What's happening, folks?
Kent from Reston, Va., writes: Hey Matt - thank you for your candid reporting on the Irish. Q: Who are the next guys on the depth chart behind Farley, Russell, Motta and Bennett — are the Irish looking to convert more offensive players to the secondary to add depth? Thanks - Kent
Matt Fortuna: Thanks Kent. The second-team corners on this week's depth chart are Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown, with Nicky Baratti and Chris Salvi listed as the No. 2 safeties. Brian Kelly said this week that Baratti, Salvi and C.J. Prosise will be getting into the rotation from here on out, as the Irish simply need to build depth back there with so many blows having already been suffered. Cam McDaniel was cross-training but has seen snaps out of the backfield this season. Davonte Neal was recruited as an athlete but I can't see him getting any more responsibilities on his plate right now, especially in the middle of his first season. And DaVaris Daniels actually played some safety in high school, but the chances of him ever switching positions are, well, zero.
James Darnell from South Bend, Ind., writes: I first off want to thank you for your coverage of ND, you do a great job. I know Michigan will be a tough team to beat but with the blueprint Alabama put out there and the defense we have I think we can keep Denard wrapped up and make him beat us with his arm. One huge difference I have seen with our secondary is that the corners might be young but they find the ball unlike last year and their speed is an upgrade. What are your thoughts on these? Thanks
MF: Appreciate that, James. Notre Dame's defense did a very good job for nearly three quarters last season, but it all came apart in the fourth. While I think last year's secondary was superior (and much more experienced), I have a hard time seeing Michigan coming down with all of those 50-50 balls the way they did last season. The Irish's young corners have impressed so far, and they need to, in Kelly's words, limit the big chunk plays. The front-seven will have its hands full but I think ultimately can contain Robinson just enough Saturday night.
James Coleman from South Bend, Ind., writes: Do you think Notre Dame has a chance to be unbeaten heading into the Oklahoma game?
MF: A chance? Absolutely. The toughest test until then has already been passed, last weekend at Michigan State. But it means nothing if it all comes apart Saturday against the Wolverines. The Irish are too young in certain spots — and the more experienced players have been humbled too much already in their careers — to look ahead to that late-October trip. Beating Michigan is still a big hump for this team to cross, and that Stanford contest in a few weeks doesn't look like it will be any easier.
Greg from Wonder Lake, Ill., writes: Anything more to the Hounshell DNP coaches decision than just his depth chart status? He did not make the trip similar to other injured players (Carlisle and Nichols). Suspecting shoulder injury as others have speculated. Trying to preserve medical redshirt status?
MF: Greg, Kelly finally acknowledged this week that Hounshell has been battling a shoulder issue, but he said that he was going to give it a go this week at practice. Just how bad that shoulder is remains unclear, though if there is any doubt and the Irish have enough bodies on the defensive line — a valid question given the bumps and bruises of the first three weeks — then preserving a year is probably the smart move for a player who has a redshirt option available.