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 (1:58 PM)
Welcome aboard, gang. Hope everyone's signing day was an enjoyable one. (Here's guessing it was if you're in this chat.) Fire away.
Jerry ( CHicago )
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH we got Vanderdoes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Matt Fortuna (2:00 PM)
As I was saying, a good Wednesday in Notre Dame land ...
Jim Healey (Sandpoint, Idaho)
The still hurting trouncing by Alabama in the championship game, Kelly's flirting with the NFL and delay sharing the news (shades of his exit from Cincinnati), and the entire Manti Te'o saga ? I am ready to put the 2012 season behind me. It was a great football season, but the ending was a bit unpleasant. I am now looking ahead. How should I be feeling about Notre Dame's 2013 season? What can I reasonably expect from the team and from Kelly?
Matt Fortuna (2:03 PM)
Jim, I'd recommend this column from Dan Wetzel, which kind of sums up your feelings but shows how none of it seemed to slow BK and Co. down when it came down to locking up elite prospects. This program, barring anything unforeseen -- and we know we've seen the unforeseen with this program many times recently -- is built to succeed for the years to come: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf--brian-kelly--notre-dame-leave-january-s-troubles-behind-with-a-signing-day-to-remember--042619207.html;_ylt=ApGnH2ml3WhfD8gpsUZUzXELcykA;_ylu=X3oDMTFoZnA0Y2I3BG1pdANCbG9nIEluZGV4IGJ5IEF1dGhvcgRwb3MDMQRzZWMDTWVkaWFCbG9nSW5kZXg-;_ylg=X3oDMTJhYmJnMTRwBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANhdXRob3IEcHQDc2VjdGlvbnMEdGVzdANDbGFzc2ljX1dpdGhfVUxU;_ylv=3
Will defense or offense be the 2013 irish strength on the field and who is coming back for a 5th year now that recruiting is over?
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
Tad, given that ND loses its best receiving threat (Eifert) and two-best running threats (Riddick, Wood), I'll go with defense, still. We don't have official word on fifth year seniors and probably won't for a little while longer, but it's not a stretch to say that Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese will be back next season.
Matt I first want to say you are doing a great job on the blog! My question comes in terms of filling needs. How do you think this recruiting class fills the needs at DB, RB, and just getting more depth across the board?
Matt Fortuna (2:09 PM)
Thanks, Brian. Depth seemed to be the theme of this class, as ND has played under the 85-man scholarship limit throughout BK's tenure there so far. The two areas you mentioned received great boosts -- particularly from Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston in the backfield, and Max Redfield and Devin Butler in the secondary -- but O-line was the biggest priority, which ND locked up early during junior days back in spring, hauling in five new men up front overall. That's where the depth really took a hit this season, and these guys will prove valuable over the long haul.
Hi, Matt. I was just thinking about the way the game is changing, and it seems more and more like fullbacks are a thing of the past. The last time Notre Dame used one even somewhat regularly was Asaph Schwapp. With a guy like Will Mahone on the roster who could physically play the position for ND, is there any spot for fullbacks in a predominantly spread offense? Just thinking of ways more of that stable of backs could get in on the action...
Charlie (Marlton, NJ)
Awesome haul by ND yesterday. It was so balanced you could literally start an entire freshman team. Going forward, do you think Kelly and staff will try to recruit only the elite guys they qualify as RKG, or will they try to be this balanced each class?
Matt Fortuna (2:16 PM)
Sorry for the double-post there. I'll start with Phil: I have a hard time coming up with a scenario in which a fullback becomes a vital part of a spread offense. Perhaps there is a way to do it, but I haven't figured it out. That being said, I think Mahone is a true between the tackles RB who will get the chance to earn some extensive playing time. Greg Bryant, too, is another guy who seems like a monster and will only continue to develop. I've said it before and I'll say it again: watching next year's ND backfield sort itself out will be among the most intriguing parts of the season.
Matt Fortuna (2:18 PM)
Charlie: I haven't heard the "RKG" moniker in ... forever. I think the better and deeper you get, the pickier you can become. Does that mean ND will simply ignore some solid prospects in favor of others? No. But it can do things its way and hold a lot more leverage. (See: Mattingly)
David Saint (Phx AZ )
Matt, which O Line recruit do you think will have the biggest or most immediate impact? Also, do you see Bryant overtaking Carlisle for playing time?
Matt Fortuna (2:24 PM)
David, getting a guy like John Montelus out of Mass. -- regardless of BK's roots there -- is very impressive, especially considering who they were going up against. I remember walking behind Montelus and his family on my way to the BC game and couldn't get over the size of the kid. As for Bryant, I think he's got as good a chance as anyone to see extended time in the backfield, but I wouldn't look at it as "stealing" from anyone other than maybe GA3. It's a free-for-all back there going into spring.
Mary (South Bend)
Great class!!! Are we any closer to a JumboTron or two!!!
Matt Fortuna (2:27 PM)
Mary, I'd venture to guess no, but I haven't heard anything one way or another on that. AD Jack Swarbrick told me down in Florida that he wouldn't expect any changes to the playing surface this upcoming season, despite the offseason removal that will come, as it has reached its five-year limit. I'd imagine a Jumobtron is a more delicate issue, but I haven't heard anything definitive.
Thomas (Gas City, IN)
Tune, what a great deep class that will add lots of depth for us. I have followed this class for a long time now and one player really has peeked my interest more than the others. James Onwualu has been committed for a long time and is already on campus. He is 6-1 plus, 200 plus, and I have read that has an incredible motor and work ethic. He was not highly rated however. Some had him a 3 star even. I have watched this kids film and see a great athlete who can run and is extremely hard to tackle. What do you see for him as he developes and what position do you see BK putting him in...WR, SS...? I think in a few years he will be a very productive team member. Maybe even special teams standout if no redshirt year. thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:31 PM)
Thomas, my ESPN colleagues have described him as a freak. I definitely see him as a guy who can make plays offensively if given the chance. Is a position switch in the cards? I'd never rule anything out with this staff, especially after this past season.
With a qb in place and zaire coming aboard, do you think gunner kiel will play a role with ND in the future, does he even fit the system?
Matt Fortuna (2:34 PM)
Hayes, Brian Kelly has a way of adapting his offense to suit his quarterbacks. Do I think Gunner has a chance? With his pedigree, definitely, but he will have a lot of catching up to do come spring and fall given Golson's experience. I do think the redshirt coming off Kiel could, in theory, lead to an even shorter hooker for Golson this upcoming season should he have some erratic contests. You have to remember that Kelly is a guy who once played five QBs in one season at Cincinnati, so he's going to do whatever it takes to win games. And with a guy as talented as Kiel on the roster, I don't think he will be underutilized.
Matt, you're doing a great job out here! Quick question, i'll be brief im sure you're busy. Do you think the off field issues surrounding the Manti Te'o situation has negatively impacted ND's recruiting class at all?
Matt Fortuna (2:37 PM)
Thanks, Justin. Given how zero players de-committed from the Irish in light of the scandal, I'd say no. While it was obviously bad press for the school, I'm not sure if there's a correlation there as it relates to on-field success and what the players are hoping to get out of their college football careers.
Who do you think will replace Robby Toma in the slot in 2013? Davonte Neal? Chris Brown appears to be WR #3 but he is not a z, more of an x or w. Could tj slide inside to get the three best wrs on the field?
Matt Fortuna (2:39 PM)
David, I'd say Davonte Neal has the inside track there. Brown is a speedster, but I like him more in the open field. I think Jones is capable of moving inside, but he's another guy I think is more effective outside, especially after his strong performance this past season.
Patrick (Gloucester Heights, NJ)
Matt, Do you think any of the incoming Freshman can start right away and if so what ones?
Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM)
Patrick, my three-best guesses would be Jaylon Smith, Max Redfield and Greg Bryant, with Smith most likely to start from Day 1 and Bryant mid-way through the year. Redfield's a wild card because of the depth ND now has in the secondary. (Been a while since we said that, eh?)
Any guesses as to who will start at RB next year? GAIII doesn't look like a RB to me. He looks like an out of place WR. He has great straight line speed but horrible agility for a RB. He nearly comes to a complete stop every time he makes a cut. Instead of planting his outside foot and cutting, he does 5 little pitter-patter steps. If he's our full time starting RB in 2013, we have problems at that position. The only play that was consistently successful for him last year was that pitch where he was already on the perimeter and he could just run straight ahead. McDaniel has show more capability as a 20 carry, do-everything back than Atkinson in my opinion. I expect a freshman to win the job.
Matt Fortuna (2:48 PM)
I agree that GA3 at times looks like more of a WR -- one who needs to do a better job of catching the ball -- but I can't question his cutting ability after his go-ahead touchdown, on third down, in the BYU game. I have nothing against Cam McDaniel, but the fanbase's love for the guy befuddles me. He was, at best, the fourth-best running back on the team last year. He will get a chance, as will everyone else, but he was also cross-training as a cornerback during camp last year, so who knows what the future holds for him. And I don't envision any of these becoming prototypical 20-carry backs in that offense, especially with the depth back there. No need to, and that kind of running back is becoming all the more rare in the college game. Theo Riddick was ND's No. 1 RB last year and had TWO games of 20-plus carries. Cierre Wood had none.
Jim (Boston, MA)
Great signing day by the Irish, but all I can think about is the quarterback situation. When if ever do you see Gunner Kiel starting, especially now with Zaire added to the mix.
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
Jim, competition is a good problem to have, especially at that position. When asked Wednesday about recruiting for depth, Kelly pointed to a guy like Zaire, who obviously saw the stacked QB chart and committed anyway. If you've seen the way BK has handled quarterbacks throughout his coaching career, you'll know that everyone will get a chance to step up -- and not be granted many mulligans once his time comes.
Anthony (Glendale, ca)
Cory Robinson this kid looks like he's going be a Randy Moss type he catches everything with his hands I think he underrated
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
You mean THE GREATEST WIDE RECEIVER OF ALL-TIME?!?!
After a great signing class is ND poised to be a BCS contender? or did the Bama game just expose them as a lucky team that is still rebuilding?
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Rett, did ND get some breaks to run the regular-season table? Of course it did. Almost every team does. Going undefeated is incredibly difficult to do, and you can just look at the Bama dynasty for evidence of that, as the Tide have lost games in each of the past three years despite being a level above the rest of the college football world. The title game exposed ND as a team that still has a gap to close, and this class should play an important role in helping the Irish get there, even if it's Sundays-Fridays by providing depth and allowing the first-team OL to go harder against the D. ND is set up to be a perennial BCS-bowl contender year in and year out, and if things break right, like they did in 2012, they could find themselves back on centerstage.
Matt Fortuna (2:54 PM)
Have time for just a few more gang ...
George (South Bend)
Matt, Who do you think will start in the slot next year? Neal? A freshman? Amir?
Matt Fortuna (2:56 PM)
George, I mentioned Neal earlier but had forgotten about Carlisle, who, on paper, would seem to fit that role well, too.
Matt, I'm not a fan of Notre Dame at all (in fact, lifelong Pitt fan), but I do have a great deal of respect for the Notre Dame program and tradition. I personally think it's a complete joke that Manti Te'o was listed among Forbes' most disliked athletes. I mean at the very worst the kid is guilty of being naive. But the way people have reacted to this whole thing is truly pathetic. So basically what this poll tells me is that you can "allegedly" stab two innocent people to death, and 10-15 years later be one of the most respected athletes in the world, but if somebody scams you and embarrasses you with a prank, that somehow makes you a bad or unlikeable guy. Is it just me, or is that some of the most flawed logic you've ever heard?
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
Roger, it made little sense to me, too, but it says more about the American public. That being said, time heals everything, and if Te'o has as strong of a pro career as many are expecting him to, this will be forgotten in years.
Do you see Kelly adapting any faster tempo offense ala Oregon. Texas has recently come out and said as much. I know ND already runs the spread and a "no huddle" but the tempo is slow compared to some teams. Also, where do you see Tommy Reese?
Matt Fortuna (3:02 PM)
Jack, I saw those comments from Mack Brown yesterday. Ideally, yes, I think BK would like to speed things up a lot, but you can't have it both ways when you're breaking in new QBs often. I do think that Golson is the QB on ND's roster who is best-suited to do just that, and I think the staff is so invested in him because of that and will continue to work with him. You have to remember, he has 39 potential starts remaining in an Irish uniform. As for Rees, I expect him to be the same next year as he was this year: the ultimate team player, who does his job without complaint and will be ready to save the day without a moment's notice.
Matt Fortuna (3:03 PM)
That's all from me today, guys. Thanks for a great turnout. Enjoy the weekend. And, if you're on campus, enjoy GameDay. That should be a blast.