Mike's Mailbag

We're back with another group of your questiosn answered. Please keep those questions coming and I'll do my best to answer them all.

Leon, Los Angeles
What's up with Scott Smith and Kevin Washington? I'm surprised they aren't playing special teams. Any chance they'll ever play? Or will they be passed over by the current freshmen and next years recruits?

Mike: Actually, I'm kind of surprised now that you mention it. I really haven't seen either on special teams. I know at one time early in fall both were battling pretty heavily for the No. 2 spot at their position, but they both appear to be out of the mix for now. As for if they'll ever play, I really can't guess on that. I do know that older players only have a window of opportunity that lasts for so long. They'll have to get into the mix again next spring (unless something happens this fall) or they might not end up playing much in the ND career.

Max, Elkhart
What is the difference between an official and unofficial visit? Do the visitors sit together?

Mike: An official visit is a visit that Notre Dame can pay for. They can only pay for the prospect's visit and not for any family members. ND will fly or pay for the car ride in, their hotel, food, entertainment, etc. during their visit. A recruit can only use five official visits. The visit is used for the recruit to get familiar with Notre Dame's academics, the players, coaching staff, campus, etc. An unofficial visit is a visit where a prospect visits campus on his own dime. An unofficial visit is usually much less involved. Most of the time the players just come to campus and get shown around a bit. The coaches don't get to spend a lot of time with unofficial visitors during game weekends usually. And the prospects usually do sit together—official and unofficial visitors.

Tom, San Fransico
I know you are typically cautious about your thoughts on upcoming games, but considering the Boilermakers have just three senior starters, including just one on defense, and a defense that features five newcomers who start....do you think this could be a potential 20+ margin of victory?

Mike: I'd say that is possible. Some might suggest probable. I do think the Irish could win by 20 plus but would need to play a complete game on offense…..something they haven't done so far. I do believe you'll see a much improved offense this week, but I also believe Purdue will score some points as well. Still, I think Notre Dame wins by a comfortable margin.

Mike, Peoria
You just said 2008 will be frustrating and 2009 will be great. How do you see the 2007 season?

Mike: I think if the Irish can get by this game, they should have a great shot to win the rest of their games heading into the USC game. They'd be 10-1 at that point and that would be a great season. I do think the Irish have the horses to challenge USC. The thing people need to understand is that USC is inexperienced, but they'll gain a lot of experience over the next few weeks. Their offense should improve at a pace much faster than Notre Dame's. Why? Because Notre Dame's offense is a veteran offense. They've seen about everything you can throw at them.

A lot of Irish fans are licking their chops while watching the Trojans lately, but USC should be a much better team by the time Notre Dame plays them. The good news is hopefully the Irish defense will also be improved by that time. Notre Dame should have a good shot to beat them, but they'll need to play another game like last year to do it. It can be done.

Mike, Peoria
Even though we have a great shot of getting some phenomenal offensive weapons, do you think defense is the most important issue of this class? (Joseph) Barksdale, Martez Wilson, and Ben Martin look like immediate power houses and game-changers.

Mike: I think it's vital that Notre Dame land some top quality defensive players as well in this class. I think they will. The Irish already have some impressive talent committed in Justin Trattou, Gary Gray, Kerry Neal, Steve Paskorz and Aaron Nagel. I do believe Notre Dame has a great shot at Barksdale, Will Blackwell, Harrison Smith, Michael Williams, Martez Wilson and Lorenzo Edwards at this point. They're also still in the race for others like Chris Donald, Malcom Smith, Ben Martin, Everson Griffen and a few more.

Matt, Monongah, WV
Do you think Notre Dame will land Martez Wilson and Chris Donald?

Mike: I really can't say for sure at this point on either. We'll know a lot more about Chris Donald after his visit for the Stanford game. ND will have one last shot to make a positive impression. If the Irish aren't leading after that point, I'd think that would be a bad sign.

As for Wilson, I think the Irish have as good a shot as anyone. It will be quite some time before Martez makes a decision, however, and he's expected to take a number of visits before deciding. I really think USC will be the main competition here.

Fritz, NC
The story of Bush and family getting money from agents seems to get some traction. James Wilson seems to be looking around. Any words on ND re-opening up recruiting with this kid? Also what about Marc Tyler?

Mike: I'm sure Notre Dame is aware James Wilson is looking around. I'd also guess they've already looked into the situation. It's a two-way street in recruiting. I think James would likely have to show some interest in Notre Dame before they started actively recruiting him again. As for Marc Tyler, I'm sure Notre Dame monitors that situation closely. He's too good not to. But I haven't heard he's having second thoughts at this point. A ND win over USC and he just might. But we're getting way ahead of ourselves at this point.

John, Boston
What do you think differentiates Charlie Weis from Tyrone Willingham in terms of recruiting effectiveness? How did Ty manage to pull off the Quinn class?

Mike: Easy question. Work ethic separates the two regimes in regards to recruiting. That and organization. Charlie Weis and his staff work very, very hard at recruiting and Irish fans should see the rewards of that hard work starting with this class providing they continue to win. Tyrone and Co. didn't work near as hard at it in my eyes. Weis, as a head coach, works harder at recruiting than the vast majority of head coaches and harder than any coach at ND since I've been covering it.

Tyrone and Co. managed to pull off the Quinn class for the same reason Weis was able to pull off last year's class—hope. There's a lot of hope and excitement with a coaching change. Both coaches got off to a fast start. The difference will likely be that Weis will continue winning this season while Willingham didn't. That was the reason it was so very important for the Irish to win the Michigan State game. That win shows the program is headed in the right direction. If Weis finishes 5-7 this year, he'll also have a hard time signing a great class—like Willingham did.

Al, Norfolk, Va.
Mike, this might be an impossible question for you to answer, but do you see one recruit as being a MUST GET in this recruiting class?

Mike: I wouldn't say anyone is a must get, but I will say that the Irish must sign two quality defensive tackles and continue to sign some quality corners and linebackers. They look like they're on their way to doing that, but anything can change with recruiting. The offensive side will likely be fine, but for the Irish to get back to being an elite team they'll need to start landing the Jimmy Clausen's on defense as well.

Kevin, Scottsdale
Does Purdue's coach continue to receive residuals for his work in "The Firm" and the Quaker Oats spots?

Mike: Chuckle…..that made me laugh. Thanks.

Anthony, Alabama
Do you think (James) Aldridge will play this year, or will they redshirt him and save the year?

Mike: It appears they'll likely play him. I'm not sure how much he'll play but they appear to be prepping him to play this year.

Darren, San Diego
I love Irish Eyes Power Hour- very informative. I have two questions for you: 1. Since Aldridge hasn't had many practice reps and is coming off a serious injury, do you think it's worth the risk to play him this season? 2. Is there something mentally wrong with John L. Smith?

Mike: On Aldridge, I think it depends on how effective you think he'll be running the football. If he's 100 percent and understands the offense well enough, I think you put him in there. If he's still slowed and doesn't have a good grasp of the offense, I think you sit him this year.

On John L. Smith, I'm not sure. A skeptical mind would suggest that this latest hoopla is more about deflecting the spotlight from the meltdown than a meaningless skirmish.

U2Wojo, Rockford, Ill.
What brand of beer do you serve at IE tailgates? Bottles, cans, or kegs?

Mike: We serve both kids, country and western. A little Blues Brothers joke for you. I buy Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Light. Mike Coffey usually brings the more expensive (see crappy beer--marketing scam—you're all a bunch of sheep). Kegs are not allowed at tailgates. I believe bottles are not as well but usually make it onto campus anyway. I abide by the law and buy cans. We also have plenty of water and soda.

Thanks again for sending in your questions. If you have other questions you'd like answered, or if you have questions you'd like our board coaches to answer for Coach's Mailbag, please send them to: mikefrankshow@gmail.com

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