Chat with Matt Fortuna
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Matt Fortuna (2:00 PM)
Hey everyone. Happy to have a game under our belts to discuss. Lots to talk about. What's on your mind?
Matt, Golson looked pretty good managing the game in his first start. In the event something were to happen to him, who realistically has the inside track to be #2, Hendrix or Turnover Tommy?
Matt Fortuna (2:01 PM)
Matt, I think that may be the biggest question heading into this week, since Rees is just getting back into the fold now. Can you toss a guy with that much experience down to No. 3, with two unproven guys ahead of him? I really don't know.
Tyler (NY) [via mobile]
Is there a possibility that Notre Dame goes 10-2 with the only losses are to USC and Oklahoma? And I don't think Oklahoma even looked that strong in their first game. Maybe I'm just being too optimistic.
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
Tyler, it's way too early to tell, or to say anything is possible/impossible this season. We saw Notre Dame rout an undermanned Navy team, as the Irish should have. The fact they didn't trip over themselves like last year has to be promising as well, but we'll learn a lot more this week against a good Purdue defensive front.
Matt: Im a realist and i know it was against Navy, but is it just me or does ND look more athletic and faster now than they have been over the last 10-15 years?
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
See what Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said recently, that that was the best ND team he's seen in 15 years? Maybe you're right: http://www.capitalgazette.com/sports/navy_sports/navy-considers-positives-looks-ahead/article_bfea0538-cde5-586e-9903-13132fe31056.html
Mark (Lexington, KY)
Matt- Overall I was pleased with last weeks effort with one glaring exception- special teams! We knew that the defensive secondary would have its issues but the kick/punt/return game still needs work. Who is in charge and what needs to be done?
Matt Fortuna (2:08 PM)
Mark, Davonte Neal had a positive return. After last season, I'm not sure how you could ask for much more, though I'm sure he will improve, as that was just his first game. Kickoff returns will be hard to come by with the new rules. But yes, the XPs need some work. Scott Booker is the special teams coordinator by title but it's more of a group effort from the entire staff.
Tyler (Allentown, PA)
Sorry about your Giants, I have Nicks on my fantasy team so I wasn't very pleased either. Now that we are away from the option team and on to more passing teams, what will the Irish's game plan be when opponents start singling out the weak secondary, because you know that's how it's going to be.
Matt Fortuna (2:10 PM)
Tyler, I've been conditioned in recent years to not worry about a thing with the Giants team until Week 16. I suppose you can count college football better than the NFL in that regard. As for your question, yes, the corners struggled on that Navy TD drive, and Navy is hardly a passing team. I'm very interested to see how the secondary fares this week against Purdue, which has three capable quarterbacks.
Ben (Chicago, IL)
Does this running game have a chance to be this dominate all year? If Carlisle is what we think he can be and GA3, Riddick and Wood can compete at the high levels we've seen them compete at before, especially behind the left side of that line which is as strong as anyone in the country, this could be a very dangerous ground game for any defense we face.
Matt Fortuna (2:12 PM)
Ben, it is certainly the strength of this offense, and it will take a huge load off the shoulders of a new quarterback. Notre Dame has a very good problem to have back there, having to divvy up carries with Wood and possibly even Carlisle when he returns. Let's see what kind of struggles, if any, this offensive line has with Purdue on Saturday.
Hi Matt:great work! Just curious when was the last time you were on South bend campus and were you able to partake in the "training table?" i hear the food is awesome!
Matt Fortuna (2:14 PM)
Tom, I've never been able to take part in the training table, though that's one area my deceptively fragile frame may be able to hold its own physically with some of the guys on that team.
Andy Prombo (Palatine, IL)
I feel like Troy Niklas's catch last Saturday was just a sample of things to come. Future All-American right there? Do you think he will come to be even better than Tyler Eifert?
Matt Fortuna (2:15 PM)
Andy, I won't call him a future All-American just yet, but that size and raw talent certainly makes it tempting to think ahead.
John (Columbus) [via mobile]
Matt what do we know about sophomore Stephon Tuitt? He seems to have athleticism well beyond what you would expect for someone carrying 300lbs. Can he be the type of pass rusher that ND needs to prevent quarterbacks from dismantling the young secondary?
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
John, yes. Tuitt's a stud. His teammates like to call him a freak because of his size and athleticism. Mel Kiper said on SportsCenter today that he thinks Tuitt is arguably the best defensive lineman in college football.
Chris Mork (Wheaton, IL)
There is a lot of talk about Purdue returning 19 starters, but they don't recruit well and weren't much of a competition for the Irish last year. Shouldn't it not make much of a difference how many starters they return? We beat all these people last year.
Matt Fortuna (2:18 PM)
Chris, yes and no. Purdue improve A LOT last season after ND beat them pretty handily. And they do have talent up front and some good QBs, which could challenge ND's running attack and force Golson to make some plays, in addition to testing ND's young secondary.
Sam Pacho (Tallahassee, Florida)
Other than the Notre Dame game, what games are you watching this weekend?
Matt Fortuna (2:21 PM)
Sam, I'll be at Notre Dame-Purdue. I'm also covering the Big East this year, so I'll keep a close eye on all of those games, starting tonight. Nationally, however, there aren't too many marquee matchups this weekend.
Gabe Delatte (LaPlace, LA)
Does Robby Toma start to chip into the backfield workload after finding the endzone last week?
Matt Fortuna (2:22 PM)
Gabe, I'm sure he'd love to, but I doubt it. He's a valuable slot man, and there's just so much talent back there already.
Pat Whit (Bloomington IL)
Not that I am a Denard Robinson fan, but is it unrealistic to think that Golson could turn into just as big of a threat than he is, but with a better arm?
Matt Fortuna (2:24 PM)
Pat, Golson is nowhere near as fast as Robinson, and he has a much better arm. His body frame is even smaller than Robinson's, too, and Robinson gets banged up every game. I don't see Golson playing that way and lasting four years if he wanted to, which he doesn't.
Pat Whit (Bloomington IL)
Hey Matt,I think our defense looked great this weekend, with the exception of a few deep balls that should have been defended better. What is going to happen when we face a QB who has a great arm and great accuracy?
Matt Fortuna (2:25 PM)
Pat, we're about to find out. I think this is a good early-season test for the secondary, which may suffer some bumps and bruises but probably won't suffer any game-changing plays against an opponent ND should be able to overwhelm in other areas.
Bret (Camp Lejeune, NC)
Sure, our db's are "green" and although gave up plays against Navy, were never really tested. With that being said, do you see our D providing enough pressure to help the secondary and use this as a measuring stick for more dangerous teams (not that we play a loaded schedule with tons of dynamic offenses....umm, wait)
Matt Fortuna (2:28 PM)
Bret, I think the defense gets enough pressure early this week, but there are still some depth questions that need to be answered. Like I said, better to get a passing offense out of the way early before facing some of the more loaded teams later on in the schedule.
Brae Beadles (South Bend Indiana)
Matt, I read the blog everyday and love it! Thanks for all that you do. If Everett Golson put on 20lbs he would look a lot like Cam Newton. Could he be that good down the road? Also, I thought Golson was supposed to be the QB that fit Brian Kelley's "system"? Didn't see much spread and option runs. I figured we would see a lot of those with him at QB. Was that just because ND could literally push Navy's D-line wherever they wanted?
Matt Fortuna (2:31 PM)
Thanks for the kind words, Brae, but Golson is listed as 185 pounds, and I think that may be a generous listing. Even if he did add what you said, he'd still be nearly 50 pounds lighter than Cam Newton. As for the system question, don't fix something that isn't broken, as Golson said yesterday. The running game could do whatever it wanted, and it was only the first start for Golson. Great way to ease him into the game.
Pat Whit (Bloomington IL)
Hey Matt,I was admittidly worried when Aaron Lynch left the Irish in the offseason, but with Stephon Tuitt's great performance on Saturday should I be?
Matt Fortuna (2:32 PM)
I wouldn't worry about Tuitt, no, but imagine two Tuitts on that line instead of one. Much better, and something the Irish don't have now.
A QB w/4 yrs of eligibility left, an emphasis on recruiting 4/5* linemen, & a return to winning the trench battle- is Brian Kelly about to put the pieces together? With an advantageous schedule, I can see a BCS title run in 2013.
Matt Fortuna (2:33 PM)
Mike, all of your points are valid, but it is way too early to think of 2013 expectations when 2012 is one week old.
Matt, Great blog! Love reading it during the downtime as a car salesman. Anyway, Golson 200 yards passing 50 on the ground, 3 TDs in his home opener. Secondary struggles but still manage 1 pick. Notre Dame wins 42-17. Possible?
Matt Fortuna (2:35 PM)
Thanks Ethan. Hook me up with a ride. Think everything you said is very possible, with the exception of 50 rushing yards for Golson. Don't see him freelancing that much yet.
If Theo and GA3 play well again this week, what changes(if any) does the backfield experience when Cierre Wood returns?
Matt Fortuna (2:36 PM)
Colin, the carries will be more evenly distributed. I don't think you'll see a traditional 1-2-3 running back group as much as a 1a/b with Riddick/Wood, with Atkinson not far behind.
Ryan Shea (Elmhurst, IL)
i calld it from the begining that stephen tuit would switch to the ofense! and iwas right!
Matt Fortuna (2:37 PM)
Now they just need him for their goal-line jumbo packages ...
Matt, why do people think Purdue will win this game solely because of their DT Short?
Matt Fortuna (2:39 PM)
I don't think anyone has said that. But Short is a good player who is night and day from anything ND faced last week against Navy, so how ND responds will be interesting to see.
Mo (Providence, RI)
Matt, I believe that Purdue will air it out much more than running which gives me heartburn (maybe 70:30). Nickel packages, blitz schemes,etc will be needed to protect the DBs. Overall, I think this will be a nice test for the DBs. However, I do have some concern over the lackluster play of the safeties, minus Barratti. Thoughts
Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM)
Mo, I agree with you on a lot of that. The safeties did nothing special Saturday, but I still like what ND has there, especially when facing a traditional passing team in Purdue.
Knute KnockKneed (Ohio)
Matt- I understand that recruiting rankings are subjective--but do provide a useful measuring stick as to the strength of teams-- over the last few years--we have had strong recruiting classes under that criteria... have we underachieved?--players-coaches?
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Yes, on all counts. Like you said, people can debate about player rankings all day, and a lot can end up being wrong for a number of reasons, but when you look at the caliber of players ND has landed consistently, it certainly falls short with their won-loss record on the field.
Andrew (Dallas, TX)
Matt, I think you do a great job covering the Irish for us! I kept having this feeling that Navy was going to eventually test our inexperienced corners and expose a big weakness. Luckily that didn't happen until the second half and we were too far infront to allow them to mix in more run to keep our pass rush honest. When they did go for the home run our secondary got burned. My question is... Am I just paranoid in thinking we are in big trouble against any team with a decent passing game or are all the analysts who praised the strength of our defense right?
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
Appreciate that, Andrew. It's a justifiable concern. There is no experience back there and ND faces a number of good passers this year. Navy's was not among them, and the Midshipmen had some success. It's probably the biggest concern moving forward, and it probably will continue to be throughout this season as the CBs continue to develop.
Hey Mr furtuna, I'll make simple, Is our secondary the only reason our team will not win our 2 key games this season? Yes or NO
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
If you really wanted to be simple you'd spell my name right ...
Cory (Geneva, IL)
This will be at least a three score game. ND out mans Purdue at every spot. The secondary will be fine, back to base coverages. Home opener, ND wins this won handily. Tell me I'm wrong.
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
Mark (San Diego)
Matt, I love your blog! It seems that Michigan is going to be the favorite against Notre Dame. Last year was last year. Notre Dame will likely dominate the trenches and stop Michigan from running the ball. I know Michigan will score some points, but I don't see Notre Dame self destructing like they did last year. Is it reasonable to predict Notre Dame blowing out Michigan?
Matt Fortuna (2:47 PM)
Mark, appreciate that. But you can't walk before you crawl. ND hasn't been able to beat Michigan three years in a row now. I said before last week I think this is the year the Irish finally beat Denard & Co. -- for reasons that were validated in Saturday's loss to Bama -- but I wouldn't get carried away just one week into the season.
David Wisniewski (Houston, TX)
What's next for Cam McDaniel? Does he return to the defensive backfield when Cierre returns?
Matt Fortuna (2:49 PM)
Good question. He's a great athlete who looked good out there late in Saturday's game, but I just don't see him getting much time the rest of the season when everyone returns to the backfield.
How legitimate is the talk regarding the Irish being a little "jet-lagged"? It seems to me they got back home in plenty of time, so it shouldn't be an issue for the Purdue game
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
Colin, there really is no blueprint for it, so we probably won't find out until if and when it becomes an issue. AD Jack Swarbrick had said he's more worried about it coming to bite them in Weeks 3 and 4, so we'll see.
Hey TUNA, do you think the O line will be able to handle that solid purdue D line, or will they wreak havoc and cause Golston to sweat??
Matt Fortuna (2:51 PM)
Hey KYLE, I think the O-line will perform well, but it won't match last week's performance. Golson may sweat a little more than he did last week, but I think he'll be OK.
Matt, I am concerned. The hangover for me is not the jet lag, but the focus and preparation. I believe Purdue will rocket into this game and come out swinging, as a route of Eastern Kentucky means more to the Purdue squad than our rout of Navy. What should the Irish worry about early on against this much different Boilermaker squad of a year ago?
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Jeff, establishing a ground game early and keeping Golson's head on straight are the biggest priorities offensively. Getting pressure on defense to help out the secondary is the biggest priority on that side of the ball.
I keep hearing all about how Purdue has this great defense this year, and the Purdue fans are talking them up like it's the next Alabama. From what I saw from Purdue last year when they played Notre Dame, I didn't see much from that defense. What has changed since then that has made them so "great" and more fit to stop Notre Dame this year?
Matt Fortuna (2:55 PM)
Chris, to throw a coaching cliche out there: Last year was last year. ND lost to USF, so by that logic they should lose to everyone better than the Bulls. Regardless, Purdue improved a lot since that ND loss, and they match up well to exploit ND's weaknesses. I do think ND ultimately wins this one with some breathing room, but it's tough to sound confident in either direction after the easy time each had in Week 1.
Aaron Lynch (languishing at USF)
It's a good thing I am not on the team. After seeing UTEP put pressure on Oklahoma's offensive line, I'd probably boast that we sack them 10 times or something dumb like that.
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Aaron, I was the one who asked you that question last year, in the leadup to the Pitt game. And I saw nothing wrong with your answer, nor do I understand why others did. I simply said Maine sacked Pitt 7 times, so what's that mean for ND? And you said, without disrespecting Maine, that you think then you guys could reach double-digits. I liked the confidence, and quite frankly, I thought you said it pretty humbly.
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Have time for one or two more guys ...
Taco Bell (LaFortune Student Center)
Come by next time you're on campus! We are way better than Sbarro!
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Is it time to face facts and admit ND could be one of the biggest overrated programs in college football? Until you open your eyes to what you are it is hard to really change.
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
Mike, they're overrated in that they recruit well and don't produce results on the field that coincide with that. But you can't argue the following of the program, which has a fan base unlike any other stretching from coast to coast. Find me another team that can get 40,000 people to travel to Dublin for a game against Navy if you disagree.
All right, lets here the prediction for this weekend?
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
Matt, I know it's dangerous to glean too much from Week 1, but I'm cautiously optimistic that ND's schedule is not quite as daunting as we thought in the pre-season. Although BYU looked better than advertised, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Stanford did not impress. What are your thoughts on the nation's "toughest schedule" after week 1?
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
I agree with all of your Week 1 observations, but I wouldn't read too much into any of them. Close first wins -- in the case of OU and Stanford -- are sometimes the best a coach can hope for, as they escape unharmed and can still hammer home how much better their teams need to get. We'll see.
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
That's all from me today guys. Looking forward to covering Saturday's game. See y'all soon.