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Friday, March 7, 2014
Notre Dame mailblog

By Matt Fortuna

What's happening?

@NJNDBlogger  writes: Who do you project to start at D-line?

Sheldon Day
Sheldon Day occupied one of the defensive tackle spots when Notre Dame showed it's 4-3 alignment in practice this week.
Matt Fortuna: When we got to see the first 30 minutes of the Irish's first spring practice on Monday, the first-team defense used a four-man front, with Romeo Okwara and Ishaq Williams on the edge and Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones inside. Brian Kelly has said that a 3-4 base will remain with new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, but the defense will still split between four-man and three-man fronts on about a 50-50 basis. In 3-4 situations, I would not be surprised to see Jones in the middle, with Day and Isaac Rochell on the edge. Keep in mind, too, that Tony Springmann remains out this spring as he recovers from a torn ACL and ensuing infection that cost him the 2013 season. He played signifcantly in 2012 and likely will again in 2014 if he makes a full recovery.


Kiel O'Connor writes: Matt, two years ago Kelly made Everett have to earn his visor. Will he make him do it again?

Matt Fortuna: Haven't seen the name Kiel in this space in quite some time. And of course your question centers around a quarterback. But I believe Everett Golson was wearing a visor when we saw him in the early part of practice on Monday. I'm not sure if he had to do anything extra to get that on his helmet for Day 1 of spring.


Jordan from Okinawa, Japan, writes: Matt, to say that ND's special-teams play (outside of the amazing Kyle Brindza) has been abysmal under the Kelly era in South Bend would be putting it nicely. What, if anything, is BK doing to address having one of the worst KO coverages, KO returns and punt returns in the nation? We, as fans, sarcastically cheer because the KO coverage actually tackles someone before they hit the 30, or a punt returner does the unthinkable ... gains 10 whole yards on a return. Any news on the staff addressing this issue, or is mediocrity going to continue to be the standard? Great work as always, Matt!

Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Jordan. And a reader from Japan? Wow. The different locations of Notre Dame fans I hear from never ceases to amaze me. As for your question, there's no doubt that special teams has been a failure so far in the Brian Kelly era. Here was his exact answer last Friday when asked: "Well, we went out and 'cliniced.' I won't tell you where we went, but we went with some NFL and some college programs and we took our film, with our hat in our hand and said, 'What are we doing here, what are we missing?' And primarily, it was, you know, it wasn't scheme as much as it was some coaching points and moving some personnel around, some speed players vs. some power players. And you know, I think we've got a better feel for the positioning of the players in the right positions.

"So we're going to make some adjustments to some of the looks that we have in our punt return. We think we've answered some questions in our coverage teams, and like I said, you know, it's unacceptable to be where we are. We went out with that sense of being very open to all things as it relates to special teams, because we've got to get better there. And I think we picked up some things that I think can really help us."


Thomas Witty from Northbrook, Ill., writes: Hey, Matt! I was just wondering with our running backs situation, how many carries do you think that Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston, and Greg Bryant are going to get each? I really like all three of them, although I haven't seen Greg Bryant play all that much. Who do you think will emerge as the top back next year?

Matt Fortuna: Thomas, it's tough to handicap the carries at this point, but I do think you'll see more maturity from Folston and Bryant, who took some hits early in their rookie campaigns but certainly are talented enough to make an impact in the Irish backfield. Folston was running with the first-team during tempo drills on Monday, and his emergence down the stretch last season makes me believe he could take the next step this season.