Tad (Chicago): 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.
Brian (Minneapolis): 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.
Justin (Omaha): 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.
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?)
Rett (Oregon): 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.