Chat with Matt Fortuna
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna stops by to chat about the Fightin' Irish's football season.
Fortuna joined ESPN.com in 2011 after working for MLB.com and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he covered college sports. He grew up in New York and is a Penn State graduate.
Send your questions now and join Fortuna Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Matt Fortuna (2:00 PM)
Welcome aboard, all. And Happy Holidays to everyone. Ready to chat?
Most media outlets are focusing on the quarterback battle right now which seems ridiculous as there is little chance we know anything before the Blue/Gold game and most likely will know little more until fall. Can we hear a little more about the position battle that should yield a little more info during this spring: cornerback?
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
Mike, I agree that there will probably be no definitive answer until the week before the first game of the season. That being said, everyone is ridiculously interested, and it's a decision that could affect this program for years to come, so I have a hard time questioning the news value of it. The cornerback battle has been written about plenty of times before. Coaches are raving about Bennett Jackson, Lo Wood has the inside track at the other starting spot, and Jamoris Slaughter took some reps there as well (though it's highly unlikely we'll see him there in game action.)
jacob (los angeles)
does lynch go with fsu or miami?
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
That was quick, no?
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
In all seriousness, too early to tell, though I wouldn't be surprised, even after he returns Monday, if questions like these continue so long as he's at ND.
You posted a couple days ago about the 5 walk-ons that made the cut. One of them was a quarterback, and if he made the cut, he obviously has some talent. Does he actually have a legitimate shot at getting the starting job? If so, why does everyone keep on calling it a 4-man race?
Matt Fortuna (2:09 PM)
Joel, that would be Charlie Fiessinger, who happened to be Andrew Hendrix's backup in high school. No, I do not give him a chance to win the starting job over four highly recruited players. Ergo, it's a four-man race.
why is Brian Kelly so adamant about Davonte Neal playing on the offensive side of the football? I feel He could help us out so much more as a defensive back.
Matt Fortuna (2:12 PM)
Joe, just because Kelly has said there are no immediate plans to have him on defense doesn't mean he can't eventually end up there. I took that comment as more of a "we're not gonna count on a freshman who hasn't arrived yet, but if he could eventually help us, all the better."
Krystal (Raleigh, NC)
Hey Matt, Happy Good Friday! I know its still early in the recruiting process for the 2013 class, but what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a recruit committing early to a football program? And who has showed significant improvement in spring football from last year to this year so far?
Matt Fortuna (2:15 PM)
You too, Krystal. An early commitment essentially means that school has a really good chance of eventually signing him. It's good for momentum and can certainly have a domino effect, as we saw two weeks ago during Junior Day, but as we've seen recently with ND having five 2012 de-commits, nothing is settled until pen is put to paper (or even after that, in some cases.) As for improvement, Bennett Jackson and John Goodman are two players the staff has raved about. Jarrett Grace as well.
Kevin (quad cities)
With some key injuries, half of spring practice in the books, and all of summer and fall camp still to come do you still think USC is going to be a contender?
Matt Fortuna (2:18 PM)
Kevin, it's not like predicting is an exact science (if it was you'd see me in Vegas right now). But I still see little reason to think, at this point, that USC won't be in position to make a national title run this coming season. The only real concern is their depth.
They wore special uniforms for last years michigan game under the lights. Being only the second time under the lights at home in 22 years, will the Irish be coming out in any green or throwback uniforms?
Matt Fortuna (2:20 PM)
Dan, I'm sure there will be kind of bells and whistles in store for that night, but I don't know of any at this moment. I just hope we've heard the last of Ozzy.
John (Chicago, IL)
We have some very interesting commitments thus far. How important is a solid season to getting those signatures. Especially considering all of your commits have interest in at least one of our yearly rivals, which is typical for a ND recruit.
Matt Fortuna (2:23 PM)
Ain't my commits, John. But to get to your point, having a big year is always important. Do you really think Notre Dame loses all of those commitments if the Irish make a BCS game last year? Do you really think a couple other blue-chips they were after don't commit there? A school can sell itself all it wants while on the road, but ultimately it comes down to the bottom line on the field.
Mikey (College Station)
Who gets drafted from the defense besides Harrison Smith later this month?
Matt Fortuna (2:25 PM)
Darius Fleming will get picked, and I wouldn't be surprised if Robert Blanton did either. Gary Gray's a possible late rounder as well.
Hi Matt, I know you have been at some of the practices, do you get the hint that the staff doesn't like to show much while the media is there? Also care to comment on what is holding Golson back and keeping him on essentially third team?
Matt Fortuna (2:29 PM)
Patrick, let's just say I think Tommy Rees' roughly 40-yard run two weeks ago, which ended with him being forced out of bounds right where we were standing, was a little convenient. The staff always knows who's watching and who isn't. With Golson I think it's just mastering the offense. His arm and legs are awesome, but he needs to work on his footwork as a passer and show that he's ready to lead an offense. (For the record he's been splitting second-team reps with Kiel while we've watched, while Rees and Hendrix split first-team reps.)
John (Chicago, IL)
Who is going to be our power runner and/or short yardage back? I have seen many things written about how great our RB depth is, but personally I just see one great RB (Wood) and then a bunch of carbon copies of the same type of player (small, quick, agile, but not powerful) in Riddick, Atkinson, Russell, etc.
Matt Fortuna (2:30 PM)
John, I agree. You just don't replace a power back like Jonas Gray, no matter how talented the other guys are. I think you'll see a lot of different sets this year with the backfield and with the tight ends. Eifert's being asked to do a lot more this year, and while he obviously won't be bursting up the middle like Gray, I think there are plenty of possibilities for this group, assuming it can execute.
David (Wasington, DC)
Matt, Davaris Daniels seems like one of the more gifted players on the team. Is there a chance we see him getting more reps over veteran guys like Goodman and Toma (particularly the former)?
Matt Fortuna (2:32 PM)
Why is everyone so hard on Goodman? I get that he hasn't exactly lived up to expectations the past three years, but Jonas Gray didn't either. He had himself a pretty stellar senior year, no? If the staff is raving about Goodman, an immensely talented WR, shouldn't that be a good thing? As for your question about Daniels, he may be the most skilled of all the WRs, but Kelly wants to see more consistency out of him every day.
Matt, What's the overall outlook on Gunner Kiel and his chances to play this season? I feel like he shows so much patience and understanding in practice that even though they have watered down the playbook for him a bit, he could still be incredibly productive even this year. Most people believe he will redshirt, but if Tommy can come in as a true freshman when things were down with Crist in 2010 who's to say if Tommy stuggles early in 2012, Gunner can't fill in like he did over the likes of Golson and Hendrix who appear to lack consistency? What do you think and why?
Matt Fortuna (2:36 PM)
Shane, it would be a stretch for him to start, sure, but he seems to be acclimating pretty well so far. Enrolling early was huge for him in terms of learning the playbook and getting acquainted with campus, etc. I wouldn't compare him to Rees from two years ago though. There are three more experienced, highly recruited quarterbacks that were already here, all of whom have multiple years remaining.
I know that it's way too early, but if forced to choose, who starts at QB against Navy?
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
Chuck Martin joked this week that he's had teams where he couldn't decide until the bus ride to the stadium. In this case, he'll have plenty of time on the long flight to Dublin. I've said Hendrix before so I'll stick with him, but nothing would surprise me.
David (Washington, DC)
Matt, do you believe the coaches when they rave about John Goodman? He's a 5th year player who hasn't shown the ability to get separation on the field, but it sounds like something's changed this spring.
Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM)
David, I do. For one, he wouldn't have been brought back if the staff didn't see something in him, so I do believe he has the tools. Also, it's always been about consistency for him, bringing it every day. Coming to work every day backing up Michael Floyd, an all-time ND great, is different mentally from coming in with the chance at a starting position.
Shem (Twin Citites)
Hey Matt, Hope you are enjoying your day! Wanted to ask what do you see unfolding with the db depth issue? NO db's in this last class so will they move anyone else over beside Cam McDaniel?
Matt Fortuna (2:43 PM)
You too, Shem. I don't think there are any plans at this point, though the numbers are obviously less than ideal. Slaughter played some corner Friday, but that was likely for emergency situations.
Martin Galvin (Bronx, NY)
Have you seen any development from Andrew Hendrix? I could see using him to run the ball a lot and play two TEs, which seems to be the strong-suit of the team. Also, is Tate Nichols locking down the RT? Finally, assuming things calm down with Lynch, how many sacks do you see him with? Thanks!!!
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
Martin, the staff has said Hendrix has done a better job of putting bad plays behind him and moving forward. I don't think they're grooming him for packages; they'd like to see him (or any of the other three) emerge as the cut and dry starter. I'd be surprised is Nichols didn't end up starting by the fall. As for Lynch, ND should hope it's more sacks (5.5 last year) than penalties (six last season) in 2012, assuming things calm down.
I know Brian Kelly has talked about the QB battle coming down to who can limit mistakes, but how much of this falls on the rest of the team as well? I can think of red zone turnovers like Jonas Gray's fumble at the 1, or an interception that bounced off Theo Riddick's helmet and got picked. How much of last year's troubles were a systemic issue, and can that be changed by getting a guy under center who cuts down on turnovers?
Matt Fortuna (2:48 PM)
Thomas, that's the main thing ND is looking for in its QB: The guy who protects the ball. Of course, as you noted, there others responsible for last year's plague as well, but a majority fell on the signal callers.
Matt, What is Jacob from LA talking about? Did i miss something?
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
Lynch went home and wasn't at practice Wednesday because of "personal reasons." He has complained before about the South Bend weather (really, who hasn't?) and, since he's from Florida and almost went to FSU, the rumor mill is naturally running full-speed at the first sign of trouble.
Thanks for answering my first question Matt. How come we haven't heard much about the battle at the dog LB position? I know Slaughter is positioned to be used there against more of the spread teams, but who is looking like the leader besides that? Spond? Councell?
Matt Fortuna (2:52 PM)
Patrick, Spond is the leader in the clubhouse right now, but it's far from a finished battle. There are lots of talented but unproven LBs on the roster right now, so it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
Rafael (Las Vegas)
Matt, any sense of whether Daniel Smith will feature prominently in the offense this year? Michael Floyd had positive things to say about him.
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Rafael, Floyd has been raving about him, but, again, it's about consistency, as Kelly has said several times. He also has to stay healthy as well, since that's been an issue for him.
Jake (Fairfield, CT)
Hi Matt, Was wondering if you have been down to South Bend to see if any of the QBs were separating themselves or if you have heard anything about who's playing the best? Thanks
Matt Fortuna (2:55 PM)
I've been at every practice ND has allowed the media to view, Jake. The intrasquad scrimmage was probably the best measure, and they all looked pretty smooth save for Golson, who botched consecutive snaps. That being said, I've been most impressed by his arm over the others so far, but the offense has been so basic and dumbed down for all of them that there really isn't much worthwhile to gauge at this point.
how do you think the ND front 7, match up against Michigan's Oline and Robinson? Who on defense will have to step up in that game to give the offense the chance to keep ND on top?
Matt Fortuna (2:56 PM)
Tom, Lynch and Tuitt oughta be interesting to watch that game, considering they sat out last year's.
David (Washington, DC)
Matt, I don't wan to beat a dead horse, but it's hard to see the QB race being settled this spring or summer. Guys just play differently in game play than in practice (See: Dayne Crist). Do you think its possible to determine who is the top signal caller until one of them is under the lights?
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
You're exactly right, David. No answer is coming anytime soon, and even when there is a decision, we all know from recent events that that is subject to change with one poor performance.
John A (Chicago)
If you were BK, and could get a guaranteed win this season; would you choose UofM, USC or Oklahoma.
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Why not all of them, John?
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
To be more direct, it would depend on how each team fares that season. If USC enters the final undefeated and with a shot at the national title, I'd have to think knocking the Trojans off on the road in their finale would be the most satisfying for the program.
Is it possible that neither of the four QB's are good enough to lead the Irish with Kelly's offense to a BCS
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
Not good enough? Highly unlikely. All were highly recruited, and if not one of them could pan out, that would likely say more about the staff and their development than it would the kids' actual skill sets.
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
Gotta run, but I'll leave y'all with this, more from the Hat on Kiel: http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/blog/dennis-dodd/18350412/les-miles-gunner-kiel-didnt-have-confidence-swagger-for-lsu
Matt Fortuna (3:02 PM)
Hope everyone enjoys the holidays!