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 Fortuna (2:00 PM)
Welcome aboard, everyone. Hope you all have enjoyed the nice (almost) spring weather, the Big East (and every other) conference tournament and are ready to chat some pigksin, which kicks off at Notre Dame in 12 days. Let's get started ...
Hey Matt. Is anyone going to be in the stands on the Irish's first game in Dublin. I dont expect the Irish to care a lick about American football.
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
Jake, it's something I admittedly have not looked into all that much yet, but I don't think the game will be hurting for fans. In the fall, Notre Dame was reportedly expecting close to 20,000 traveling fans, and some believed that number could grow to 25,000. $400,00 has been pledged to ensure the band's trip there as well. It will obviously be a different crowd, but I expect a big one nonetheless. Should be fun to see.
Everett Golson (South Bend, Indiana)
Nobody's mentioning me in the quarterback battle. I got a shot right?
Matt Fortuna (2:11 PM)
I'd disagree, Everett. Sure, Gunner Kiel has become the flavor of the spring since his arrival, but you're also in a desirable position, as one of the great unknowns. You're skill set seems ideal for the spread offense, so I, like everyone else, am excited to see what you can do.
Dave (Grand Rapids MI)
Is ND gonna beat Michigan this year?
Matt Fortuna (2:14 PM)
Recent history -- couple with Michigan's rise -- suggests no, so I'm leaning that way right now. Of course, one can never predict the kind of wild finishes that this rivalry has produced the last three years, though the fact Michigan has ended up on the winning side of all of them gives me more faith in the Wolverines than Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly is going into his third season as HC. Anything less than a BCS bowl would be considered a failure, right?
Matt Fortuna (2:23 PM)
Ryan, it depends on what you're judging him by. Do you realistically think this team, with all of its unanswered questions at QB, WR and in the secondary, is capable of winning 10 games against this schedule? I have my doubts, though crazier things have certainly happened. You can argue that 2011 was a failure given the way ND lost four of its five games (Stanford's the only one the Irish never really had a strong chance in). That could have easily been a 10-2 regular season, maybe even 11-1. Now you're in the same position you were in coming out of year 1 and lost a bit of the recruiting momentum you were able to generate from a strong finish that year. Many think at least 8 wins are needed this season to keep things on an even ground and know that the program is not taking a step back, and then a BCS run could come the following year.
Matt Fortuna (2:23 PM)
Sorry for the delayed response, ran into some internet issues here.
Cheese Ball (Fort Wayne, IN)
What are your thoughts on Special Teams next year? Are the pieces in place to make ST a team strength?
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Cheese Ball (wow, that sounded weird), I think they can be. Davonte Neal seems like he has the talent to make an immediate impact there, and we've all always felt Theo Riddick could too, though that remains to be seen. George Atkinson figures to be a force on kick returns. I'm interested to see what new developments are in store with Scott Booker handling the units now.
fred metcalf (williamsburg, va)
Matt. Do you think Brian Kelly's emotional outbursts on the sidelines affect players performances? Thank you. Fred
Matt Fortuna (2:32 PM)
Fred, it's tough to say. Some kids respond to that kind of motivation, others don't. I generally like that in a coach, but given the turnovers and erratic play this season, I'm more inclined to say it didn't exactly benefit them on game day all that much. But again, I can't say with any certainty.
Ryan (North Canton, Ohio)
What are the odds that both Sheppard and Neal start at cornerback next year for the Irish? Who are the starters at cornerback as of now (Wood and Jackson???).
Matt Fortuna (2:34 PM)
Ryan, I'd have to think the jobs are Wood's and Jackson's to lose, at least as of now. I'd be surprised if Shepard didn't see meaningful playing time, however, and Neal is a wild card since we don't know where he'll end up on the roster.
Mark (Washington DC)
Hi Matt, How concerned should Irish fans be about ND's secondary?
Matt Fortuna (2:36 PM)
Mark, I'd say a good amount. Last year's had a potential first round pick at safety and two very talented corners and still had episodes like the fourth quarter at Michigan, along with games like USC and Stanford. There are just too many unknowns there right now, and given the passing offenses that ND will face this season, it is something the Irish will need to sort out early.
Matt - I know everyone is concerned (rightfully so) about the QB situation next year, but I am just as concerned with the WR position with Floyd leaving, TJ and Riddick playing well only in spurts, Goodman's lack of consistency, and the unknowns of Daniels, Ferguson, Brown, etc. Help me feel better about the WR situation . . . .
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
I don't have the brains to be a psychiatrist, Tom. Your concerns are justified. That being said, I wouldn't feel bad, necessarily, about any of hte players you mentioned. TJ Jones is good, Riddick is good (just maybe not as a receiver) and I can really see Goodman stepping up this year. Daniels is a great talent who I'd expect to see a lot of, and the freshmen will likely have the chance to seize opportunities early.
Peyton to ND! LOL - seriously though, which QB would you be most concerned about leaving if he does not start next season, if any?
Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM)
There has been a lot of speculation that Davonte Neal would be better suited to start in the defensive backfield. Knowing Brian Kelly's system and his love of athletes in space, wouldn't it make more sense for his to start in the slot? We can all but consider it a given he will be one of the leaders for returns, but I feel with his skill set we would get better value on Kelly's system with him on offense. Your thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Shane, I agree with you except for the holes in the secondary right now. But yes, Neal sounds like a guy I would want to have the ball in space, and the fact ND has a slot WRs coach makes me interested to see how they try to work Neal in if they choose to put him on offense.
How will i do at Kansas?
Matt Fortuna (2:45 PM)
I think you could put up a lot of points against Big 12 defenses, that's for sure. Here's hoping your quarterback gets a year of good health and no bad breaks, too.
John (Kansas City, MO)
Where do you see the Irish sitting as far as the post season?
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
John, I can't see a BCS bid with that schedule, so it will likely come down to picking up a leftover slot from a bowl whose affiliated conference failed to gain enough qualifying teams.
Bill O'Reilly (Charlotte, NC)
Does ND have a big RB to take over the Jonas Gray's role in the running game this year?
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
Bill, good question. Cierre Wood is the clear No. 1, and there is plenty of talent behind him, but how it will be sorted out is a mystery. BK has said repeatedly that George Atkinson's future is in the backfield, but I don't see him doing what Gray did between the tackles. Same with Amir Carlisle whenever he's eligible, as he's roughly 40 or so pounds lighter than Gray. Riddick could be back there, too, but he's like the others with his versatility.
Will Aaron Lynch grow into the best defensive player in the country?
Matt Fortuna (2:52 PM)
Bishop, he's certainly on the fast track toward stardom if he can channel his energy a little bit better. The raw talent is ridiculous, but now he needs to cut out all the dumb after-the-whistle penalties that drive coaches (and fans) nuts.
If a playoff comes about that requires every school to be associated with a conference, will ND compete in the Big East (like their other sports)? I've also heard of the school switching to the Big Ten? Which do you think is most likely?
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Rob, don't see that happening anytime soon, and I don't think I can ever picture ND going to the Big East for football. If pushed into a corner, I think the ACC would make most sense for ND, though the Big Ten would be a player as well.
looking at BK recruiting so far he has landed some nice recruits, no question, kiel and neal def helped that class. but its seems like everyone expected him to be a top recruiter year in and year out. whats going on?
Matt Fortuna (2:56 PM)
Rich, he got a great momentum push at the end of year 1, winning four straight games and getting several top recruits along the way, namely Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt. He could then sell ND as a future BCS team on the rise with new blood. That plan fell through this year in the form of another 8-5 season, and that had to be a turnoff for several of the big national players who had other powers looking at them.
Matt, do you think that in his first year, Davonte Neal could play both sides of the ball to see where he fits best. An athlete of his potential shouldn't have a problem with this right?
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Joe, I'm sure he'll get looks everywhere in practice, but I think moving a freshman back and forth in game situations -- especially in a spot like corner, where the margin for error is so thin -- could be a bit much for a kid just arriving to campus.
Matt (New York)
What are your thoughts on the shake up in the ND coaching staff? Specifically, I am interested in Chuck Martin coming across the line to run the offense and fix our QB woes. Would you say this is "out of the box" to bring a defensive minded coach into a messy QB situation?
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
Matt from New York wins reader of the day honors. To get to your question though, yes, on the surface to the outside eye, a secondary coach moving to coach QBs and coordinate the offense is a strange move. That being said, Martin held the same duties for six years at Grand Valley State and had plenty of success. You probably won't find a more engaging guy on the staff in conversation, and he is very flexible. As he told us upon his move, "I'm not looking to build my offensive empire." He's a football coach, and this is his next big challenge.
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
That's all from me today, folks. Hope everyone enjoys the weekend. Heard the basketball team has a big game tonight. (On ESPN, too!)