Michael from Irsee, Bayern, Germany, writes: Hi Matt,By now, you are used to fielding crazy Notre Dame hypothetical questions (mostly about the offense) so I thought that I would throw this defensive one your way. Combining what you saw from Aaron Lynch in his first year with Notre Dame's defense last year (in Lynch's absence) and the endless speculation about how good he could have been/will be this year on USF - do you care to speculate as to what Notre Dame's starting defense would have looked like in 2013 if Lynch had never departed?
Matt Fortuna: Michael, it is easy to picture a starting defensive line of Lynch, Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt -- three guys widely projected as first-round picks next spring -- and, on paper at least, think "Wow." But you have to remember that the Irish wouldn't have done better than 12-1 last year with Lynch, and they benefited from strong play (and even stronger leadership) from Kapron Lewis-Moore. Reports from Tampa, Fla., indicate that Lynch has matured and should have a strong year against American Athletic Conference competition, but let's remember that Sheldon Day isn't too shabby, either, and that the Irish still probably boast the top first-team defensive line in the nation.
Kenneth Moore from Bluefield, W. Va., writes: Matt, I know that CBK is on record about the starters playing more in special teams. Is there anything that you have seen or heard that this unit is improving. The return game has been a complete joke considering the prospects that Notre Dame gets every year. It has to be fixed because teams force the Irish to march down the field to score. If this can be fixed I think there will be a jump in points scored in 2013. Thanks.
Matt Fortuna: Kenneth, there is no question Notre Dame needs to improve its punt return game. More than anything, the Irish need a unit capable of forming solid return after solid return, rather than a big gain here and there with nothing to show for it in between. This is where I think the team's logjam at running back could help, as a number of these guys can do different things well and are capable of finding their ways on the field in separate ways. On Friday, T.J. Jones, Amir Carlisle, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston were fielding punts.