Notre Dame mailblog

You guys are all about the backfield lately.

Joey from Washington, D.C., writes: Hey Matt -- Thanks for your insights and hard work on covering the Irish! Can you give us an update on the running back situation? I'm high on Carlisle, but his early shoulder injury has stymied an outbreak season. How is he recovering? And is it possible we can see one of these backfield weapons including Carlisle line up in the slot?

Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Joey. Carlisle suffered a broke ankle before the spring of 2012 that ended up forcing the staff to redshirt him during the season, which was all the more disappointing considering he had received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately following his transfer from USC. He received strong reviews this spring before suffering a broken collarbone. All of that being said, if healthy, he will likely have a big role on this team in the fall. George Atkinson III will probably get the first opportunity to start and even escape the backfield to catch some passes, but there is plenty of untested talent in there, and Carlisle has the potential to make some big plays. This is a guy who averaged 6.2 yards per carry as a true freshman on a 2011 USC team that finished 10-2. Carlisle also caught seven balls for 41 yards that season.

Jake Fait from Baltzley Valley, Ohio, writes: Good day, Mr. Fortuna. If I may, I would like to ask you a question that has been befuddling me for months. How will the running back carries be split? Everyone has been saying George Atkinson will start but he's more of a speed back and I don't think he can carry a huge load play after play. Amir Carlisle is talented, but he's injury prone. So even though he's a freshman, I think Greg Bryant should start from day one. Am I crazy for thinking that? And what is your opinion of this episode?

Matt Fortuna: Jake, I wouldn't say crazy, as I am very intrigued by what Bryant can bring to the table immediately and have written as much, going so far as to even rank him on my top 25 player countdown for this season despite him not so much as practicing with the team yet. The backfield is crowded but unproven, and Atkinson has shown only big-play ability so far. I can see a scenario in which the carries get split up a lot early in the season, giving Bryant, a bigger, between-the-tackles back, the chance to emerge as the true lead rusher that every team ultimately seeks. That being said, all of this may be asking a lot for a true freshman who is entering a very competitive situation at running back.

Tim from Comox, British Columbia, writes: Matt who will take Nix's place in '14 and will Tuitt stick around for his senior year?

Matt Fortuna: Tim, good question on Louis Nix, especially in light of the Eddie Vanderdoes situation. Tony Springmann will likely be around in 2014 and has shown the ability to play both inside and outside and is probably the safe bet for now, though a lot can change. It would not shock me to see the staff get creative here, which brings me to your second question: Logic would indicate that, with another strong season, Tuitt would be inclined to leave, considering most 2014 mock drafts have him going as a high first-rounder. But he and his mother have given little indication that Tuitt is interested in leaving school before obtaining his degree. And Tuitt did, after all, play in the middle just a little bit early in his freshman year. That, however, remains highly unlikely, if he even does come back.

Duane Mountain from Anderson, Ind., writes: Are the practices in Marion open to the public? I live in Anderson and go see the Colts , just wondering if I could see the best team in IN.

Matt Fortuna: Best team in Indiana, huh? Andrew Luck may have something to say about that. (Or, much as the New Yorker in me hates to say it after this past spring … Roy Hibbert, too. But we'll keep it to the gridiron for now.) As for your question: Nope. No media access or fan viewing will happen while Notre Dame is at Camp Shiloh.