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!
Matt (2:02 PM)
Greetings from Pittsburgh, everyone. Let's get right to it.
Mike (Seattle, Wa)
With the young talent on the DL, 2 true freshman, Lynch and Tuitt and redshirt Nix. How do you see this line in say 2 years?
Matt (2:04 PM)
Mike, really good. One of the unspoken positives so far has been Nix's stamina at nose guard. This is a guy who was told to expect 12-15 plays per game in the spring, something he said he wasn't OK with. Even then, he was thinking he'd get around 20 snaps a game, not the 30-40 he's been seeing so far.
Marc A (Dallas)
I do feel for Dayne Crist but at the same time I think Tommy is the future, should be starting and is our leader, at least for the next several years. Dayne has this year and another of eligibilty left. What are the chances he looks for a transfer?
Matt (2:06 PM)
Marc, that's something to monitor as the season rolls along. I don't think we've seen the last of Dayne Crist on the field, but just how much could determine what action he takes at the end of the year. If it's clear there's no room for him on the field next year, I wouldn't be shocked if he transferred.
Matt, I think most fans aren't giving Tommy Rees a fair shake. Yes he has had too many turnovers but he has only started 6 games in his career. I think Rees will be ok just needs more experience.
Matt (2:08 PM)
Curt, I think most agree with you in sentiment. But when a team commits as many turnovers as ND does and he's responsible for a good amount of them, he's going to take some heat. I'd expect that to clean up as he grows as a QB.
what are the best and worst case scenarios for this season? also, is Rees the starter next year?
Matt (2:10 PM)
TW, best case is win out, go 10-2 and make a BCS bowl. Worst case is probably somewhere along .500, though I have a hard time seeing that happen with such a talented roster. Rees would have the inside track moving forward if he continues to develop, but I'm sure Brian Kelly would make him earn it in the offseason with so much young talent behind him.
Ryno (Fort Myers, FL)
Pitt's O-Line is terrible, so we should expect lots of slants and fades/jump-balls from Sunseri. Considering the Gary Gray problem with spotting balls in the air, do think Notre Dame's dominance up front might actually hurt them this weekend?
Matt (2:12 PM)
Ryno, I wouldn't say that. The secondary played with a chip on its shoulder and had a nice game last weekend. It needs to continue to be aggressive. And I agree, Sunseri may be on the ground more often than not this weekend.
I know a lot of people have been raving about Aaron Lynch, but I was wondering what you thought of the performance of other freshmen last week? Is there a legitimate reason they didn't play against Michigan?
Matt (2:14 PM)
George Atkinson III obviously impressed with a big momentum changer on special teams. Troy Niklas did a nice job stepping up as well, aside from slipping on MSU's touchdown. The reason Lynch and Tuitt didn't play at Michigan had more to do with facing Denard Robinson and being disciplined. One whiff could cost you six points, and I think they wanted their veterans in there for assignment football.
MSU was called for a lot of penalties. I thought Michigan committed just as many, if not more, but they weren't called. Am I just a biased ND fan?
Matt (2:15 PM)
Nate, if you were a biased ND fan you'd at least be complaining about the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on TJ Jones that the Big Ten later said was the wrong call.
Has ND been trying to overachieve for too long? By the end of the season they will have played or could play 5 teams in the top 25 in the country. Should ND start to lower its sites in order to look like a team that at least can say they are pretty good?
Matt (2:16 PM)
Bill, this is what comes with being an independent and playing a national schedule, and that won't change anytime soon. Also, if you think they're trying to overachieve this year, I can imagine what you think about the coming years with some of the giants they're facing.
Brian (Saginaw, MI)
Any chance Hendrix or Golson play this week?
Matt (2:18 PM)
Brian, I'd imagine it will depend on if they can get ahead by enough. I'd be surprised if we didn't see either by at least next week at Purdue, given that the element of surprise would be reduced dramatically the longer they wait to insert one of them.
Phillip (A stadium near you)
Matt,could we please get this unsportsman like conduct straighten out. All weekend I see players flashing their gloves to the crowd after a TD and then ND gets a penalty for doing it. Either penaltize everybody or don't penalize anybody.what did you think of that penalty?
Matt (2:19 PM)
Phillip, as I was saying, the refs blew that call and the Big Ten knew it. OSU had the same problem last year against Michigan while wearing throwback jerseys with similar gloves. Nonetheless, TJ Jones said he won't celebrate that way anymore just to be safe. And I'd imagine Brian Kelly wouldn't shed a tear if they dropped those guys moving forward.
How many first rounders do you see on ND's roster, top to bottom? Not necessarily this year, but all up and down the roster.
Matt (2:23 PM)
Dawgler, I'll give it my best shot in the amount of space I have here: Te'o definitely, Floyd potentially, Wood has an outside shot, Lynch has a chance if he continues to develop in the next few years. I'm sure I'm missing a few but it's considerably less clear after Te'o.
Should Michael Floyd be in the conversation for the Heisman?
Matt (2:24 PM)
Larry, ND is 1-2, so the spotlight isn't exactly on him right now. Floyd's numbers definitely warrant him being in the discussion, however, and I'm sure he'll get his national due once his team wins a few games.
Curt, which games do you foresee to be the most troublesome?
Matt (2:25 PM)
Stanford is obviously the big one, though that's a long time from now and both teams could be in different shape by then. USC won't be easy. And I think a Maryland or an Air Force won't roll over and could try to catch ND off guard, though I'm sure the Irish will go to lengths to make sure that doesn't happen.
Tara (the burg)
Do not under estimate Ray Graham this weekend he can and will take down the Irish.........
Matt (2:27 PM)
Tara, no one's underestimating Ray Graham, but did you see what ND did to MSU's ground game last week? Pitt's O-line has struggled so far and ND's D-line has a lot of momentum going for it after knocking Kirk Cousins down so much last week.
Jeremy (Los Angeles, CA)
Matt, as you stated, "best case is win out, go 10-2", but honestly...that is the realistic scenario in my opinion. Brian Kelly = Championships. Take it to the bank!
Matt (2:27 PM)
Jeremy, 10-2 usually isn't enough to make the title game, unless the dominoes fall and something crazy happens like in 2007 with LSU.
We've heard about Kelly's "change of pace" Quarterbacks, but we've yet to see Hendrix or Golson. Any chance we see either one of them in the coming weeks?
Matt (2:28 PM)
A repeat offender! I'll be nice since we have the same first name. I think it could be this week or next week, depending on how close the game is. I do think Kelly would have tried to get one in sooner, but the game situations have not allowed for that to happen yet.
Brian (Saginaw, MI)
Notre Dame's special teams has been inconsistant at best so far this year... is this the week Notre Dame fans see continued improvement in all their special teams
Matt (2:30 PM)
Brian, ND certainly hopes so. Ben Turk had his best game last weekend but knows that's just a small first step and he needs to continue that every week. The punt return team could see a new face with Robby Toma tomorrow (and possibly Harrison Smith given Pitt's unconventional formation), but I think long-term Kelly would really like Theo Riddick to eventually emerge from the pack.
How is the 2012 recruiting class look so far and do we have a legitimate shot for any of the 5 star recruits?
Matt (2:32 PM)
John, so far, so good. I'd keep an eye on four-star RB William Mahone from Ohio. And I wouldn't expect too much with the program in recruiting until about a month from now, since there are no big home games until USC comes to town.
Rob ((Boston, MA))
So, what are the chances of Crist transferring to Florida next year to play for Weis?
Matt (2:33 PM)
Rob, that would be funny, no? If Crist does transfer, I'd imagine it would be to a program a notch below ND and Florida, where he'd be virtually assured of playing.
Tyler (Frostburg MD)
How long can Tommy Ree's get away with force-feeding Mike Floyd the ball and where is Theo Riddick this year?
Matt (2:36 PM)
Tyler, Rees showed a better knack for distributing the ball last week, but when you have a talent like Floyd on the team, it's no secret that you'll try to feed him the ball. Riddick's bounced back nicely from a rough Week 1, but I think his potential on special teams is enough that Kelly will continue to work with him there until he can get comfortable.
Do you think Kelly would be on hot seat if ND misses bowl game?
Matt (2:37 PM)
Grant, I don't think he'd be fired, no, but the pressure would jump a level going into next season, especially with that schedule.
In your blog earlier this week, you discussed other possible candidates for the punt return job being Toma and Harrison Smith - after seeing what G.A. III can do in the return game, why is his name not being thrown around? It can't be his inexperience if they're willing to put him out there on kickoffs.
Matt (2:39 PM)
Ryno, you bring up an interesting point. My initial guess would be that they wouldn't want to throw too much on his plate as a freshman. I do think at this point it's a situation where they're trying to take as few risks as possible, too.
Matt,No health issues after last week's victory, any idea as to what kind of offense PITT will employ to try and deal with our pass rush and run stopping? Looking at Todd Graham's track record, I know Trevor Matich warned on CFLive yesterday about fake punts and trick plays since Sunseri usually stays on the field for special teams formations. I'm curious to see if they try to mix it up or if they rely heavily on Ray Graham to carry the load...your thoughts?
Matt (2:41 PM)
Shane, that's why Smith has been seeing action on the punt return team this week, since it's sometimes difficult to tell whether Pitt is actually going to punt or not. I think Pitt will try to go to Graham and establish the run from the start. If they ball behind early it would be much more difficult, especially against ND's pass-rush.
Matt, I cannot imagine a change not happening at punter. Turk was better last week, but really only marginally. I can't help but think Brinzda gets some chances soon. What do you think?
Matt (2:43 PM)
Robb, I talked to Brindza about this this week. He and the staff seem to agree that they don't want to put too much on his plate as a freshman. And he re-iterated what everyone else has been saying: that Turk has shined in practice. That all being said, I'd expect Brindza to get a chance if Turk reverts back to his Week 1 or 2 self.
Danny (Clemmons, NC)
If Brian Kelly were to lose to Michigan again next year (3 years in a row for him and 4 years in a row for ND) woudl his job be in jeopardy or is ND content with losing that game year after year?
Matt (2:45 PM)
Danny, ND and Kelly obviously wouldn't be content with any loss, but we're not exactly talking about the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry here. There's no label attached to it, it's always early in the season and Michigan hasn't exactly built off that win in recent years. In short, Kelly will not be judged by that game.
Matt what are your expectations for this game against Pittsburg?
Matt (2:47 PM)
Curt, Pitt is 3rd to last in the nation in giving up 12 sacks this season, including 7 against Maine. I mentioned that to Aaron Lynch and he said if that's the case, ND should be good for double-digits. I think Pitt will have a hard time moving on offense and will be forced to throw the ball a lot like MSU last week.
There is no doubt ND will win the rest of their games. USC is not good anymore, and we beat them last year! Stanford is overrated. Every game we can win, and win big. BCS bowl at the end of this season maybe??
Matt (2:49 PM)
Paul, 10-2 would most likely be good enough for a BCS bowl. But let's not ignore the fact the IRish got incredibly lucky during last year's USC game and that should have no bearing on this year's whatsoever. Stanford has looked great so far, though the loss of Shayne Skov is a big blow.
Martin (South Bend)
What is your prediction for tomorrow's game?
Matt (2:50 PM)
Martin, I took the Irish by a 35-17 score. As I've said earlier, I don't see the Pitt offense being able to do much.
The Pitt Offensive line has more to do with how long Sunseri has held the ball, and it getting better though still making mistakes. I will give you that ND probably will win this week, but do you really think you can continue to turn the ball over at the rate you are and still go 10-2 or anywhere close?
Matt (2:53 PM)
Jason, I assume by "you" you mean Notre Dame, which I am not a part of. Regardless, no, I don't think the Irish can run the table while continuing to turn the ball over at the rate they have.
Josh (Saratoga, NY)
Matt, what do you think of the jumbotron debate? Coach Kelly commented on it during his radio show last night. I know it's a point of much controversy for some alums and fans, but is it something that ND needs to bring back some home field advantage?
Matt (2:54 PM)
Josh, that was interesting to hear. Even though Kelly insisted he had no "inside information," I doubt he'd be throwing it out there unless there were some discussions.
Don't you find it a little ridiculous that we beat a ranked Michigan St team and are not in the top 25 this wk, while a team like USC hasn't beaten anyone, and is ranked??
Matt (2:55 PM)
Paul, not at all. USC has won every game it has played while Notre Dame has lost two of three. Fairly simple.
Matt (2:55 PM)
I have time for a few more ...
Paul (Aberdeen, MD)
Who has been ND's biggest bust this year and their biggest surprise this year?
Matt (2:57 PM)
I think Crist has to be the bust by default, though you can certainly make an argument he didn't get enough of a chance to disprove that. Surprise? I think the run game has been better than most would expect.
Matt, if I am not mistaken Gray had more carries than Wood last week, and he certainly looked good. Is this just ND wanting to use the bigger back against MSU or getting Cierre a breather or a combination of both? Who gets the bulk of the carries this week?
Matt (3:00 PM)
Bob, Wood had two more carries. Still, I think it's just a matter of giving defenses different looks. Cierre is still the No. 1 back.
Brian (Saginaw, MI)
Have you made up your mind? Are you going to see Moneyball before or after Notre Dame wins tomorrow?
Matt (3:01 PM)
Brian, if I see it it won't be on the road this weekend, though I'll keep you all informed.
Matt (3:02 PM)
That's all from me. Glad to see you are all in a considerably better mood after one win. Until next time ...