Game day is almost here ...
Brian from Salt Lake City writes: I'm wondering about Jarron Jones. The UND.com practice videos show clips with him practicing, but I haven't heard much of anything about him. That is usually a bad sign, but with the depth on the D-line getting a little thinner, I would like to know if you have seen him, and if you think he can contribute a bit.
Matt Fortuna: Brian, Jones is listed at second on the depth chart. I touched on this a little bit earlier this week, but one of the things I'm most interested in seeing Saturday is how much time some of the reserve defensive linemen get and how they fare, Jones among them. Both Jones and Isaac Rochell have yet to play a college snap, and I find Jones particularly interesting given how candid he was when we spoke to him in the spring. He had a lot of doubts about himself during his freshman year, saying he did not even want to travel to some of the away games at points. And he did not come from some of the prep powerhouses that a lot of the Irish's touted defensive linemen did, which was likely one of the reasons he was slow to adjust in his first year, when he redshirted.
Scott from Arizona writes: Matt, one guy we just aren't hearing much about this camp and frankly I think could be the biggest splash is Amir Carlisle. How is he doin this camp and what have you heard? i know the RB position is still TBD, but just curious for an update on this kid. And can you sense everyone holding their breath he doesn't get hurt every time he gets the ball?
Fortuna: Scott, I would not necessarily say that that is the case. He was mostly healthy toward the end of this past spring and has been in there mostly with second team whenever we had the chance to view practice during camp. I think he can definitely turn into a legitimate factor for this offense, be it out of the backfield or in the slot. I would not rule out the chance that we see both him and George Atkinson III in together at some points, either.
Steve from Cincinnati writes: Hey Matt, I'm a lifelong Irish fan and avid reader of your blog. I'm an offensive guy and back when we hired Kelly in 2010, I was expecting a fast-paced shotgun attack and that excited me. It seems like the past few years, we've seen the opposite. Don't get me wrong, I think Kelly is a fantastic coach, but why has his Notre Dame offense looked so different from his Cincinnati offense? And with Kelly getting more of his own recruits, will we finally start to see some more explosion from the offense?
Fortuna: Thanks, Steve. Brian Kelly has excelled throughout his coaching career by adapting to his personnel. And I think the best chance Notre Dame had of running the kind of tempo you're referring to would have been if Everett Golson did not get suspended for this fall. Kelly and the staff put a lot of effort into preparing Golson to lead this offense for the next several years. While that might still be the case should Golson return in 2014, the simple fact of the matter is that Tommy Rees cannot physically do some of the things that Golson could, so Kelly and Co. will have to get creative once more.
Wise Guy Gordon from Cheese, Pa., writes: Matt, if the Irish are eligible for a BCS game (and not the BCS Championship), are they obligated to go to the Orange Bowl no matter what? Or can they still receive a bid to the Fiesta, Rose, or Sugar? I'm confused over that. Thank you.
Fortuna: Gordon, Notre Dame has no official bowl ties this season, though the fact the Orange Bowl has the first at-large pick among the BCS bowls this season could mean that the Irish end up back in Miami anyway should they qualify for a BCS bid. Moving forward, from 2014-25, the Orange Bowl will match the ACC champion against the highest-ranked available team among SEC teams, Big Ten teams and Notre Dame. Big Ten and SEC teams must appear at least three times each during the eight years that the Orange Bowl does not host the national semifinals, while the Irish can appear no more than twice, with no minimum number of appearances.
Rich from NYC writes: Matt, looking forward to the end of speculation season and into real season. Lack of depth was the key catchphrase this year from the pundits (who did not rank ND last season). QB, WR and bodies on DL (injury) seem to be legitimate concerns. But then again, Williams is a 5 star replacing Springman, Day is a 4 star replacing Moore, Bryant is a 4 or 5 star replacing Riddick, and Smith is a 5 star replacing Spond. Younger maybe, but freshmen win Heismans now, Is the team really in that bad a shape, or playing possum? BK develops players, right?
Matt Fortuna:Rich, I think the real question is the speed of development, especially in a defense as complex as Notre Dame's can be. Jaylon Smith, in particular, has his work cut out for him in the dog linebacker position, and I'm sure there will be some growing pains, as there are with any true freshmen starting from Day 1. The same goes for Greg Bryant and Sheldon Day, both of whom I think will eventually be better college players than Theo Riddick and Kapron Lewis-Moore were, but who might not be as good in their first two seasons as Riddick and Lewis-Moore were in their final seasons. Also, I'm not sure who you are referring to when you say Williams? Ishaq, perhaps, but he has played cat throughout his career.