Syracuse Mailbag: Everything under the kitchen sink


This is such a long mailbag I’m just skipping the witty intro. Or even the halfway decent intro.

So let’s get to it. You guys did a nice job. Some very good questions. I’ll admit it right now, I dodged one that asked me to compare the season to a song by the Boss. Sorry, Drew Brennan. My wife scolded me for thinking of Thunder Road, as “that’s not even close to what the song is about.” So there you have it. Lyrical symbolist I am not.

Off to the questions!


prodigolson: Hypothetical playoff questions for you (because those don’t ever get old): Who has a better shot of getting in the playoffs between an undefeated BYU team and a 1 loss Irish team? Would the Irish have to be a close one to say a #1 FSU?

That’s a pretty good question. Obviously it depends on the one loss. It also probably depends on how terrible Texas ends up being, as that’ll likely serve as the “signature win” for the Cougars, though they also would need to make it through UCF and Boise State before we really have that conversation.

BYU making the four-team playoff would be a real shocker, but would erase any concerns that this is just a Power Five tournament.


4horsemenrideagain: What duties have Pat Eilers taken on doing since he came aboard as the special consultant to the secondary and does this evidence his goal to make a permanent switch from a career in finance/investments to coaching?

I haven’t spoken with Eilers about the decision to come on board to help out but he did take a sabbatical from a very impressive job at a world-class private equity firm, so I don’t think a guy in his late-40s with kids in college is dying to jump onto the bottom rung of the college coaching ladder.

But from what Kelly has said, Eilers is helping in film breakdown and with the safeties as Kyle McCarthy still works through his chemo treatments. So don’t expect this to be a long-term career path for Eilers. But a temporary gig at your alma mater that needs help because its shorthanded? Sounds like a dream.


tburke9601: For the 5 “that-are not-able-to-play-but-not-really-suspended” players, if they are not able to play this year due to the hearings next week can they use this as a redshirt year or is this a completely lost year like what happened to Golson? Also, what happened to the IBG this year?

I don’t think this is a salvageable year of eligibility for the guys, but I can’t be sure about that. I will ask, and if the answer is yes, I’ll let you guys know. It’s a tough break, but until we find out what the verdict is, we’re really only getting a fraction of the information.

As for the IBG, I don’t know if it’s still rolling. But go check out the other blogs! I stepped out, as it was difficult to get done every week, as the other commitments of this blog, my writing — and not to mention the day jobs of the other bloggers — made the timing difficult to work as an every Thursday feature.


ndgoldandblue: Do you think the changes to the offensive line will lead to better production (fewer sacks, more rushing yards) against the Orange, or will they experience some growing pains in their first game after making the switch?

I think it’ll work, especially in the running game. And while their might be a few growing pains, they better clear up rather quickly, with a tough Stanford front seven just around the corner.

(And let’s not kid ourselves, there were already quite a few growing pains with Elmer and Hanratty/Hegarty in the starting lineup, so I don’t think they’d make the move if they weren’t sure things would immediately get better.)


kazmar619: Is Cole Luke ready to play? Nobody talks about him but I believe he got hurt and left the game last week.

He underwent concussion testing and was cleared to practice. Kelly said he will play this weekend.


ndlv: Keith, one of the themes I keep reading about in recruiting this year is that ND is struggling to recruit defensive ends. Do you have any insight why this is? Is it that past blue chippers like Lynch and Tuitt left ND early? Is it due to the numbers recruited last year (even though none were 5 stars)? Or is it just one of those years where this happens to be the tough position to find recruits who are good fits for ND?

I think it was tough for Notre Dame to get any early momentum with defensive ends because nobody knew anything about Brian VanGorder’s system. He had spent one ugly year as Auburn’s program burned to the ground and otherwise had been in a variety of NFL jobs, taking a position coach spot with Rex Ryan.

But if I’m a great pass rusher I’m absolutely considering the Irish now, because you can watch guys like Kolin Hill and Andrew Trumbetti play immediately and see that door open for you as well.

I don’t think Lynch or Tuitt have anything to do with it. And let’s not close the door on the Irish landing some top guys. All-everything recruit Byron Cowart pushed back his decision timetable, a good sign for Notre Dame. And Utah’s Porter Gustin could walk in and be really productive. There are other guys Notre Dame is chasing that we probably don’t even know about, too.


blackirish23: Keith – All network executives know that the most coveted time slot for any show or event being televised is 8pm – 11pm. Does the recent trend of ND playing more night games send the message that ND Football is now back and a must see event?

They’ve been put in that time slot even when they stunk, an even better indicator as to how networks (and audiences) view a Notre Dame game. Try and think of the last non-home game (that wasn’t in Ireland) that was a day game?

Kelly actually complained about the logistics of playing non-stop night games for the students, a decent point considering Sunday is the team’s one day off and they aren’t usually getting home until the morning’s wee hours. But yeah, Notre Dame’s playing primetime and on national TV because they’re a big deal.


jommy995: In light if the Bill Simmons, ESPN, NFL story, can you tell us about your view of journalistic integrity and whether NBC’s relationship with ND affects anything you write?

Are you trying to get me fired? That’s a question covered with gasoline.

I’m just a guy that writes about Notre Dame football, so hardly a media expert. But I couldn’t duck this one, partially because the question sounds straight from Billy Madison.

My view on journalistic integrity? I am pro-journalistic integrity. Very pro.

Of course, I also understand what you are getting at, so that’s why I’m answering you seriously. I can honestly say that I’ve never been asked to write or not write anything, or edit/change any thought. I’ve never had to pull a punch or soften criticism. So if I’m accused of being a softy or a homer that’s on me, not my bosses.

I also don’t bother to hide that I’m a graduate of Notre Dame and that all things being equal, I’d prefer the Irish ended up being victors on Saturdays. People figure out writers’ bias all the time. I figure I’d rather just get mine out of the way.

But I feel strongly that I’ve never expressed an opinion on here that wasn’t mine. And the only time things got moderately murky was during a live chat I hosted with during Signing Day. During the Deontay Greenberry antics, because his letter of intent wasn’t received, there was a NCAA compliance question as to whether we could mention his name in chat.

But I went and published a story about the last-minute switch and just linked to it in the chat, and we moved on.

I can only hope that people who have read my work over the past five years feel the same way about my journalistic integrity as I do.


nicenirish: Keith. What is the problem with the offense getting the ball snapped on time? Since BK has taken over as coach I have never seen so many timeouts used or delay of game penalties. What is the problem there?

Did you watch the Davie or Willingham era? Might be a little hyperbole in this one.


nudeman: Not asking you to speculate on the fate of the Frozen 5. But since you’re an ND grad, I’ll ask this:
To what degree, if any, do you think ND is going out of its way to show that they are above this nuisance called “football”?

You got a little lengthy here, so I trimmed your question, but will address all parts of it. I can say in all honesty that I’m nearly certain this isn’t a matter of Notre Dame going out of their way to show that this is above “this nuisance called football.”

That said, I think this is taking too long. But I also think that — as Kelly said — this is a pretty complex situation, especially considering the potential for NCAA violations, a deep dive by the office of the general counsel, and now the fairly complex Honor Code process, especially if as DaVaris Daniels told ESPN, they were asking about emails from 2011.

I’ve spoken with multiple people who have served on an Honor Code committee at Notre Dame. This timeline didn’t feel that far off. My only nit to pick with this is that Father Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick decided to make an exception and name the five athletes. They made that exception to clear the rest of the athletes who didn’t cheat, but they also did it because it was an extraordinary circumstance that needed common sense.

Expediting this process requires that same common sense, especially considering other students don’t have to sit out their extra-curriculars while the Honor Code committee investigates and sitting out all but finds you guilty. Again, they are sitting out because of the NCAA particulars. But this is a situation that’s just totally brutal until it’s done… So get it done already.

Again, people trying to compare this to something else are going for something impossible. But I absolutely trust and respect the people making these decisions, even if I’m fairly critical of the process at this point.


frostedluckycharms: I am sure it was you who pointed out that Everett Golson was one of the bright spots in the NC game in 2012. He has looked more poised and confident in all 3 games so far this year. What does he have to do to become a serious contender for the Heisman? What happens to keep him out or remove him from the list? Can he play flawless football and NOT be considered? I for one would like to see someone gracious and mature win that award this year! Thanks!

Man, talking about the Heisman is such a time suck. But if ND keeps winning and Golson keeping playing really good football, he’ll be in the conversation. And I’m with you. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a guy that wins the statue not be a complete punk?


jerseyshorendfan1: Keith, I’m going to ask you to fill out a report card on Brian Kelly. I like him more now, 5 years into his tenure, than I did at first. I think he knows how to identify and coach up talent, can be an excellent motivator and is a winner and a great spokesman for the University. On the other hand, there are the personnel decisions and play calling which often leave many of us scratching our heads. What areas would you give Kelly an A+ in? Where, in your opinion, has he been merely satisfactory? Lastly, identify those areas where he may need some improvement.

I’m dodging about half of this question (it’s too long), and I’d have dodged it all if it wasn’t from you. But it’s hard to give Kelly anything but an A in my book. Here are my letter grades:

Defense: A
Offense: B-
Recruiting: A-
Program Building: A
Ability to live in Fish Bowl: A

Really, Kelly’s only struggles have been implementing an offense that fits what he wants to do, but that’s a product of quarterback issues that don’t match his personnel.

As for complaining about playcalls and in-game personnel decisions? That’s the lowest form of fandom, and reserved only for the live blog.