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North Carolina Mailbag: Non-Frozen Five edition

Cam McDaniel

Cam McDaniel


Sorry about the mailbag getting pushed back. Yesterday (and the last 48 hours) were pretty hectic. As the Irish get set to take the field against the Tar Heels, let’s get to some questions.

I’m going to do my best to NOT talk about the suspensions of the five players. I’m not sure about anyone else, but it’d be fun to write/read at least one thing that just talks about football.

prodigolson: Keith, what’s your estimate as to how many commits the Irish take for 2015? Who’s your #1 left on ND’s big board?

That’s a really good question and one I’m not actually sure how to answer just yet. Obviously, the return of three players with eligibility remaining -- DaVaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy and Ishaq Williams -- remains to be determined.

But I’ve got to think there are recruits that Notre Dame takes now and figures out later. Guys like Soso Jamabo, Tevon Coney, any DE prospect that they are targeting and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and a safety product like Frank Buncom. Will they land all of those guys? They could. Then it’ll be an interesting situation to see who comes back, who transfers, what injury hardship ends a career, etc.

We’ve had this 85-man freakout for the past couple of years. And every year it hasn’t even been close.

wisner74: So what’s up with Conor Hanratty? He’s gone from starter to not even getting on the field.

Hanratty is the next guard into the game, currently playing behind Nick Martin and Steve Elmer. The senior got an early start, but it was pretty clear with the reshuffle that Harry Hiestand and Brian Kelly were looking for a bit more thump on the inside and they thought moving Matt Hegarty to center and shifting Martin out to guard would do it. (When I saw Martin after the Stanford game, he still had a small splint on his thumb.)

Most thought Hanratty was a token offer when he was coming out of high school. That you’re now worried he’s lost in the shuffle says quite a bit on its own.

aisforara: For Saturday’s game against North Carolina, will Notre Dame’s play have more in common with how the Irish performed against Pitt in 2012 or against Miami in 2012?

Good question. I think a lot of it has to do with what North Carolina team shows up, too. If you remember the Miami game, while the scoreboard was really ugly, it wasn’t all that bad heading into halftime until the Irish buried Miami running away.

Obviously, the Pitt game in 2012 was a victory that Notre Dame was plain lucky to leave with. I tend to think this offense will be able to score a lot of points today against North Carolina’s defense. That alone should probably swing this closer to the Miami outcome, though Notre Dame’s early intensity will be critical.

idratherbeinsouthbend: Keith Arnold, ND Blogger AND co-producer of “The November Man”…or two different Keith Arnolds?

Nope. That’s me. I was doing some football blogging from Eastern Europe last spring/summer, covering the Blue-Gold game from a few thousand more miles away than usual and not spending much time sleeping. It was a movie I spent almost five years working on so I’m glad it’s finally in the can and that (at least a few) people went out and saw it.

(If you liked it, I’ll gladly take all the credit. If you didn’t... I was just a co-producer!)

sfnd: If an NFL team were able to convince Brian Kelly to make a move, who would be on your short list of replacement candidates and why?

Tough question, but good exercise. Let’s get the dumb list out of the way: Guys like Saban, Meyer, Stoops, or any other A-Lister. They aren’t likely leaving. From there, you might have to look at a guy like Art Briles? While I’m not sure he’s ready or capable, someone like former Notre Dame assistant Dan Mullen will probably get a look, too.

To me, it all depends on how quickly Chuck Martin or Bob Diaco are developing as head coaches. Martin would walk on hot coals to come back, and if he was able to keep pieces of Notre Dame’s current staff, it’d be a pretty easy transition.

But if you’re looking for a measurement of Brian Kelly’s value, try and find a good replacement for him. And then remember that someone would actually want to come in and take over this job, especially after watching the past few months of academic uncertainty.

irishaggie: Which ND front 7 do you like better; 2012 or 2014? And why do you think this front 7 isn’t getting as much national recognition as they should?

This group will get plenty of attention as it keeps winning. But it’s hard to look at a defensive line with skinny Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix and Kapron Lewis-Moore and improve on it, especially in the scheme they were asked to play. Three linebacker starters -- Manti Te’o, Prince Shembo and Dan Fox -- are all on NFL rosters, too.

This group is awesome, especially considering it’s Sheldon Day and a bunch of unproven kids up front. At linebacker, Jaylon Smith was a proven commodity, but everybody else was a complete mystery. So credit not just Brian VanGorder, but Mike Elston for the defensive line and Bobby Elliot helping with the linebackers.

If we weren’t dealing with academic junk, this would be a really, really fun season. So I’m going to just sidestep your question, while saying that the 2014 group still needs to accomplish quite a bit to fill the shoes of their predecessors.

billtetley53: Scrote, Why did you continously go back to Winnie Cooper?
Madeline from your french class was way hotter, you butthead.

Signed, your brother, Wayne Arnold.

The guy in the penalty box at Aldrich Arena always got a kick out of calling me Kevin Arnold on the PA system in high school. It was kind of funny if it was for a goal or an assist. Not as much if it was for a tripping or roughing call.

But you’d be shocked at how many people still call me Kevin accidentally.

domerboyirish: Do you think that there is any correlation between the aggressive defensive play calling and the seemingly lack of defensive injuries? With the defense ‘dictating terms’ and taking the fight to the opponent, we seem like the team ‘doing the hurting.’ Even BK mentioned that they didn’t feel all that beat up by Stanford. I see the aggressive defense, instead of the passive defense we played over the last few years, going for the knockout punch instead of taking punches.

Domerboy, I’d love to agree with you, but injuries are mostly a luck-related thing. Yes, you need to put in the time in the weight room and by training and eating right, but knees, shoulders and brains don’t really care if you’re playing in an aggressive 4-3 scheme or a 3-4 system.

Kelly mentioning the lack of players in the hot/cold tub this week was more to say that he’s got a team that’s now strong, physically stout and capable of winning in the trenches. Nothing more than that.

dudeacow: Rice and Michigan by 31 points, Purdue and Syracuse by 16, and now Stanford by 3. Do you see the Irish continuing the trend and, in a letdown game right before FSU, have to fight to the final minute to secure a 3 point victory?

Dude, you’re sure finding a glass half-empty way to look at this season. I see four victories by more than two-touchdowns and a victory in a game where Notre Dame was a home underdog.

The Irish haven’t played as crisp in games four and five as they did in the first three. But just look at the shakeup last week in the college football world and realize you’ve just got to survive and advance. I expect Notre Dame to do that this weekend, setting up for one fun Saturday next week.