Mike's Mailbag

Here's another round of questions answered from Tuesday's Power Hour. Look for another Power Hour today!

Max, Elkhart, Ind.: If we don't land (Arrelious) Benn or (Greg) Little how do you think our receiving core does next year?

Mike: It's possible that happens, but I'd have to think ND lands at least one of those players. However, I wouldn't say the Irish are the clear leader for either player at this point. I think Notre Dame will be fine at receiver without both, but they would certainly help. Richard Jackson is a big, thick body that could certainly help. David Grimes is showing he's a player. D.J. Hord should be back. Rob Parris seems forgotten but we've heard good things about him. The Irish should also add some speed next year with both George West and Barry Gallup getting into the mix next season. Rob Ianello is a good coach and will have them ready.

Troupe20, South Bend:

Which would you rather see? ND win a bowl game or lose in a BCS game or the national title.

Mike: I think it's very important that Notre Dame win any bowl game. It would be great for the Irish to win a BCS game, but I also think it can hurt Notre Dame if they lose ugly in a BCS game. Why? Because that is the last impression the Irish get to make on a young and impressionable junior recruiting class. 2007 will not be a good year for the Irish, and they'll likely lose a good number of games. They lose far too many of their top players to be a BCS quality team. Without much buzz on the field, the Irish will have to show that they're headed in the right direction and a bowl win this year would help. However, I do think ND can find some good match ups while playing a BCS game and can play with many of the teams that will be BCS eligible.

Marc, Chicago:

I'm a little surprised that the Irish don't have more commits at this point. Does Coach have something planned for all of us? Like a flood of five-stars in a month's time.

Mike: I'm somewhat surprised as well. But as I mentioned on Power Hour, I think it's more circumstance than anything. I think the Irish got caught in a tough situation. Both Harrison Smith and Chris Donald had mentioned they'd have their decision made by now. That hasn't happened. Both Arrelious Benn and Greg Little had said the same. Again, that hasn't happened. Ben Martin mentioned he'd probably have his decision made by now. That didn't happen. Emeka Nwankwo said the same thing. ND knew Ryan Miller would as well. I think Notre Dame was hoping to find out either way on these guys earlier but that hasn't happened, which has kind of put the Irish in a bind. The Irish can't just offer players as these are their top targets and they'd like to try to land them. However, there comes a time when you have to at least look at other possibilities and I'm going to guess they'll start doing that now.

John, Allentown, Pa.:

There is a lot of angst about next year especially the first 8 games. What are your expectations? I fear 2-6. Any hope of beating Penn State?

Mike: I think the fear is justified. The Irish will run into a buzz saw of experienced and veteran teams right out of the gate. Many of those first eight teams will have 16 or more starters returning from this season. I'd be very surprised if the Irish went 2-6, but 4-4 might be very possible. And that's why it's important to win a bowl game this year. We'll find out a lot more about the coaching ability of this staff starting next season.

Justin, South Bend:

Do you think its possible we'll see some 5-man D-line sets this Saturday, perhaps with some Travis Leitko (now that Talley is gone)? Would that even be a very good strategy against Navy's option?

Mike: I doubt you'll see a 5-2 defense on Saturday, but you might see a lot of odd fronts. The good news for the Irish this weekend is the two inside guys—Trevor Laws and Derek Landri. Both players are very, very quick and should get into the backfield quickly. The Irish are also much quicker on the perimeter than years past with Travis Thomas and Joe Brockington on the outside. The spread option is an offense of timing and everything has to work in rhythm to make that offense work. If Landri and Laws can get up field often, they can disrupt the entire thing. However, they will have gap responsibility so they can't just shoot up field on every play. But Notre Dame's D-line should cause problems for Navy in disrupting the timing of their offense. The key will be to be a sure tackling team and forcing Navy into third-and-long situations. The Irish should be able to do that.

Tom, Omaha:

Listening to Steve Filer speak, one has to conclude that he has gray matter between the ears. He uses his head for something other than a hat rack.

Mike: I definitely agree. He's a very well spoken kid. I was very surprised how easily he handled the interview. Most 17-year-old kids would be pretty nervous. He certainly handled it like a pro.

Jeremy, Allentown:

What do you think the offensive line will be like next year? Besides very young, will we see improvement from a group of young, talented guys trying to prove themselves on every play?

Mike: I'm hoping we see a lot of competition next year at O-line, but the Irish will need to sign some kids this year to make that happen. It's obvious Sam Young will at least be penciled in at one tackle spot. I've been impressed with what I've seen in Paul Duncan in a short period of time. I also like the fact that Notre Dame put Matt Carufel in the game. That, to me, means they like his potential a great deal. Eric Olsen has already been in a game, so that means the same thing. I've heard very positive things about both Chris Stewart and Dan Wenger. I expect both to be good players. Hopefully the Irish can get some top talent in this 2007 class to compete with this excellent 2006 class. Latina will earn his paycheck next season, no question.

Tom, Omaha:

What are the realistic prospects of ND landing some top notch defensive tackles in this recruiting class?

Mike: Well, I hope those prospects are good. Here is what I think. I believe the Irish lead for Will Blackwell. Blackwell fully understands Notre Dame's tackle situation. He realizes he has a golden opportunity to play early at Notre Dame. LSU has a good number of tackles already. LSU has since started recruiting him as a defense end, but I think Will knows he'll play tackle in college. I think LSU still has a shot, but I think the Irish are his leader at this point. ND is also very much in the mix for Joseph Barksdale, but I really couldn't pick that race. I think it will come down to Notre Dame and Ohio State in the end. It wouldn't surprise me to see another defensive tackle get offered soon.

Alex, Starksville, Miss.:

Do you think that the Army All-American game will be a blessing with a good number of commits or a curse with us still being in trouble with commitments?

Mike: Good question. Right now there are a number of players who could decide at the Army game. Chris Donald, Ben Martin, Joe Barksdale and Greg Little could all decide at the Army game. It could be a great or depressing day for Notre Dame. I'd guess a few might decide sooner than that, however.

Jeremy, Allentown, Pa.:

Any word on Joe McKnight? Still a possibility or should we cross him off our wish list?

Mike: McKnight is still a possibility. He still mentions the Irish and claims he'll visit. His coach does not like his players dealing much with recruiting until the season is over. And since McKnight is living with his coach, I think that probably seals that deal. McKnight will set up and take all of his visits after his season. His season likely won't end until late December. So we probably won't know if he'll visit until at least December. A win over USC might open his eyes more to Notre Dame. He's a perfect fit for the Weis offense.

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