Chat with Matt Fortuna
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Matt Fortuna (2:00 PM)
Welcome back, everyone. Happy to get things started and suffer through just three more weeks of no football. It's been some time, so let's get things started.
Jon (South Bend, IN)
Matt, I know there's a lot of talk about who's going to get the starting qb job but do either of the two frontrunners (golson/hendrix) actually seem like they'll improve our offense and run the spread like its supposed to be run? Or is it more of we're looking for the qb who is going to mess up less and we should rely more on our running game and our defense? Thanks for all the good work, much appreciated.
LG (Columbus, Ohio)
What would you think about ND going into the game @ Oklahoma 5-1? Might be a bit of a "reach", but certainly is obtainable with the loss @ MSU. 9-3 and not getting hammered with all 3 losses coming on the road would be a really good year. Win a bowl and finish 10-3 and things would set up nicely for the Irish in 2013. Thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:08 PM)
Thanks Jon. Yes, I do believe either of those starters would improve the offense, specifically Golson. The guy has a great arm, is incredibly shift and elusive, and he has seemed to do a better job of staying in the pocket and not panicking when things break down. Mistakes will happen, because they always do, especially to new QBs -- such as Golson fumbling a snap after getting chewed out by Brian Kelly yesterday -- but if he's the starter, it won't be to simply protect the ball.
Matt Fortuna (2:12 PM)
(That answer was for the first question, this one for LG's). LG, why not 6-1? In any event, it's possible, though not something I'd exactly count on. Michigan and MSU are obvious tough games, and Stanford and BYU are nothing to overlook, either. You can't forget that this is a program that lost its opener to a USF squad that ended up winning one game in the Big East, so it's tough to give it the benefit of the doubt when predicting many close calls. And yes, 10-3 would be outstanding this season.
LG (Columbus, Ohio)
Matt- In your opinion would ND win the ACC this year if they were in the conference?
Matt Fortuna (2:13 PM)
LG (again), tough to say because we don't know what the nonconference schedule would be. Either way, though, I think FSU is the team to beat this year in the ACC.
Brian Frisch (Cincinnati, OH)
Is the pattern still Golson getting most of the reps at QB? Or has that situation changed more recently?
Matt Fortuna (2:16 PM)
Brian, BK has said the reps have been split pretty evenly between the two. Golson was running the first-team tempo drills and did so in live action yesterday. We'll see how that shakes out, as it's far from a done race (though I think Golson will be the guy to beat.)
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
Just to clarify that answer Golson was running first-team tempo in the two practices the media has been to***
With the loss of Floyd, relative inexperience at quarterback and a recent reputation as a "tight end factory," does Tyler Eifert explode this season to become NDs best TE ever?
Matt Fortuna (2:22 PM)
Dustin, that is certainly a possibility. It will be interesting to see how defenses adjust with Eifert, a TE, as the focal point of the passing game. It will help the younger receivers, too.
Josh (columbus, ohio)
From everything I;ve seen and read so far, it sounds as though Bennett Jackson has the potential to be a shut down CB for the Irish. If this is indeed the case, how is the battle between Atkinson and Wood shaping up at the other CB position?
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Josh, yesterday was the first time BK said with any real sort of definity that Lo Wood can be a good player. I think he'll be the starting field corner, though he's not as sure a thing as Bennett Jackson at this point.
Ryan (North Canton, Ohio)
I am not sure if we should write off Rees just yet. Many QB's make the most progress going into their 3rd year. Look at Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. He knows the playbook and has experience, but my only question is whether he has the arm strength and accuracy.
Matt Fortuna (2:31 PM)
Ryan, it's a tricky read at this point. He's seen no real snaps in the practice portions the media has seen, which BK said has been pretty typical across all practices so far. The other QBs have praised him for his coaching, etc., but you have to wonder what's in store for him. He's obviously ruled out for Week 1 and it will be tough to break him back in if everything goes relatively smoothly without him. Of course, he's a great asset to have -- someone with plenty of starting experience, who knows the playbook as well as anyone -- but I can't honestly say I know what's in store.
Ryan (North Canton, Ohio)
I have to think that ND will focus heavily on running the football. Do you think Atkinson and Carlisle will get many carries this year behind Wood and Riddick?
Matt Fortuna (2:36 PM)
Ryan, Carlisle will be an interesting situation, as he is still favoring his ankle and is only about 80 percent. Wood and Riddick are far and ahead of everyone else, and GA3 could see some meaningful time there as well. ND has a good problem back there. Yesterday a good portion of their live action was on screen passes and swing passes out of the backfield. I think the running game -- and more specifically the running backs -- will have a very strong year.
Hayden (Grand Rapids)
Hello Matt, which Notre Dame freshman have really stood out so far in practices? Thoughts on Jarron Jones/Sheldon Day at this point?
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
Happy to answer questions for anyone with my mother's maiden name. Chris Brown has opened a lot of eyes with his play so far. Elijah Shumate has moved from safety to CB and could see some snaps there. And yes, Day has impressed so far.
From your blog entry on the open media practice, it sounds like Golson was pretty rough around the edges. In the limited time it seemed like Hendrix was fairly poised when he was thrown in there last year. His arm looks great and he is a power runner (Tebow-ish). In limited spring time, Golson's numbers came out well, but I wouldn't consider it earth-shattering. Seems like Hendrix is just, not only safer, but more experienced and poised and would be better suited to be the starter over Golson who would have to go through the bumps/jitters that Hendrix may have already gone through. Does Hendrix seem like the best bet to you? He does to me and I was really excited about what I saw from him in a real game that counts aside from a few hiccups after being thrown into the fire.
Matt Fortuna (2:43 PM)
Adam, Golson looked better yesterday until live drills, where I think Hendrix performed a little bit better. His completion percentage was better and he wasn't afraid to take off and run up the middle when things broke down. Then again, he tossed a swing pass to Cierre Wood that almost killed him, so he wasn't exactly perfect, either. I do think last year's experience certainly helped him, but the fact he couldn't earn any more time than he did late in the season is alarming to me. And everyone's going to go through a welcome-to-college-football moment; it shouldn't be the deciding factor in naming a starter though. Especially against a defense like Navy's.
I'm a bit torn with Golsen getting the reigns to start the season, if he does. He has no game experience, but from what i've seen, the most talent of any of the QB's right now. He's got the quick feet and a nice arm, but none of it has been tested in real game action. He will make mistakes as young QB's do but here's the thing, we saw enough mistakes from everyone last year that I can't afford anymore excessive noise complaints from my constant screaming last season. A joke of course, but my point made. I guess my question is, if Golsen does start the first game in Dublin, what is his leash length? What has to happen for BK to try Hendrix? Or have you heard of any sort of double QB action? Sorry for the loaded question. Thanks!
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
Ben, a fair and reasonable question, given all the clamoring for Golson since he stepped on campus. He still needs to do a better job of getting the plays in on time, which he said he's gotten better at since the spring. And, like you said, we'll never really know how someone is until he takes his first game hit. Kelly said playing two QBs is possible, but he'd like for one guy to emerge as the clear No. 1. I think both will ended up seeing some time in Dublin regardless, it's just a matter of how big that disparity is.
Matt, when I look at Notre Dame's defense, I think with the experience and talent, that is the strength of the team. That said, can the defense do enough like Alabama and LSU last year to make the Irish a contender?
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
Josh, ND's front-seven is very good, but it is not on the same level as Alabama's or LSU's. I think the biggest concern with the Irish's front-seven is the depth. Losing Aaron Lynch obviously hurts, and while there are several capable back-ups along the line, there is a significant dropoff from the first-teamers to the second-string. I do like what's brewing at LB, with Ishaq Williams apparently giving Prince Shembo a strong push at the Cat and Ben Councell impressing yesterday in practice. That's worth keeping an eye on, especially with Spond's apparent concussion yesterday.
How about ND take on the elite of the Big Ten, and play a home and home with Wisconsin. With no deal with Michigan in place for 2018-19, why don't the Irish step up and play a real contender (sorry Michigan fans but beating VT who gave up 70 to Clemson in the ACC Champ, who then in turn gave up 70 to an ACC team, does not make u elite or even top-10 going into this year, just another case of the media hoping for an important michigan-OSU game)
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Dan, 38 points (what VT gave up in the ACC title game) is a far cry from 70. And Notre Dame fans aren't really in a position to say too much bad about Michigan right now. Wisconsin's administration has not been shy about trying to get the Irish on the schedule, so we'll see what comes of that. (If it gets me a trip to Madison, even if it's when I'm in my 30s, I'm in.)
Josh (Coos Bay, OR)
Matt,Who do you think will be this years captains? My picks are Slaughter(defense) and Wood(offense).
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Josh, you can't ignore Manti Te'o. I think he's a lock, with Slaughter, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Braxston Cave, Tyler Eifert and John Goodman all strong contenders. (I'm sure I missed a few there.)
Matt, thanks for the great work. Do people ever call you "TUNA" by chance?
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
You must hang out with some of my friends, Kyle. Yes, and it's starting to pick up with some of my work colleagues now as well.
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
Have time for a few more ...
Who would be the back up Dog right now since Spond is out? And who do you see really making an impact at wr?
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
Ryan, Ben Councell impressed a lot yesterday. At receiver, I think Davonte Neal is a guy who can open a lot of eyes early (apologies if I forgot to mention him among talented freshmen, though I think that shows I really haven't looked at him as a guy who just got on campus). Robby Toma is a terrific slot as well, and the lights look like they're starting to come on for Goodman and TJ Jones.
ronnie (las vegas)
this has to be the year the shut down denard and the skunkbears right??? Last couple of years we gave them the game!!
Matt Fortuna (3:02 PM)
Skunkbears, huh? That's a new one for me. In any event, I think a win is certainly possible, though Denard will likely get his anyway. Avoiding turnovers will give the Irish a good chance.
Any word from BK why he does not have a full time Special Teams coach? That seems to be a competitive disadvantage.
Matt Fortuna (3:04 PM)
Rich, I don't think it's as big a deal as some people make it out to be. Most college programs have special teams coaches handle other duties as well, or they won't even give a title to one coach, instead having others split duties all over the place. But, given the punt return struggles last season, I can certainly understand some people's frustration.
Matt Fortuna (3:04 PM)
That's all from me for today guys. Thanks again for stopping by. Glad to be back.