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Friday, April 15, 2011
Notre Dame mailbag

By Brian Bennett

It's been a long time -- too long -- since I opened up the Irish mailbag. That's a 15-yard penalty on me. But with the Notre Dame spring game approaching, it's a good time to tackle some of your e-mails:

Nate C. from Anchorage, Alaska, writes: The Irish finished the 2010 season with a lot momentum thanks to their defense. Do you see the 2011 Notre Dame defense as a work in progress, a force to be reckoned with,...or something in between?

Brian Bennett: I'll go somewhere in between. All teams are, of course, a work in progress at this time of year, but with so many key returning starters back, this unit should be able to pick up where it left off. Is the Irish defense as good as it looked at the end of last season? I'm not completely sold on that yet. But there is a lot of talent here, and Brian Kelly thinks his outside linebackers can get to a different level this year. Notre Dame is not far from being a force on defense.

Tim S. from Mount Laurel, N.J., writes: Can you see Aaron Lynch or Ishaq Williams making a impact this season and how have both looked in spring practice?

Brian Bennett: Definitely. Both look great in their uniforms, and though they're still incredibly young, going through spring practice has helped them immensely. They're too talented not to contribute. Maybe not starters, especially not right away, but they will add to the depth and should have really good careers.

Diane E. from Collierville, Tenn., writes: Given the way Tommy Rees stepped in as quarterback for the last few regular season games and the bowl game, why is he not considered the frontrunner at quarterback? He showed remarkable poise as the quarterback and for the most part made very good decisions. I understand that Dayne Crist was injured but even before his injury he was not all not effective -- see Navy game and also unfortunately he seems prone to injuries. Granted he has more experience but should that really matter if you aren't that effective?

Brian Bennett: I completely understand the sentiment, and it's hard to argue against what Rees did. I do think, however, that Crist has more upside, physically and athletically, than Rees. Remember that Crist was starting in the first half of the season when the entire team was figuring everything out. By the time Rees started, the Irish were playing more conservatively and asking less out of their quarterback. I think Crist will start this season, but Kelly won't hesitate to turn to Rees if something goes wrong.

Austin H. from Smyrna, Tenn., writes: With all the great depth at QB coming into the fall season, is there a chance we will see a few different packages to utilize our QB variety at ND? Also, how about some type of Wildcat package with Cierre Wood?

Brian Bennett: Kelly told me he really thinks that he will use either Andrew Hendrix or Everett Golson in some packages this year as a change of pace, and that the Irish can even run the option with those two. I think you have to be careful getting too clever and ruining the momentum of your starting quarterback. As for the Wildcat, I think it's more likely we'd see a guy like Theo Riddick running that, because the Irish are thin at running back as it is.

Mike F. from Akron, Ohio, writes: How are the young QB's Hendrix and Golson looking?

Brian Bennett: They're athletic and doing some good things. They will both get the heavy reps at Saturday's spring game, and that will be an excellent chance to evaluate both of them..

Jadon from Canandaigua, N.Y., writes: I'm about as big of a Notre Dame as they come and there is nothing more that I would like to see than Michael Floyd being on the field for South Florida. But, I do realize that this is a serious issue and I believe it could be used as a precedent setter for Kelly. Therefore I think he Kelly has to suspend him at least one game and send a message to his guys that this behavior is unacceptable and won't be tolerated. I just wanted know your thoughts on the whole scenario and if you could see Coach Kelly handing out an even lengthier suspension.

Brian Bennett: I heartily agree and wrote as much earlier this week. It may be nothing more than symbolic, but I think it sends a terrible message if Floyd doesn't at least miss the opener. The DUI was not his first problem with alcohol, it's a serious offense and he was supposed to be a team captain and leader. I'm sure a lot of schools in the same predicament would start their star in the opener and not think twice about it. But Notre Dame is supposed to be different -- at least that's what the school tries to tell us.

Noach from New York City writes: How will the Texas Longhorn TV network, the Big 12's new TV deal, and other shifts in the college football television landscape impact Notre Dame's TV strategy? Should we expect to see a Notre Dame channel soon? And will that be part of or separate from their deal with NBC?

Brian Bennett: You mean NBC isn't the Notre Dame Network? I'm not a media rights analyst, but I think the Irish are in a good position here, as the program seems to be on the rise at precisely the right time. Better records means more TV ratings, and give the hunger for live sports programming -- a well as the NBC/Comcast merger -- I would think Notre Dame will be an attractive property for some TV network to throw gobs of money at in the near future.