Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

March 23, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Matt Fortuna

Matt Fortuna
  (3:00 PM)

Welcome aboard, all. Spring practice kicked off this week and us scribes have been busy with interviews and observations from practice sneak-peaks. Lots to talk about today, so fire away.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

What does the NCAA Do in College Football about the Bounties like what the New Orleans Saints did?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:02 PM)

Well, if college coaches were found to be paying players, that would open up a whole new door entirely. That being said, they probably wouldn't do anything close to dropping the hammer the way the NFL did this week, though I hope those in charge took note on how to properly punish rulebreakers.

Andrew Weaver (Arkansas)

Love the blog Matt! With spring practice arriving who do you see as a sleeper who could emerge and be a star for the Irish in the fall?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:06 PM)

Appreciate the kind words, Andrew. I've been mentioning John Goodman in this section several times now, and he spoke about that a bit this week, saying he thinks he has what it takes to be the No. 1 receiver. I wouldn't expect Michael Floyd, pt. II, but I think he could put together a strong season.

Ryan (North Canton, Ohio)

Do you feel that all the qbs really have a fair shot? I think Rees and Hendrix will get most of the snaps in Spring practice which will make one of them the more likely candidate for starting qb.

Carl LaFong (Indiana)

Matt, I don't understand the panic when it comes to the defensive backfield. Motta and Slaughter have both started and played alot of minutes at Safety. Yes we are young at Corner but there is some good talent there. Couple that with the front seven talent and I think we will be ok.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:11 PM)

Carl, safety isn't the worry. The Irish were down to four scholarship cornerbacks after Tee Shepard left last week, forcing them to move running back Cam McDaniel to corner as well. The projected starters -- Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood -- COULD turn out to be very good, but they have minimal experience, and there is no proven depth yet. Couple that with the high-powered passing offenses they will face next year -- say, USC or Oklahoma -- and it is definitely a cause for concern on March 23.

Ryan (North Canton, Ohio)

Lemming wrote a critical article regarding ND losing out on recruits (decommits). His main premise is that ND needs to focus more on recruiting in the midwest region. Do you agree with him?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:13 PM)

Ryan, I have yet to read the article, but I do think you need kids who may have a better understanding of the school, and those kids are more likely to come from the Midwest, as they have likely already been to the school earlier in their lives. As Brian Kelly has said, you're shopping in a different aisle when looking at Notre Dame, and it is probably a much harder sell to a one-time visitor from the West Coast than it is a kid up the road in, say, Chicago.

Ryan (North Canton, Ohio)

Do you think that I can get a ticket for ND vs. Michigan for $150?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:14 PM)

If Notre Dame enters 0-3 you won't have to worry about that.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:15 PM)

KIDDING, guys. Lighten up, the weather outside is awful today. And, to seriously answer your question, I have no idea. Stubhub would be a better resource for that than me.

Greg (Buffalo)

Matt, from what you have seen, who is the most impressive qb on the field so far? Any surprises?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:17 PM)

Greg, we got a sneak peak at the start of the first practice Wednesday, and other than warmups and position drills, tempo drills with no defense were all we saw. All but Kiel took part in those, and Rees and Hendrix went with the first-team, Golson with the second. Having not been on the beat for practice viewings before, I will say I really liked Golson's shiftiness and arm, but I'm not basing this off a whole lot.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:18 PM)

Yikes -- just realized I somehow missed Ryan from North Canton's earlier question: "Do you feel that all the qbs really have a fair shot? I think Rees and Hendrix will get most of the snaps in Spring practice which will make one of them the more likely candidate for starting qb." Sorry about that.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:19 PM)

Brian Kelly said it will be an open and fair competition, meaning they will start from scratch. One would think that does not benefit Tommy Rees, whose 16 starts are 16 more than anyone else vying for the job.

Ted (Columbus)

Why, do you think, did Tee Sheppard quit.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:24 PM)

Ted, BK said he couldn't talk about it for privacy reasons. Tee's father told a TV station that it was a health reason. I think there were a number of factors, none of which I will speculate about or print without more concrete information.

Brett (Denver)

Matt, please use any influence you have with Brian Kelly to make sure that Rees doesn't start next season. Rees did good in filling in during a coaching change when the position was in question, but now that were going into Kelly's third year, he needs to give the ball to someone who will be able to grow. Rees has shown what he is capable of, and I can only hope Kelly can see that also. I look forward to Golson, Hendrix or possibly Kiel leading the team.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:25 PM)

OK, Brett. Got Coach on speed dial right now ...

Ted (Columbus)

What is the reason for Nicklas' move to TE? Need at TE, or was he not going to contribute at LB?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:27 PM)

Ted, big-picture, I think everyone sees that Troy Niklas has more of an upside at tight end than he does at linebacker, where he was almost too tall to play. The ability to move a safety up on defense also contributed to the LB depth. ND will likely try a few things offensively with Niklas and Eifert on the field together, pending Niklas' progress at the position. He played it in high school and, by all accounts, has the hands. Now it's about understanding the offense and running proper routes.

Aaron (Bloomington, IL)

In the 2012 season will it be possible to see a couple quarterbacks running different packages throughout the season since there probably wont be one complete standout QB, or will BK make sure he gets the right guy prepped to take the lone starting role?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:28 PM)

Aaron, an ideal world would feature one QB coming back to the sideline to give Brian Kelly a big touchdown hug after every possession (his analogy, not mine). That being said, I wouldn't be surprised by anything.

James (South Side)

Have you heard of any "special" uniforms being put together for the Miami game at Soldier field or the Michigan night game?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:30 PM)

Negative, though I have seen the "Shamrock Series" logo for the Miami game, which is pretty nice. I'm sure there will be some gimmick for the Michigan game, but I doubt we'll know much about that anytime soon.

James (Columbus,ohio)

If the first game was tomorrow who would you bet would start at QB?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:32 PM)

Tommy Rees, if we're talking about where each QB stands today. I think you probably meant "if today was Aug. 31 ..." in which case I would probably lean toward Hendrix, as a complete guess.



Matt Fortuna
  (3:33 PM)


Matt Fortuna
  (3:34 PM)

Kelly said, as of now, there are no plans to bring him in as a cornerback immediately. Of course, depending on spring progress, that could easily change. I think punt and/or kick returner is his quickest way on the field.

Brian (Raleigh)

Hi Matt, thanks for steady stream of updates on ND Football! Do you think Brian Kelly will be on the "hot seat" at any point this season?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:39 PM)

Appreciate the kind words, Brian. A lot depends on which wins and which losses (and which, if any, off field instances occur in the fall) but I think a 6-6 season will bring lots of heat on him entering Year 4.

Calvin (Fort Worth, TX)

I thought Mike Golic Jr. did a great job filling in for Braxton Cave after the injury. Any chance they both find a spot in the starting line up this year?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:41 PM)

Calvin, I'd give him a good shot at starting right guard. He'll see most of the snaps at center this spring with Cave being eased back in. For what it's worth, Christian Lombard was the first-team right guard when we watched Wednesday, with Tate Nichols at right tackle.

Kevin (Chicago, IL)

Who do you predict to win the QB battle, and you do you *want* to win the QB battle?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:45 PM)

I said in an earlier answer I'd put money on Hendrix today, with that subject to change roughly 8,000 times between now and Week 1. And, believe it or not, reporters don't have any rooting interest in these things.

Preston (NYC)

Tebow! More valuble to this season's team: Manti or Cierre?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:46 PM)

I have nothing bad to say about Cierre, but Manti is much more valuable than anyone else on the current roster.

Charles (Annapolis,MD)

What are the odds ND make it to a BCS bowl game?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:48 PM)

What are the odds Tebow leads the Jets to the Super Bowl? (Kidding, again.) Notre Dame will always say that's the goal, but it's a very tall order this year with no answer yet at QB, lots of unproven commodities in the secondary and, most of all, the upcoming schedule.

Joel (Greeneville)

Do you think that Harrison Smith will really go in the first round? And who do you think will be picked first, Blackmon, Floyd, or some other receiver?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:49 PM)

Joel, Smith may very well go in the first round after testing extremely well. And Blackmon is the clear No. 1 receiver, with Floyd the clear No. 2 and likely a first-round pick as well.

Shane (DeLeon)

Matt, A lot of coverage for ND football up to this point has been from somewhat of a defeatist point of view where the level of faith in how this team can perform this year has been pretty down so far. One player in particular who I think is not getting enough credit to this point for his potential to perform on the field is DaVaris Daniels. Im hearing a lot of negative comparisons to Michael Floyd (which i feel is unfair) and I have incredibly high hopes with this guy. What's your take on what he can do for this team, and some positivity would be greatly appreciated for once.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:50 PM)

Shane, we talked to DaVaris today and I'll have a story up on him in the near future. He certainly seems to have all the tools, and Chuck Martin raved about the kid. I'm excited to see what he can do, though, like you said, you can't compare him to Floyd just yet. (And, like he said, no one can do in one year what Floyd did in four.)

Mick (Akron, OH)

Do you think we will see another shade of purple on Kelly's face this season?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:52 PM)

If there are 10 turnovers in the first two games again we may need a doctor in the house for him and every ND fan ...

Matt Fortuna
  (3:53 PM)

I have time for just a few more ...

Brett (Denver)

This is not time for sarcasm Matt, Rees has proven he can't protect the ball. I will have to have EMT's on standby during ND games if he is playing QB.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:54 PM)

Good thing the sarcasm in this chat is long gone then ...

Charles (Owensboro, Kentucky)

Hi Matt, In the 51 years of following ND football I've seen great improvement in our QB's between their Sophomore and start of their Junior season. Do you really think we could see this same type progress in Tommy Rees this year?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:59 PM)

Charles, that would certainly be something for the Irish if that turned out to be the case, no? Rees' flaws have obviously been well-documented, but let's not forget his genes and mental toughness. The kid bounces back time and again from poor plays here and there and is able to have a short memory. He is 12-4 as a starter. If he could improve physically -- specifically in his ability to make something happen with his legs when a play breaks down -- that would be huge for ND.

Matt Fortuna
  (4:00 PM)

That's all from me today, folks. Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy your weekends.