Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

March 30, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Matt Fortuna

Matt Fortuna
  (1:58 PM)

Greetings, all. Welcome back to our weekly Notre Dame chat. The first week of spring practice is in the books, and the Irish are coming off a ridiculously strong recruiting week. Lots to talk about today.

Rich (NYC)

ND fans finally have some high expectations for the Defense front 7, any concerns that Lynch, Tuitt, T'eo are looking like they are having a drop off or are they looking like they could dominate?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:02 PM)

Rich, I'd expect them to pick off where they left off. The three starters will continue to grow, Kapron Lewis-Moore will be back and healthy and the experience from last year will surely help the group as it enters its second year together.

Kyle M. (South Bend)

Do you feel as though the addition of coach Hiestand will benefit the offensive line/recruiting going forward even more so than the previous OL coach?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:10 PM)

Kyle, Heistand has been impressive so far, and he's going to have A LOT to work with in the future, based off this past weekend. His NFL time really strikes a chord with the players, who seemed to appreciate Olin Kreutz's visit Wednesday.

Sam (Oklahoma City)

As big of a ND fan as I am, my gut tells me that this upcoming season could be a long one. I realize that we will be looking at a lot of "green talent" on the field this season. What are your realistic expectations about how this team does next year? Also, is there ANY chance for us to beat OU this year? I want them to win that game more than any other regular season game...if they don't I will hear about it forever!!! GO IRISH!!!

Matt Fortuna
  (2:13 PM)

Sam, I imagine you don't have too many friends out there with the same view, eh? As of right now it's a longshot, but who knows after the first few weeks are played. Look at how quickly OU fell last yearafter its first loss.

Aaron Lynch (Notre Dame, IN)

I have been working hard since my arrival to Notre Dame. What post season honors will I be awarded, to show for my hardwork?

Everett Golson (Notre Dame, IN)

I fumbled consecutive snaps earlier in the week, and have been featured mainly with the 2nd team. Do I actually have a shot at this starting spot, or should I focus on basketball or a possible transfer?

Manti Teo (Notre Dame, IN)

Am I pound for pound the hardest hitter in college football? The Stanford RB sure thinks so....

Matt Fortuna
  (2:16 PM)

I'm honored to think this is your go-to place once class gets out on Fridays, guys.

Ryan (Michigan)

Who is the next Manti for the ND defense? By that, I mean a student-athlete that would forgo the NFL early to remain at Notre Dame. Could you answer that question as it relates to the 2013 recruiting class?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:20 PM)

You can't expect too many Mantis, Ryan, both on the field and off. He's one of a kind. As Brian Kelly said upon Te'o's decision to return, Te'o is a nine-star recruit. They only go up to five stars with the current crop of HS talent.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:23 PM)

And I have my first celeb sighting, as ND law student Charlie Drury has come over to say hi during the chat. (Shame on him for not actually being in the chat, but he has made up for it with his nice comments.)

Greg (Buffalo)

Matt, thanks for your spring coverage. I am wondering your thoughts on an offensive strategy that has 2-3 base formations (think 2TE, 2RB sets) that employs a lot of motion out of the backfield? I believe it highlights their strengths and gives the best opportunity to get it to the play makers and out of the QB's hands, whomever it is.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:26 PM)

Greg, if executed properly, this could be great for the Irish offense. Kelly talked a bit this morning about the multi-purpose offensive threats making up for the lack of a fullback in a traditional offense. Guys like Theo Riddick and George Atkinson don't need to be pigeon-holed into a certain position, as they can get on the field quicker and will have the opportunities to make plays all over the field. If Troy Niklas adjusts well at tight end, watch out.

Kirk (Indianapolis)

Will there be an unbiased assessment of all of the Irish QB's for the starting position? Or do you think someone is clearly in the lead?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:30 PM)

Kirk, Kelly said today that the QBs ran against drop-8, with no checks. They are so far from even getting into the depths of things that I think you have to look at it like a straight open competition among the four. Protecting the ball, obviously, will be key.

James (San Diego)

Hello again Matt.....Great job keeping all us ND fans up to date and informed.....I'd like to know what you think about ND's Jr. day haul of talent, and whether or not we'll take another OL, in particular Pocic if that option were to present itself. Thanks in advance!

Matt Fortuna
  (2:31 PM)

Appreciate the kind words, James. I think ND had as strong a Junior Day weekend as it could've hoped for, and I see room for maybe one more o-lineman in this class. The threat of losing out on one of those dwindling spots likely played a role in some of these commitments, too.

Tommy Trojan (University Park)

Is this the year Notre Dame finally puts it all together and heads into the Coliseum undefeated? Jesus and I have been waiting a long time for an epic top 10 showdown to restore the rivalry...

Matt Fortuna
  (2:33 PM)

Keep waiting, Tommy.

dave (Chicago)

After getting burned by Robinson for the last two years will this years D be better prepared to defend UM? How do you think the D will do nationally, chance of top 40 with a strong front 7? Thanks for the feedback.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:35 PM)

Dave, one would think so, especially with Tuitt and Lynch actually playing. The secondary will need to absorb the big play, especially against USC and Oklahoma, if ND wants to finish strong in the defensive rankings nationally.

Derrin (Plano, TX)

Have there been any player surprises, good or bad, so far this spring? Who has shown improvement thus far?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:37 PM)

Derrin, it was hard to gather much from the 30 minutes we saw today, which consisted of position work. Kelly raved afterward about Bennett Jackson and John Goodman. When we saw the team scrimmage last week Theo Riddick broke off a couple huge runs.

Kevin (Reno, NV)

How is Ishaq Williams progressing during spring drills? Will he have a breakout 2012 season?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:40 PM)

Kevin, he was taking first-team reps today with Prince Shembo sidelined with turf toe. He's an exceptional talent, and he will likely see plenty of action in 2012.

Travis (Grand Rapids, MI)

If Tommy Rees starts a game this year i'll pull my hair out. Who do you have starting the season? (PLEASE dont say rees) Correct Answer: Golson

James (Chicago)

Can you please assure me we will only see Rees in a red hat signaling in plays this year? (He'll still manage a turnover doing that too)

Matt Fortuna
  (2:41 PM)

You guys are, uh, harsh. Ever hear of improvement? The kid had 16 starts (and 12 wins) as a sophomore. I don't know too many other QBs in the country who can say that.

Randy (Chicago)

I'm more worried about the Navy game this year. With ND's struggle against their offense the last couple years, the rough travel, and pressure of the first game, this could be one to look out for. What are your thoughts

Matt Fortuna
  (2:44 PM)

Randy, I'd say they are all one to look out for after ND lost to USF in last year's opener. But if we're getting specific, I'd be more worried about Purdue a week later. An improved Boilermakers team plays an FCS team at home in Week 1 and should be relatively intact as it readies for a team still adjusting from a hectic travel week and time changes.

Brian (Raleigh)

Hi Matt! How much do you think the unseasonably warm weather this year has helped recruiting? Tongue half-in-cheek...

Matt Fortuna
  (2:45 PM)

Couldn't hurt, Brian, that's for sure.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:45 PM)

(I'm assuming the rain started today before you submitted your question.)

Peter (MKE)

Do you think Collinsworth will play his way onto the field early on in this season? Looking at the schedule and the teams that want to spread the ball (Purdue, Michigan, etc.) wouldn't he help ND's problem of stopping the big play? He has looked great in video of spring practice so far. 155 days until NAVY!!!

Matt Fortuna
  (2:46 PM)

Peter, that's another guy BK mentioned today, to no surprise. He already comes in when Jamoris Slaughter moves up, and he will probably see more time in regular packages regardless.

John (Chicago)

How important is it to avoid off the field distractions, that have seemed to be a common theme around the program of late. I would like the kids to have the luxury of focusing on football and school, not negative media.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:49 PM)

John, it's huge, especially for college kids, but I sure hope you meant negative happenings and not negative coverage. The tragedies that happened at ND were real, and they were things the team had to deal with.

Trav (los angeles)

Are you actually in South Bend for spring ball? If not, how can you be covering it with any accuracy

Matt Fortuna
  (2:50 PM)

Yes, Travis.

Sean (Allentown, PA)

As a PSU grad is it hard to be a blogger for ND? Also remeber that time ND beat down PSU in 06?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:51 PM)

Um, no, it's not hard. I could care less what PSU does on the football field, though as an alum I'd hope the school conducts its business the right way (d'oh). And yes, I remember 06 as well as 07 when PSU beat down ND. Your point, Sean?

Tom (Charlotte, NC)

How come you are only able to answer like 10 questions during your chats and they are the same questions every week. Eric Hansen of the SBT goes through dozens of meaningfull topics during his hour long chats. Come on man, step it up! Enought with all the softballs, lets have some real ND football discussion here! No more "how are we going to handle our schedule next year?", "who's going to be the quarterback?", "What's going to happen with our cornerbacks?" That's amateur hour stuff man! I feel like I'm on the same d*mn chat every week here!

Matt Fortuna
  (2:55 PM)

I answer a lot more than 10, and I answer what YOU GUYS write. Don't want softballs? Throw something harder my way. Like, better than this. Thanks for reading.

Sumitrom (Floriduh)

Latest I saw was Floyd to the Bills and Smith to the Ravens. Any thoughts? Also, any chance that Tee Shepard makes a come back to ND perhaps next year should his health problem be treated?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:56 PM)

Sumitron, I can virtually assure you Tee Shepard won't ever play for Notre Dame. Todd McShay had Floyd and Smith in those spots in his latest mock, but these things are HIGHLY subject to change via trades, one surprise pick, etc.

Brien (Chicago)

Notre Dame along with Texas, BYU, Army, Navy, Air Force, and maybe Boston College, should form a conference. All teams have national fanbases, and, save Texas, all have a religious or military connection (Texas is a religion in itself!). Together, they could form a monster television network that would be hugely successful with only six conference games, meaning Notre Dame and the rest could still have a strong independent-vibe to their schedule. Call it the Gods & Guns conference...what do you say?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:57 PM)

Brien, you earn question of the week honors. Hands down.

Trevor (Milwaukee)

Matt! Great to be here, buddy! Do you think ND will be more of a pressuring defense this year, that takes a few more risks? It seems to make sense now that the younger guys have some experience and the dearth of turnovers last season....

Matt Fortuna
  (2:59 PM)

Trevor, I'd think that's their best bet with the talented and deep line they have, especially with the youth in the secondary. And yes, that's another overlooked part of this defense -- it just hasn't forced enough turnovers recently, despite its standout play when the offense has pinned it in rough situations.

Michael (Indianapolis)

What do you think about Cierre Wood's chances at being a Heisman contender?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:00 PM)

Michael, can't say I see that happening, though far crazier and more unexpected things have happened. He's in line for a great season after a strong junior campaign, and I'd expect big things from him. But Heisman? Let's just say I was surprised to see his name on the Pundit's darkhorse list.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:00 PM)

That's all from me today folks. Thanks for stopping by, enjoy the weekend and, in honor of the Anchorman 2 news, stay classy.