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 (1:59 PM)
Greetings, all, and a happy Friday the 13th to Notre Dame fans everywhere, who have surely seen better days. I've always felt that the best medicine for problems is to talk about them, and luckily for you it's time for our weekly chat. So let's get started guys.
I don't think I'll be missed THAT much. The line has some other depth and talent. What do you think, Matt?
Matt Fortuna (2:03 PM)
Aaron, back in Florida already? I thought you were supposed to finish the semester at Notre Dame. The line certainly has depth, and Kapron Lewis-Moore figures to slide right in and return to his starting role. But none have the talent that you possess as a pass-rusher, and you were only going to get better.
paul (pittsburgh pa)
too many defections from the notre dame program. this is not a good sign for future recruiting of 5 star elite game changers from the south competing with the sec.
what are the chances of Andrew hendrix starting next year? even though he only appeared in a few games but he played well and he fits the offense better than reese
Matt Fortuna (2:07 PM)
Sorry for hte double question. To answer the first one, Paul, you're right. It's not a good sign. It's a momentum killer, to go with the other defections, and you can bet other powers will cite these guys' unhappiness when moving from warm-weather areas to South Bend.
Matt Fortuna (2:08 PM)
Derek, I've said before if I'm a betting man, I'll say Hendrix starts, but he's still got a ways to go. He had opportunities last year to earn more playing time and never could do it, and he has to do a better job of putting mistakes behind him, though the staff has said he's gotten better at that this spring.
Adam (South Bend)
I don't know about you, but I liked Stephon Tuitt better anyways. Did you know Aaron Lynch lost more yards on penalties than he gained on sacks?
Matt Fortuna (2:10 PM)
That's certainly an interesting way to look at it, one that I haven't thought about. Given the fact that most of his penalties were worth 15 yards -- and that he made little apology for them -- you're likely right. And yes, Tuitt, though it won't show in the numbers (good or bad), is a an absolute stud, one ND should be thankful to have.
Matt Fortuna (2:12 PM)
Honestly getting lost right now with the barrage of different variations of the same Lynch questions, though it's somewhat of a nice change of pace from the same QB ones ...
Kevin (Reno, NV)
Will the defection of Aaron Lynch open the door for Ishaq Williams to step up and shine?
Matt Fortuna (2:15 PM)
Kevin, I'm not sure I see the correlation there since they're at different positions, though Ishaq is certainly a nice talent to have, and one who is on the cusp of breaking out. How about what Brian Kelly mentioned today -- that he sent Ishaq home earlier this year because he was dealing with similar blues. Sounds like he's bounced back nicely since then.
Does this mean local boy Sheldon Day (Warren Central HS) gets into the rotation more than we thought even yesterday? I'm excited to see what he can do in his Golden helmet.
Matt Fortuna (2:16 PM)
Mike, Sheldon certainly figures to benefit from this in terms of playing time. Rave reviews about him so far from his teammates, and enrolling early certainly gives him a nice head start.
Bobby Smith (Northern Indiana)
How will the Irish use the talents of Aaron Lynch to handle Denard Robinson for the Michigan game?
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
Unintentional (or maybe intentional) question of the day. One that has come in since this chat started, too.
Brian (South Bend)
I can't catch much of a break. We all see the team improving more than they have in the past 15 years. Our defense will be top 15, possibly top 10. All I wanted to do this spring was find the right QB, a few defensive backs, and let the dogs loose on opposing QBs this fall.Nevertheless, this is ND, and the guys we have are special. And there's plenty to play and compete for. GO IRISH!
Matt Fortuna (2:18 PM)
Brian, as I often mutter under my breath about colleagues whenever they say the phrase "talk about," that's not a question ...
Patrick O'Riley (South Bend, Ireland)
I read that players who decommit once are likely to transfer. Gunner Kiel did it twice. How long before Kiel leaves for greener pastures?
Matt Fortuna (2:19 PM)
Patrick, two words: Don't Jump!
Brian Kelly (Sunny South Bend)
Hi Matt. When do these recruiting defections and transfers (that's at least a solid half dozen since the season ended - Crist, Newman, Ragone, Shepard, Greenwood, Lynch) start to reflect poorly on me? Is anyone noticing?
Matt Fortuna (2:20 PM)
People are noticing, Brian. Believe me.
Aaron's Mom (Florida)
I'm disappointed in Aaron's decision. One of the big reasons he went to ND was because of me and my hope for his top-level education. Now he's given up and will transfer. Any chance he changes his mind - this is just the decision of an immature young man?
Matt Fortuna (2:22 PM)
Alice from Ohio (you should at least get THAT part right by now!), in the back of my mind I can't help but think Kelly holds out the slightest bit of hope that by staying the entirety of the semester, Aaron will have a change of heart. That being said, I have a ridiculously tough time seeing him in a Notre Dame uniform again. Just too much working against it right now, and I think he'd have to earn back the respect of a lot of people.
This is gonna sound petty, but since Aaron can't take the weather in South Bend, I'm hoping he gets drafted by some cold-weather football black hole like, I dunno, Cleveland. Would like to see him talk his way out of that one.
Matt Fortuna (2:25 PM)
Yes, it does sound petty, Chris. You know, his mother did move to Ohio recently. And the pro's are different game -- the players call the shots, and they make a lot of money to play where they do, too. Believe me, there was a lot more to his decision than simply weather, which I'm assuming a grand total of zero Notre Dame players (or students, or staff, for that matter) actually enjoy. Grow up.
Hi Matt. Big picture question here...maybe too big and worthy of an entire column. But here goes: Looking at the recruiting rankings in recent years, there is a clear trend to southern schools getting ranked higher. Assuming that's not a "Gulf Coast bias", can we agree that the primary reasons are: 1. The best players are in Texas and Florida so more top-level players tend to stay near home, and 2: The weather simply doesn't help northern schools. Even with the cache name of Urban Meyer, the winged-helmet at Michigan, and the dome at ND, and the stability at Penn St. (oops, wrote this question two years ago) they can't change the wind chill. Will CFB go the way of college baseball where northern schools can't even compete regularly anymore? Or perhaps we are already there....
Matt Fortuna (2:27 PM)
Brian, I did a story on this a couple years back, when the Big Ten was realllly down, around the '09 regular season. More often than not, these things tend to be cyclical. But I do agree that weather, along with population growth and more exposure across all places in this country have certainly tilted the edge toward warm-weather schools. I'm interested to see if a stud coach like Urban Meyer can help change that at Ohio State.
How about we explore some graduation rate talk? Which conference was best, which was worst and what are we going to do to beat them while they can still offer their athletes courses like NFL 101.Wish some young men were taught what honoring your commitment meant these days.
Matt Fortuna (2:30 PM)
Whatever conference was the best didn't have Notre Dame in it (zing!). And Lynch did the same thing to FSU, too, so Notre Dame fans can't get on their high horse about honoring commitments.
Who is Notre Dame's toughest opponent this year? Michigan, Oklahoma, Miami, and USC all look like they're going to be tough
Matt Fortuna (2:31 PM)
USC and Oklahoma look like the toughest right now. I'd throw MSU in there over Miami.
Matt, Is there a point in time where Notre Dame has been "down" long enough to be irrelevant to recruits? Last time they won a Natty these recruits weren't born, and the last time ND finished top 5 these recruits were 4. Is that a concern?
Matt Fortuna (2:35 PM)
Valid points, as the lack of success makes it all the more difficult to attract prospects from far away who have more recently successful programs nearby. Notre Dame will always be relevant though, especially given its religious affiliation and academic standards.
UCS Fans (Los Angeles)
Do you see this years Trjans-Irish game being close or do you see a USC blowout victory? Looking at the teams on paper, the talent level isn't all that close.
Matt Fortuna (2:40 PM)
A lot can change from now until the last week of the season, but I don't see that game being very close right now.
Johnny A (Rochester, MI)
FOCUS ON THE PLAYERS WE HAVE, LYNCH IS GONE. Progress report on Ishaq please, haven't heard much this spring and he played far less than I expected last season.
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Lynch is the big news of the day, and of the spring, quite frankly -- and that's what 90 percent of today's questions have revolved around -- so that's what I'm going to cover. Ishaq had an opportunity with Prince Shembo sidelined a bit this spring, and he figures to see a lot of action this fall. As mentioned early, Kelly dropped a nugget today about sending him home earlier this year to make sure his head and heart were in it and he came back recharged. I'd expect big things from him soon.
Sumitrom (Armpit of Feeloreeduh)
I think everyone worries too much. Shepard left for medical reasons, Darby & Greenberry never made it to campus, Rangone and Crist left because they would not see enough playing time. Lynch is the only player I have seen leave who was actually a guaranteed starter. The fact of the matter is, ND still has a ton more talent than 93% of major college football programs and continues to bring them in.
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
Which should make it all the more disappointing that it hasn't translated to on-field success ...
Frank Cooke (South Bend)
If you were a betting man, who wins the field corner starting position? Lo, Josh, or Jalen?
Matt Fortuna (2:45 PM)
I'll go with Lo, but Josh sounds to be making a very strong push there and figures to see some time regardless.
I know they play different positions, and I might be too much of an optimist right now. But can't we look at the surprise commitment of Neal equaling out the loss of Lynch?
Matt Fortuna (2:47 PM)
Not exactly, Pat. Lynch was an immense talent, among the best the program has landed defensively in a long time (along with Te'o). He's a future first round draft pick, which you can't say with any degree of certainty about Neal. Not now, at least.
I know that coaches have to be careful of what they share, but it is at the point but with lynch, this is another data point where where BK was not forthcoming. At what point does a coach have to make sure that his public comments are not harming his relationship with the fans, especially a college fan? The smartest guy in the room does not work when you are 16-10 and losing top players at the pace he is.
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
Rich, I'm not sure I'm connecting the dots here. Lynch played plenty as a freshman, starting six games. It's hard to find any unfulfilled promises in their relationship based on last season. In the end, Lynch and ND weren't a great fit for each other for a number of reasons, but I don't think Brian Kelly's coaching was one of them.
Krystal (Raleigh, NC)
Matt, Why is it that other ND fans want to blame Coach Kelly for something he has no control over like Aaron Lynch transferring? I praise Coach Kelly for the way he has handle the situation because he could have acted the way Les Miles did when Gunner Kiel decided to sign with ND.
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Because it has the look of a trend, Krystal -- Shepard leaving, Greenberry (and three others) de-comitting. It greatly hinders momentum within your program and creates a negative national perception, one that says some of these talents from warm weather cities won't fit in or like it at Notre Dame. I'm sure other coaches will point that out on the recruiting trail, and ND may have to re-examine who or how it is going after kids and what will be the right fit.
PFC Jake Anderson (Afghanistan/Michigan)
Information travels quick, even to us thousands of miles away. My question regarding Lynch is more geared towards the system that allows these kids so much ease to transfer. To the average person, a contract is a binding decision, not so much to these college athletes. Is the system flawed? Should these kids be held more accountable for the decision they make on National Signing Day? We aren't setting them up for the real world, by excusing them everyone the going gets tough. What do you think?
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
First off, Jake, thanks for all that you do for us here. To get to your question, I will have to respectfully disagree. The "real world" that many top athletes are dealing with involve broken promises from grown men. Look at coaches like Todd Graham or Bobby Petrino, leaving one job after another with no regard for who or what is left in their wake. They get paid millions along the way, too. I'm not saying kids shouldn't be accountable, but they're not getting paid and they, in most cases, have to sit out a year and not play after transferring, as will likely be the case with Aaron Lynch. If their alleged leaders aren't accountable, I can't hold players to a higher standard.
Jon (Fort Wayne, In)
We lost a great DE and lost a great Safety to the draft in Harrison Smith. Who takes over at safety?
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
Jamoris Slaughter is a helluva player. He'll be in the NFL someday, and he is a respected voice in that locker room. Zeke Motta is a great talent as well, and Austin Collinsworth figures to see plenty of action. Harrison Smith is a big loss, but I wouldn't be overly concerned about the safeties right now.
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
That's all from me today, guys. Open practice tomorrow (the whole thing), so I'll share what I can. Hope everyone enjoys their weekends.