Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hansen on the Irish | by Jay

A few weeks ago Eric Hansen of the South Bend Trib was on a sports show on WHPC out of Long Island, NY (co-hosted by ND grad Chris Muldoon) and chatted for about thirty-five minutes on all things Irish. He covered a lot of ground, and there were some new, interesting nuggets he divulged:

• There was a big buyout in Charlie's first contract, and a "Herculean" buyout in the new contract. That still doesn't mean an NFL team wouldn't swoop in and make a huge offer, but when you talk to Maura Weis, there is no chance Charlie will be jumping to the NFL anytime soon. They moved houses way too many times in recent years, and are very happy and settled in South Bend, especially with regards to Hannah. Charlie's got more time for family than he ever did in the pros. He's got time now when the guys are in class in the morning and early afternoon, where he didn't have that time in the NFL. The whole family enjoys the town and the lifestyle a lot more than the pros.

• Hansen happened to be in Charlie's office a few weeks ago when a recruit called him. He couldn't identify the recruit, because that would be an NCAA violation, but he watched how he talked to the kid, and he got a sense of how Charlie really genuinely loves ND. Charlie asks recruits that when they come to visit, if they don't feel something special when they walk on Notre Dame's campus then they should probably go somewhere else. He gives them a personalized tour of campus via golfcart, and he also asks kids to read up a little on ND before visiting, and will give them a "pop quiz" when they arrive.

• Guesses on which freshmen will get significant playing time: Ryan Burkhardt (would be surprised if he didn't handle kickoffs immediately, if not all placekicking duties); Konrad Reuland (knowing how much Charlie utilizes the TE, Reuland will play a lot); Sam Young (should be in the OL rotation immediately, if not win the starting RT job); Toryan Smith (has a chance to start at middle linebacker); and the two corners Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil (should see the field in the nickel set).

• Minter's defense: couldn't get as complex as they wanted to, and weren't as fast as they needed to be -- especially at linebacker and defensive end. (The secondary is plenty fast, but were often hung out to dry by the lack of a pass rush). Improved speed at linebacker and a better capacity to play both the run and the pass should help things, and that's the kind of player Minter and Weis are looking for at that position. (Remember, Mays came out on passing downs last year, and Hoyte was in that same boat the year before. So we had two guys at LB who really weren't all that great at playing the pass.) The question is which players fit that bill, and how soon it can get turned around. As for the secondary, speed was less an issue than inexperience; we're still starting four guys who were primarily offensive players in high school, but now that they're veterans another year in the system should yield better performance.

• According to Kevin White, we dumped an Alabama game from the schedule when KW first came on board because we wanted to move the game from the first or second weekend of the season to sometime in November (citing possible 100-degree heat in T-Town as the primary reason). Alabama wouldn't agree to that.

• ND is trying to work out a way to broadcast this year's Air Force game via the internet, since the only TV coverage is only available on CSTV. White said that going forward we will not schedule a game that does not include coverage on a mainstream television network. (BGS note: I suppose this means no more games at BYU, since the Mountain West now has an exclusive deal with CSTV).

• Regarding a report that we declined an offer to play Miami at one of our neutral-site matches, Hansen says the fact was that Miami wanted to play us at the Orange Bowl (which, while not being their home field anymore, is hardly a neutral site).

Editor's note: This part of the interview had me a bit confused. It sure seemed like Hansen was talking as if Miami considered the Orange Bowl a neutral site, and somehow my synapses got mixed up in the Orange Bowl game at Dolphin Stadium confusion. As it has been for quite a while, the physical Orange Bowl is still the home field for the Hurricanes. We apologize for the misunderstanding. However, that means that we rebuffed Miami not on a neutral-site pretext, but rather...why?

• Finally, Hansen related how it's really neat to see Charlie when he's around his family, because it's then that you get an appreciation for how much they mean to him. Charlie and Maura believe that Hannah was a gift that will help them help other kids with similar disabilities, and they're doing everything they can to make that happen.