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 aboard everyone. Busy times around Notre Dame football. Shoot:
Lucas (Toronto, Canada)
Matt, great job you are doing so far, giving Lou Somogyi a run for his money! Anyways, with the obvious concern about the weakness and inexperience at cornerback, how is Diaco going to have to plan around this schematic disadvantage?
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
Lucas, appreciate that, but no one can touch Lou when it comes to Notre Dame history, nor should anyone even bother to try. As for the question, it will be interesting to watch this season, given the lack of blitzes Diaco's defenses have had in the past. Certainly he has a strong first-team line, but finding other ways to get to the quarterback would be, I'd imagine, more of a necessity now given the uncertainty in the defensive backfield.
Chad (Columbus, OH)
Do you think the Irish have enough talent to compete with USC, Oklahoma, Mich, and Standford this year? I'm not sure I'll survive another season of Notre Dame losing the big games. Thanks Matt. Look forward in reading about your thoughts on this.
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
Chad, talent-wise, they are not up there with USC and Oklahoma, no. But that's why we play these games, no? USF and Tulsa don't stack up to ND talent-wise, and that did not seem to matter on those respective Saturdays. I think the Michigan and Stanford games are certainly winnable, but recent history is not on the Irish's side with those opponents.
Cassidy (Austin, TX)
Given the length of time that has passed since Notre Dame has been on the same level as the consistent Top 10 teams in the land, do you ever foresee Notre Dame becoming a national powerhouse? If so why? If not, why?
Matt Fortuna (2:09 PM)
Cassidy, it's easy to envision ND becoming an annual BCS-bowl contender: Great facilities, great tradition, great recruiting, great support. Everything is in place for that. Can ND do what Alabama has done recently and become not just a double-digit win team every season, but a national title contender every season? It would be tough. Despite all of those advantages, there are the obvious concerns about location, climate, discipline and academics, as ND simply can't recruit the same kind of kids that many other big schools can.
Every year we hear about camaraderie, energy, and teamwork. Is there really a different feel around the team this year or is it the same dialogue just another group of players? Thanks for all you do
Matt Fortuna (2:12 PM)
Joel, we've seen a total of one full practice and the beginning of another. I could not honestly or accurately tell you about the camaraderie and atmosphere around the team outside of what I hear and what they say publicly. On that level, yes, things have been a bit toned-down this year, as the staff and players have seemed to take more of a day-by-day approach, whereas last year "BCS-BCS-BCS" was seemingly every other word out of their mouths. I do think this team is loaded with strong senior leaders, though, moreso than in the past.
Jeff (South Bend)
Hi Matt! I have been really excited to see Devonte Neal get out on the field this season, but haven't heard much about him out of camp. How is he looking to factor in this season? Does ND finally have a punt returner in him?
Matt Fortuna (2:14 PM)
Jeff, it wouldn't surprise me if he were starting by mid-season. I think this offense has the chance to really exploit his potential, and if he can prove he's ready to handle returns, all the better for the Irish.
Matt, how has Stephon Tuitt looked? Could we be looking at a future 1st round pick?
Matt Fortuna (2:14 PM)
Brian, in a word -- and at risk of over-inflating expectations for a kid two years away from thinking of that -- yes.
Bret (Camp Lejeune)
With Lo Wood out for the season, do you see the corner position being ND's 'achilles' this year? Or do we have enough young talent and depth/talent in the other positions for our D to stop some of the high-powered offenses we will face?
Matt Fortuna (2:18 PM)
Bret, the position was going to be ND's weakness before Wood went down, and even moreso now. I think some of the young guys, particularly KeiVarae Russell, have bright futures ahead, but they will be asked to do an awful lot so soon. The staff has raved about Bennett Jackson since the spring, and he seems to have the tools to succeed there. But as we saw last year, things can go South quickly at that position, and we just don't know how these guys will react until they get out there.
Ryan (Lexington, KY)
Do you believe Jarron Jones or Sheldon Day will see playing time this year? Have you seen anything that would suggest one is ahead of the other and would would that characteristic be?
Matt Fortuna (2:19 PM)
Ryan, I'd expect to see some of Sheldon Day on the second team this season. He's been around since the spring and would have a leg up.
Pat Whit (Bloomington, IL)
With Lo Wood out for the season, do you think it would be a good idea to swith Davonte Neal to CB or will he be too valuable at WR?
Matt Fortuna (2:21 PM)
Pat, at this point that would be asking too much too soon, especially given the progress Neal has seemed to make on the offensive side of the ball, where his ceiling is probably higher. KeiVarae Russell and Elijah Shumate have already been moved to corner in camp, too, so you can't just throw everyone in there to see what works with so little time remaining. We'll see if that changes next offseason, depending on what happens this fall.
J.Boyd (Columbus, Ohio)
What are the odds E. Golson starts in Ireland?
Matt Fortuna (2:22 PM)
J, I would be very surprised if Golson is not the starter for Week 1.
Matt, the big question for this team remains QB. Any inside baseball as to decision/release time?
Matt Fortuna (2:23 PM)
Chris, Brian Kelly is scheduled to speak after practice later today. It would not surprise me if an announcement is made then, but I think the biggest mystery right now, based on everything that has transpired in camp, is when and not if Golson will be named the Week 1 starter.
Mike Mac (Boston)
With Gholson and Hendrix splitting reps, that leaves Rees and Kiel on the outside looking in. While Rees got himself into this situation, Kiel did not and he picked ND hoping to play "soon". Do you see any of these guys transferring out under any circumstance? Thanks and your effort in covering this team is second to none.
Matt Fortuna (2:27 PM)
Appreciate the kind words, Mike. I think it's too soon to speculate with those two. Yes, Kiel is a highly touted prospect who wants to get on the field like anyone else, but he knew what he got himself into by going to ND and understands the situation. He has, by all accounts, done very well, but he lacks the experience the others have with this offense. Rees, meanwhile, is an invaluable piece if you think about it: A potential reserve who knows the playbook inside and out and already has connections with everyone on offense. It's not like he'll leave this season, and his coaching aspirations are no secret, either. We'll see what happens this season before making any predictions on these guys' long-term futures.
Josh (Coos Bay, OR)
I can't believe no one has mentioned the announcement of Golson as the starting QB. No way I'm the first to bring it up. Anyway, in my humble opinion, this is the best news to come out of South Bend all summer. Matt, do you think Golson will be the starter all season now regardless of on-field performance?
Matt Fortuna (2:32 PM)
Josh, that's because there has been no announcement. Maybe there will be when Kelly speaks to us later today. In any event, no, you can't assume the Week 1 starter is the season starter, not with Kelly's history at the position and not with three other guys fighting for playing time.
Jeff (Rowayton, CT)
Matt, Fr. Jenkins, Swarbrick and Kelly seem like they've had a plan in place to rebuild this program. Yes, they choose the harder path (academics, independent scheduling, BCS hurdles) but do you see the foundation of Notre Dame football getting stronger? It's obviously no there yet, but is there progress? Of course it can't come fast enough for ND fans.
Matt Fortuna (2:34 PM)
Jeff, you're pretty on-point with your last comment. I do like the foundation of Kelly's teams, which, in a shift from the last regime, have seemed to acknowledge that everything starts in the trenches. I know comments like "If we win 8 games three years in a row ..." does not exactly excite the fan base, but stability is a good thing.
Which team where ND is favored should they worry about upset the most and vice versa?
Matt Fortuna (2:35 PM)
Mike, I wouldn't "not worry" about any game, but it is easy to overlook BYU and Stanford given the other name programs on this schedule.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Is Louis Nix forcused and ready to go after speculation he would leave during the offseason? Do expect more boom or bust out of the big DT season?
Matt Fortuna (2:37 PM)
Tony, Louis has looked great from what we've seen and seems to be back to his old self, loving every second of life. It certainly makes life easier for us reporters, that's for sure. To get to your question, he's a great player and I'd expect good things from him this year, but you have to wonder how many opportunities he'll get to really display his skills in the middle if opposing teams choose to spread it out and attack the Irish's pass defense often.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Does Ishaq Williams make an impact for the Irish on defense this season?
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
Tony, I think that would be very big for the Irish, especially with the latest secondary news. An extra pass rusher would life a lot easier for the defense as a whole, and Williams' athleticism would certainly seem like an ideal fit to see more opportunities should the Irish decide to move in that direction.
Kyle (Athens, Ohio)
How do you see carries being split between Cierre and Theo? And who is the receiver you really expect to break out this year, freshman and non-freshman?
Matt Fortuna (2:40 PM)
Kyle, I think they will both see a lot, sort of 1A and 1B role, though Wood's recent history at the position probably gives him the first true shot. I think Neal will make plays in the slot, and I'd expect DaVaris Daniels to break free for some big plays as well.
Scooter (South East of South Bend)
I know our O-Line should be good. I would like to know if they are better at the run or the pass? Shouldn't they be a solid anchor for all the skilled players to shine behind and thus goes the offense?
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Scooter, the first-team line may be the best thing Notre Dame has going for it, aside from running backs. There are depth concerns given the Jordan Prestwood departure and Tate Nichols injury, but if healthy the line should be great, and I'd say a little bit better for the run. Yes, that makes life much easier for the skill guys, but it won't matter if the QB play isn't better.
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Only time for a few more today, guys. Have to leave a few minutes early ...
Enough talk about the depleted secondary or who gets to rotate out first at QB in Dublin. Which TE backup looks to be the next Eifert/Rudolph/Carlson/Fasano?
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
Well, Eifert is back, so he's in line for another great year, though defenses will be aware of that now. I think Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas are capable No. 2s, though Niklas' size and athleticism is more intriguing at this point. I mean, they moved a guy who started a game at OLB as a true freshman to the other side of the ball. The upside, by common logic, has to be tremendous. Whether it will be on display this season remains to be seen.
Andrew (Boston, MA)
Which of the top 5 teams on the schedule does ND match up better against: Oklahoma or USC?
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
Oklahoma. Landry Jones has to improve from last season, and there are many questions about the Sooners' o-line now. I don't see that team as a national title contender the way I do USC, though we'll see if any depth is developed by Trojans by the time the Irish travel there for the regular-season finale.
Matt Fortuna (2:47 PM)
That's all from me today guys. Thanks for another great turnout. Just think: By the time we re-convene, the team will be in Ireland, and we'll be less than 48 hours away from some action. Can't wait.