I missed you, you missed me. Let's see what's on everybody's minds ...
Joey from Omaha, Neb., writes: Matt, Should the fact that ND is very weak at the CB spot and plays Navy in Week 1 be a cause for concern? What I'm trying to say is that fall camp is vital to a team's development, so how can you develop a position in the secondary when you're practicing for a team that almost exclusively runs the ball? Thanks, Joey.
Matt Fortuna: Joey, you bring up an interesting point, and big picture, an offense like Navy's is certainly easier to prepare for when it's the first game of the season and not in the middle. But that doesn't mean the entirety of fall camp will be devoted to stopping the Midshipmen. Cornerback is one of several positions dealing with question marks as the season approaches, and Notre Dame will try to shore up all of those in fall camp. Just look at quarterback, where Brian Kelly is tasked this camp with finding a balance between preparing for a Week 1 starter and a season starter, which doesn't necessarily have to be the same person.
Milton Broussard Jr. from Baton Rouge, La., writes: How will the QB battle end up at Notre Dame this fall? Who is expected to take over as the 'go to' receiver ? Also, does anyone truly expect better than an 8-4 season yet again?
Matt Fortuna: Milton, 8-4 or 7-5 appear to be the safe picks right now, given the tough schedule. Quite frankly -- depending on who the losses would be to, of course, I wouldn't really look at eight wins as a disappointment. To get to your first question, I think Everett Golson is the most talented of the quarterbacks and the best fit to run Kelly's offense, but he'll have to earn the trust of the staff this coming month. As for receiver, Kelly said John Goodman was the go-to guy in the spring, though Tyler Eifert will clearly be the focal point of the passing game. I'd expect DaVaris Daniels and T.J. Jones to step up this year as well.
Mike S. from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Matt, I have read that "Notre Dame is an East Coast school that just happens to be in Indiana" countless times on your blog and am confused as to what you mean by that. Notre Dame has students and fans from all over the country. Regionally, Notre Dame draws students most heavily (when I was there) from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. Sure, there are large contingents of students and fans from Philly, Boston, New York, and New Jersey and ND is a large private school, but calling ND an "East Coast school" seems either unclear or inaccurate.
Matt Fortuna: Mike, no one is arguing that Notre Dame doesn't have a national fan base -- its schedule and year-round recruiting efforts, not to mention its football independence -- certainly proves that. And it doesn't take away from the school's Midwestern students and fans, either. But Notre Dame has a large fan base in New York and New England. Very large. College football in that region just isn't as dominant there as it is in the Midwest, and without many options to choose from, many people from that area -- just a few of whom happen to be Irish and/or Catholic -- tend to root for Notre Dame. It was certainly that way in my circle when attending Catholic high school in Manhattan. I remember chatting with fans on the Metro from Washington, D.C., to Landover, Md., for the Maryland game last fall, and most of the ones I talked to had no real tie to the school -- they just felt attached to it, be it through religion, heritage or other values. (Let's remember that this was a Notre Dame home game in Maryland's backyard, too. How many other schools can pull that off in another part of the country?) Notre Dame also has well-established pipelines in the Carolinas and Florida, too.
Kevin from Charlotte, N.C., writes: Matt, It seems to me that with another school (UCF) being hit with a bowl ban, joining OSU, UNC and Penn State that the Irish non-BCS bowl opportunities have gotten better in '12. What are your thoughts. Thanks and love your blog. Kevin
Matt Fortuna: Thanks for the kind words, Kevin. I forget which writer tweeted it out initially, but man, will we even have 70 eligible schools to fill every bowl spot this year? To answer your question, it certainly couldn't hurt. The Big Ten has eight bowl tie-ins but only 10 schools eligible to fill those slots. The ACC has also eight postseason tie-ins but won't have UNC eligible. Sure, it's possible to see only seven bowl-eligible schools from each of those conferences, thereby leaving a spot open. Of course, Navy's and Army's bowl spots -- they have deals with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and Military Bowl, respectively -- could open up if either or both fail to become bowl-eligible this season. It's all worth keeping a closer eye on this year if the Irish aren't in contention for a BCS bid, as their only tie-in from 2010-13 was the Champs (now Russell Athletic) Bowl, which was used up last year.