Chat with Matt Fortuna
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Cheesehead Sports Nut (@CheeseheadSN)
I respect the tradition of the ND program but 1989 is a long time ago. Do you think the tradition of the ND program will always be a recruiting tool or do you think they actually need to win some big games at some point to keep getting good recruiting classes?
Ryan (Hanover, PA)
Who steps up opposite to Michael Floyd?
Matt Fortuna (2:08 PM)
Ryan, I think little Robby Toma will surprise some people. He showed big-play capability last year and is primed for playing time after Brian Kelly said Theo Riddick's breaks will come on offense.
Did you think the right decision was made at the QB position?
Matt Fortuna (2:13 PM)
I touched on this a little in my post on Dayne Crist today (shameless plug). I do think it was the right call. The guy battled back from two potentially crippling knee injuries after starting a year ago and won over the staff and that locker room. I'm glad they gave Rees a legitimate shot, though, after he went 4-0.
How much do you think the blue chip recruits on defense (Lynch, Tuitt, Ishaq) will play?
Matt Fortuna (2:16 PM)
We will see Lynch and Tuitt early and often. Brian Kelly said yesterday the heat will force a lot of newcomers in possibly the first dozen plays. A day earlier, he said we may see multiple freshmen play at once as well.
Matt Fortuna (2:18 PM)
Cheesehead, looks like I missed your question. A top-10 freshmen class this year shows these guys can still recruit with anybody. That being said, none of the kids they are going after right now were alive the last time the Irish won a national title, which makes years like this one so important.
John (Clinton Township, MI)
Hey Matt!! I love the new blog, and want to thank you for putting so many articles out so quickly! How do you see us doing against the Michigan schools... I live in Michigan and when we lose to both, it is pretty tough living with MSU and Michigan fans. I can't take another loss to an inferior Michigan team!!!!
Matt Fortuna (2:20 PM)
Hey John, appreciate it. A split wouldn't surprise me. Before any games are played, I would personally rank USF as a tougher opponent than Michigan. That being said, the variables that will surround the first night game in Ann Arbor, along with a new coach and this rivalry's history, may make it uncomfortable for the Irish.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (@CheeseheadSN)
I went to college in Pittsburgh and think it is a grossly underrated city in terms of beauty with the hills and rivers. As a native New Yorker, what is your take on Pittsburgh?
Matt Fortuna (2:23 PM)
I'm with you, Cheesehead. I can't understand why it takes so much slack. The view at a Pirates game across the Clemente Bridge ranks right up there with any.
Ryan (Hanover, PA)
Wouldn't you agree that Cierre Wood is our most important player to keep healthy? No depth at the RB position
Matt Fortuna (2:24 PM)
I agree. Jonas Gray will be a great complementary back, but there's not much proven talent behind either of those two at the moment.
Do you look for the Irish to come out throwing or making an effort to establish the ground game?
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
It wouldn't shock me if they came out throwing. There has been a lot of talk about how much more comfortable the offense is as a whole with a second-year QB and a second-year coach. Brian Kelly also said yesterday that he would like to have the first possession of the game with so much returning talent.
Jon (Portland, OR)
Matt - I can understand people saying ND could finish 9-3 (the W-L I keep hearing for 2011) based on some game-changing plays that lead to losses. But other than bad luck, nobody seems to be able to point to any glaring weaknesses in this team that would cause those losses. What's your take?
Matt Fortuna (2:28 PM)
Depth at running back and cornerback are the biggest personnel concerns. They also plan to play a lot of freshmen. Kelly said earlier this month he would put his 22 against any in the country. What sits behind that against a scheduled with no breathers remains to be seen.
Dustin (Columbus, OH)
Does Notre Dame have to beat Michigan to have an 8-win season?
Matt Fortuna (2:29 PM)
I wouldn't say that. They won eight games last year in the first year of a new system after losing to Michigan.
Similar to a question I asked Brian Bennett....looking at the injuries, unusual losses last season (U-M, MSU, Tulsa) and the close wins (USC, and I'll grant you Pitt), wasn't ND a 9-win team last season at least? Hard to see them not winning 10 this year, right?
Matt Fortuna (2:31 PM)
That's a lot of ifs you presented. I'd argue Weis' last team was a few breaks away from three more wins. This year's team has also been lucky health-wise so far.
So is the schedule this year tough or easy? I hear experts say both. I say tough based on how many teams went to bowls last year.
Matt Fortuna (2:34 PM)
I'm with you. From the outset, I think the only game anyone can point to ND as the definitive underdog in is Stanford. But a lot can go either way. Sure, they could and probably will be favored in their Sept. contests, but that's asking a lot of a relatively young team that won't have any 1-AA creampuffs to pound on in the early going.
Over/Under 4 combined Kickoff/Punt returns for TD's this year for Riddick?
Matt Fortuna (2:35 PM)
Under. That's asking an awful lot to wager on, especially if we're not using Monopoly money.
driving to South Bend tonight! doesn't having to prepare for a dual threat QB in Daniels give ND a step up going into the Michigan game for Denard?
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
That's a question I posed to a few of the players this week. In 2011, it is less out of the ordinary to find mobile QBs like that. I think what makes Daniels so difficult is his size and unwillingness to go down after being initially hit.
Glad to have someone dedicated to ND! What's your game on ND's schedule that people seem to be overlooking that could be dangerous? My pick is Maryland, but Pitt is a close second.
Matt Fortuna (2:40 PM)
Pitt is a possibility, but how about South Florida? This is a darkhorse contender for a Big East title. Kelly wasn't kidding around when he said on his radio show yesterday that it may just be a battle of two BCS bowl teams tomorrow.
mike (red bank)
hey matt, could notre dame possibly win a national championship in the next 2 years or are we still in a rebuild mode??
Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM)
That's a lot to ask, especially since next year's schedule doesn't make things any easier. I'd settle on contending for a BCS bowl bid for now, but we'll know a lot more a month from now.
what happened to brian? who are you?
Matt Fortuna (2:43 PM)
Brian's still here, just over at the Big Ten blog now. I'm taking over Irish coverage from here on out. Also, I'm Matt. I take it you're Joe?
Raven (Ventura, CA)
Hey Matt! better this season: passing offense or run game?
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
It will have to be the passing offense with the skill position players they have coming back.
Dan (Muncie, IN)
Against South Florida tomorrow what will be the key indicator that ND has BCS potential this year like some are saying? Is it the defense picking up where they left off last year? Crist and the offense producing and looking truly comfortable in Kelly's offense?
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
I'd keep my eye on the pressure the defense gets up front. If they're having trouble against an O-line replacing three starters, I'd be worried.
tony tussle (stefansville)
Matt!!! Why should Notre Dame start Crist when he didnt even have a winning record? I dont seem to have much faith in him...
Matt Fortuna (2:48 PM)
He got hurt in two of those losses, for one. And you can't forget he was a new starter under a new coach. Rees did his job in going 4-0, but the defense carried much of the load during that season-ending stretch. Crist's completion percentage will have to improve if the Irish plan on reaching a BCS bowl game this year, but I think it was the right call.
Eleach (Tampa, Florida)
I too respect and love the tradition of ND football but am alum from USF. I feel tomorrow will go a long way to show which 8-5 team has improved the most. I only speak from the USF side because that is all I study and look at but I think if ND comes in and disrespects USF they will be in for a long day. Holtz has our boys ready for this one! Thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
This is certainly a bigger game for USF from a program standpoint. A win in South Bend would be huge for what is still a developing program. And you can bet Skip Holtz will carry a little more of an edge into this one.
Word is going around that some USF fans painted the new ND hockey arena with their logo. Do you think this will give the Irish players even more motivation to beat SF on the field tomorrow?
if brian is there with you will you tell him i miss him and ask him if my cookies were delivered to him yet?
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
I'll make sure he gets the message, Joe.
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
Larry, I haven't heard that one yet, and I don't think Skip would love that his alma mater was defaced (if true). But ND shouldn't need any other reason to get up for its opener.
Who's Noter Dime? We want to talk about Russell Wilson!
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
Who doesn't after last night? Luckily more games are on the way and we'll have plenty to talk about this weekend.
Eugene Thaddeus (Islip)
Welcome Matt! Glad you are here! Single biggest obstacle that keeps ND froma BCS Bowl this season?
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
Lack of depth, even if many of these freshmen make an immediate impact. The Irish will get most opponents' best shot every week and can't get complacent if they start strong.
Riddick is so explosive! Im not sure any team on our schedule knows just how electric he is. His injury held him back alot last year, combining that with ND's return game being so generic, I think Riddick surprises everyone in the return game! 4 might be alot to ask, but 1 is coming this Saturday!! I would put Boardwalk on it!
Matt Fortuna (3:02 PM)
I expect a check in the mail Sunday, Andy.
Kurt Kringlefinkle (Oakland)
hey matt, does brian kelly have top 10 talent on his team?
Matt Fortuna (3:05 PM)
I think so, but it will come down to harnessing it -- knowing what situations to play X, who Y can't play with, etc. The challenge is establishing that early enough to remain a contender.
Howdy Matt! I want to ask you about the team speed. The freshman on the d-line are top caliber, but the majority of the rest of the defense still lacks SEC-level speed. What is/will Diaco doing to compensate for this?
Matt Fortuna (3:06 PM)
Howdy Bonnie. Expect a lot of substitutions so each player can go full-speed when he is in. The relief on the starters' faces when mentioning how happy they are to have legitimate backups said a lot.
Golden Tate (via mobile)
Yo Matt, have you tried these maple bars?
Matt Fortuna (3:08 PM)
Have not, Golden. I'm new to town and am already echoing Tribune scribe Brian Hamilton in saying I can't believe there isn't a Dunkin' Donuts here.
Matt...why all the hype for ND? It seems it is based on their last 4 games where they basically beat a bunch of mediocre teams, including a bad Miami team.
Matt Fortuna (3:09 PM)
Gary, they won't apologize for it, and they shouldn't. Seventeen starters are back on a team that, based on all accounts, has finally picked up the new system.
T.J. (Norman, OK)
Hey Matt...in your opinion, does Notre Dame wind up in the Big XII?
Matt Fortuna (3:10 PM)
Matt Fortuna (3:10 PM)
Sorry, didn't mean to yell.
can you read minds?
Matt Fortuna (3:11 PM)
If I did I probably wouldn't be a sportswriter. Maybe a great coach, though.
Matt Fortuna (3:13 PM)
Will take a few more ...
John (Mendham, NJ)
Matt, 'top-10' recruiting class for ND hasn't passed the smell test in about a decade, no? Just because ND recruits them doesn't mean they should get bumped up a star. Or has Brian Kelly really done that much in this area?
Matt Fortuna (3:15 PM)
John, I think the biggest difference we've seen so far is Kelly luring top defensive prospects as well. Charlie Weis simply didn't do that.
I will be back next week and we'll discuss my payout when Theo takes the opening KO to the house!!
Matt Fortuna (3:16 PM)
Fair enough. I may have to include a big Denard TD as a double-or-nothin' proposition though.
True or false : Norte Dame will be in a conference within the next 5 years?
Matt Fortuna (3:19 PM)
Jay, I'd lean toward false but who really knows what the college sports landscape will look like in 2016?
Matt Fortuna (3:20 PM)
That's all from me, guys. Thanks for stopping by. I will be a considerably happier man 24 hours from now watching live college football. Cheers.