from South Bend unless the right offer comes his way.

As some background, Diaco and I had a chance to talk before the BCS Championship Game about him taking a head coaching job. He didn’t seem to stressed about it and said it’s all about timing and opportunity. Put simply, Diaco wouldn’t be who he was if he was spending that time looking for a new job.

He’ll be a great head coach one day. Maybe even soon.

irishaggie: After 7 games we only have one RB (GA) go over 100 yards. ND is 96th in the country in rushing yards. With a shaken up Tommy and a bad Air Force defense what RB do you think will have a break out game?

I think you’re on to something Aggie, but guessing what back is anyone’s guess. If I had to wager, I’d think that George Atkinson will bust a couple big plays and that’ll get him over 100 yards. Otherwise, if you’re looking for chaos, how about Tarean Folston getting 13 carries for 110 yards.

onward2victory: At this point of the season, is Jaylon Smith already one of the top 5 players on the roster?

So you’re saying Smith’s behind only this group?

Louis Nix – All-American
Stephon Tuitt — On his way there, likely 1st rounder if he wants to be
TJ Jones – Offensive MVP, Captain
Zack Martin — All-American caliber player

I think that’s probably a little too lofty, though I think he’s probably slotting in around the top ten, with guys like Prince Shembo, Troy Niklas, Chris Watt, and Bennett Jackson all playing more consistent football.

Still, that’s lofty ground for a true freshman.

irishlee: Do you think Tuitt will stay or go?

I think he stays. Don’t think the decision will be easy, but seeing that Senior Day presentation will be tough, and him telling The Observer that he wants to stay is telling.

irishdodger: So Air Force has six losses after one win over a brand of toothpaste, they’ve struggled keeping a QB healthy & their defense can’t stop air. Sounds like a recipe where ND will play down to their competition (ala Temple & Purdue) by waiting until the fourth quarter to put the Falcons away. You know I’m right…what say you?

If you’re right, why are you asking? I tend to think the Irish will take care of business.

mediocrebob: Why are other fans so obsessed with Notre Dame? I understand that their sorry programs don’t add up to all that Notre Dame is, but how do they have time to follow their weak programs, follow Notre Dame, and have a life all at the same time?

Trolls are hardly unique to Notre Dame, but there are plenty of reasons to hate on the Irish and a football program that sometimes plays by different rules. And Bob, don’t be so tough on yourself.

bernhtp: Given that Hendrix appears to be THE alternative to Rees, how much effort do you expect Kelly to expend to rehabilitate Hendrix’s confidence and performance? Do you expect him to get most of the snaps against a weak AF team, assuming the game is put away early? If Hendrix still fails to perform, do you expect Kelly to burn Zaire’s red shirt if Rees goes down again, the game is in jeopardy, and Zaire appears ready?

A lot of effort. (Not as much effort as it took to chop down your question, Bern. But I’ve gotta bust your chops a little bit here…) Getting Hendrix’s confidence up is going to be important, because I don’t think burning Zaire’s redshirt is an option unless they’ve got no other choice.

We tend to forget things as they pass us by. Remember when Everett Golson was playing in his first big game against Michigan and played worse than Hendrix last week? That didn’t ruin the kid, nor will last week ruin Hendrix.

domerboyirish: I’ve been trying to ask this for weeks but never seem to catch this segment. Why don’t we have a standard running back screen pass in our playbook? It seems like the perfect play for the players we have on the line and at tail back. What gives?

It’s a valid question DomerBoy. The Irish don’t tend to run many RB screens and I wonder if it’s a product of the spread attack. Count me among those that would like to see them incorporated more.

mtflsmitty: 1) How did Diaco change his game plan after Rees exited the game? Can you cite specific adjustments that allowed our D to get so stingy?

I don’t think there were that many specific adjustments. Stephon Tuitt just killed USC’s left tackle. And the Trojans didn’t have Marqise Lee to balance the passing attack.

2) The Max Redfield situation is interesting. Why hasn’t he seen more action? Are they waiting for him to put on a bit more weight? Is he having a hard time picking up the complexities of the defensive scheme? What else?

Redfield talked about this over bye week. He’s working on getting himself ready to play, and it’s one of the hardest positions on the roster to just walk in and play. He got some snaps at safety against USC and I don’t think it’s fair to tag the kid as a slow learning. He’s right on the edge of the two-deep and will likely challenge for a starting job by spring.

3) I don’t think Robinson has a catch in the last several games. After getting a lot of attention early why is he getting so few looks lately?

I don’t know if he’s gotten a lot of attention, other than from those of us breaking down the frames of ICON videos from There is only one football. Getting the ball to TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels are the first two reads in the passing game. Then Troy Niklas. Then you look at the other options… and there’s Robinson with a pack of guys like Chris Brown, Will Fuller and James Onwualu, who is still looking for that first catch.

steincj36: Keith, especially with a thin LB corps, how much will the altitude be a factor? We hear about the 4th qtr conditioning the team has, but South Bend is like 700 ft above sea level, not 7000…

Not much you can do about altitude in college football. If this game comes down to fourth quarter conditioning, something went pretty wrong for Notre Dame.

nducsb: With the recent setback BK has had at Notre Dame, do you think a jump to the NFL has officially been squelched  at least for this year? Was what happened last year basically just the Eagles reaching for straws (case in point, how horrific Chip Kelly is doing?)

This question kind of cracks me up. Setback? What happened? If losing two games to Oklahoma and Michigan is a setback, I think ND fans are getting mighty spoiled and might have their heads tucked while they sit out a pretty special run.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the last 20 games in college football, as pointed out by @OakND1

19-1: Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Northern Illinois
18-2: Florida State
17-3: Notre Dame, Clemson, Stanford, Louisville
16-4: South Carolina, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Boise State

If that’s a setback, we’ve got to re-evaluate expectations.

As for Chip Kelly’s NFL debut, NFL teams don’t replace head coaches unless the team is underperforming. That Andy Reid can start off undefeated with the Chiefs but couldn’t win with the Eagles gives you an idea of the personnel that Chip is dealing with.

Brian Kelly should be on a short list of any team hiring. Whether he’s interested is another story.

4horsemenrideagain: Was Hendrix’s “under-performance” against SC due to his nerves and to the big stage, or was it just a clever ploy by Hendrix to play poorly on purpose as a favor to Tommy Rees so that all of the Rees detractors would be a little more appreciative this week?


I think Hendrix might have been the second gunman on the grassy knoll, too. My guess? Probably nerves and the fact that he was stacked into some tough situations.

harvupdyke: Keith, do you see Alabama winning an unprecedented 3rd bcs national championship in a row? I’ll take your comments off the air. Roll dam tide.

Harv – You might want to head to Austin, Texas and start buying up some properties. But I think Alabama is the odds on favorite to win, though I would like to see Oregon take a shot at them.

tburke9601: What do you think of the Cam McDaniel photo sans helmet?

Handsome Devil. Now don’t fumble in the fourth quarter.


  1. dickasman - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    Good question Bern. Well I didn’t want to come to this but you guys leave me no choice. I am going to hope for 2 sprained ankles this Saturday. Rees n Hendrix. Sorry, I’m selfish. I want to see what this Zaire kids got. Rosary timeeeee

    • papadec - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:09 AM

      Be patient dick (I know that isn’t your strong suit), you’ll see him next season.

  2. dickasman - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:54 PM

    Great question by domer boy. I’d like to see ALOT of Folston, Bryant and Zaire. Get em some PppppppTtttttt

  3. fnc111 - Oct 24, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    I understand where nducsb is coming from with his setback remark. ND doesn’t seem to beat the great teams it plays and loads up wins against lesser teams like Purdue or Navy. If ND played in the SEC or PAC12 they would not be 17-3 record wise. More like 10-10. We have to stay away from spinning it any other way. I think fans see the fact that Kelly can’t beat average Michigan teams. It’s understandable for us Midwest ND fans to be upset at Kelly for that. His game plan vs OU was a head scratcher again.

    • papadec - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:12 AM

      fnc – I think you need to look at the powerhouse schedules in the sec – they play a lot of cream puffs.

      • mediocrebob - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:05 AM

        Game plans that is

    • mediocrebob - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:05 AM

      It’s always a head scratcher after a loss…

    • danirish - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      I don’t think Kelly’s gameplan included two turnovers in the first few plays, much less one being returned for a td.

      We get it – you don’t like Kelly, so much tht you make up things like he can’t develop qb’s, etc.

      We went 12-1 last year with a young, inexperienced team. Sorry Stanford fans but we had two true lucky breaks in one game – Pitt (missed fg and the penalty that wasn’t)

      BUT if you had watched the Pitt game, or the BCS, or WF game – did you see that qb play? He did really well for a first year player. Where is he? Oh yea, after being developed he made a bad decision and is sitting out the year.

      12-1 – yep, Kelly sucks.

    • ndfaithful - Oct 25, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      these kind of comments totally crack me up. As if there’s any team out there that seems t beat the “great teams” consistently. There was only ONE team last year that played any great teams and went undefeated in the regular season. Guess who it was? That’s right, the Eff’n IRISH! and by the way… guess who coached them last year – Brian Eff’n Kelly.

      This comment is totally NOT understandable, until you consider the source. KA answered this very concisely and politely and then probably shook his head and said – ‘dumbass….’

      Only one head scratcher here… and FNC111 is apparently scratching the wrong head.

    • paiten34 - Oct 26, 2013 at 1:22 AM

      If the SEC is so great how come for the second straight season a new team with little to no chance to win has won big? I’m talking about Texas A&M last season and Missouri this season. Both teams new to the dominate SEC football from the crappy big12. Yet both teams couldn’t win in the big12 but have won big in the sec. How does this happen seemingly so easy?

      Please someone explain this to me as I don’t understand it. How can a couple of average teams at best from the big12 win games versus teams from the best football conference in the nation?

  4. jommy995 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    A joke to say ND’s schedule is softer than typical SEC schedules. A&M and Mizzou have revealed the truth about that over-hyped conference. You realize those were middle-of-the-pack Big 12 teams, right?

    • danirish - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      You beat me too it. Iw asgoin to say that T A&M and Mizzou pulled off the facade of greatness.

      Also, The great SEC teams (all 3 of them) have or had an outlaw caoch that stretched the rules. I’d love to see Urban (now at OSU), Les, or Nick come to ND and try to put together a team that has to pass administration first. If you think about it – it is those caoches and Cam Newton who have won titles not the SEC. Sure UGA and US Carolina are good but not world beaters.

      I went to the University of Georgia – I had classes with football players….well they were on the class roster anyway.

      Can you imagine if AJ McCarron or that child rapist for LSU did the same thing that Golsen did? Impossible – they would actually have to be in class to cheat on a test or they might be suspended for the North Dakota A&I JV game

      • danirish - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        Dang – I just read my post – sorry for the keyboard screw ups! Keith, can we get an edit feature?

      • ndfaithful - Oct 25, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        Auto-correct would be nice.

        Auto-delete would come in handy sometimes too.

    • 1historian - Oct 26, 2013 at 8:43 AM

      Yours is a good point about the SEC – world beaters at the top – 1st 2 or 3 – and then cupcakes.

      Still, 7 straight NCs coming from that conference is rather impressive.

  5. domerboyirish - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    Thanks Keith!

  6. danirish - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Notre Dame is once again #1 in grad rates. See, you can put together a pretty good team and still be a smart team. Rees will graduate soon, but he will graduate with a degree from Notre Dame.

    Congrats Notre Dame!


  7. ndbcs2013 - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    ‘Ridiculously Photogenic Football Player’ – oh man, this story on Cam is hilarious, and I did not know he was on the Today show! He has got to be getting killed in the locker room… but he’s also got to be killin’ it on campus! I know – he’s engaged, and she is totally cute. But still…

  8. jmfinsd - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    irishlee: Do you think Tuitt will stay or go?
    KA: I think he stays. Don’t think the decision will be easy, but seeing that Senior Day presentation will be tough, and him telling The Observer that he wants to stay is telling.

    Josh Norris of RotoWorld (powered by NBC) doesn’t even list Tuitt in his first 32 picks. That may change with 2nd half of season and Tuitt getting in better shape, but I don’t think there’s any chance Tuitt leaves if he’s not a guaranteed 1st round pick. (Note: Nix is ranked 12th because he has “let down” some this season. Appears to be a guy who looks at stats over substance.)

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