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January 24, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Matt Fortuna

Matt Fortuna
  (2:03 PM)

Welcome aboard everyone. Can't imagine there's anything you guys wanna talk about ...

Rich (NYC)

Matt, how long of a cycle do you think we have on Teo? ESPN coverage has the feeling of Teo fatigue. I would think that the fans have a ton more interest in recruiting (looking at the future)

Matt Fortuna
  (2:05 PM)

Rich, there are still so many unanswered questions. I think we'll get a little more clarity out of the Katie Couric interview today, but we still don't know much about the other side. It's a strange story in the sense that there are no rules/laws that seem to have been broken, and it seemingly had little to no effect on the field of play, too. There are enough loose ends on each side to have people believe whatever they want, and I don't see that changing anytime too soon. And believe me, it's not just ESPN covering this.

Mike Good (Auburn, IN)

Who would be your guess for Breakout Performer for next years team?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:05 PM)

I can see Greg Bryant winning the No. 1 RB job by midseason. Crowded backfield there, too.

Justin Shippy (Fort Wayne)

Do you have a feel for who will/will not be granted 5th years?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:06 PM)

No concrete info but logic says Zack Martin, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese and Chris Watt will be back, barring anything unforeseen.

Matt Traylor (Fort Wayne, IN)

With a couple key loses on defense do you see improvement or a decline on that side of the ball next season?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:08 PM)

Title-game notwithstanding, it's hard to do much better than the No. 1 scoring defense in the regular season. That said, there are upwards of eight starters returning, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix should only be better and the secondary will have much more experience and depth. I think the D will be very, very good, but we need to see if similar type of leaders can emerge to take this group to the next step, like last year's.

Ian Webb (Bippus, IN)

Do you think next year will finally mark the start to some production for the Irish Special Teams? The punt return game has been non-existent for years now!

Matt Fortuna
  (2:08 PM)

Sorry, just spit up my coffee ...

Brad (Benton)

Hey Matt. I was just looking over the schedule for next year and is it safe to say that based on how some teams improved (i.e. Mich and ASU) this schedule seems even harder than last years?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:10 PM)

Brad, these things are always tricky. Last year's slate looked incredibly daunting from the outset. While it was still a very good schedule -- and the Irish deserve a lot of credit for scheduling that tough -- MSU and USC were massive disappointments, and Oklahoma and Michigan underachieved, to name a few. The two games that jump out to me immediately when looking at the 2013 slate are the Michigan and Stanford ones, as they are both on the road and the latter figures to be in the national title conversation. Then again, we've been wrong before when it comes to end of season Pac-12 rivals and title talk, haven't we?

Mike (Toledo, OH)

Matt, with most of the defense returning, Golson as the starter, and a Top 5 recruiting class is ND a legit NC contender for next year?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:12 PM)

On paper it would appear that way, but so much has to go your way. And I'm not talking about simple luck or taking anything away from what this year's team did. But the stars have to align properly for any team to run the table, and the odds of that happening two years in a row to anyone other than Alabama are just not very good. I would say right now that the Irish will make a BCS bowl game. Anything more will depend on the leadership, and we don't know where that will come from yet, though there are certainly a few guys who stand out on the surface.

Jeff (South Bend)

Hey Matt! Question about Cierre Wood: Why was his name not on any of the Senior Bowl lists? He is a graduating senior and listed as senior on his ESPN stat page (even though it should read Redshirt Junior). Do players need to have used up all of your years of eligibility to get the invite, or is there more to that process that we average fans don't realize?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:13 PM)

It is my understanding that those spots go to mostly true seniors, though there have been some exceptions, like Bama's D.J. Fluker and Cuse's Justin Pugh.

Allen (Muncie, IN)

Matt! Based on what was observed of the receiving core for ND in the NC, I think things are looking good for next year. I was especially impressed with the good hands of TJ Jones. Any other WRs to look out for next year (not including Chris Brown, since you already did a great job covering his potential in your player countdown).

Matt Fortuna
  (2:14 PM)

Thanks Allen. Yes, the two biggest bright spots in that game were TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels, both of whom are back next year. I'm curious to see where Davonte Neal fits in, and if he can handle the much bigger load that will be thrown at him next year. It was hard for him to get time behind a sure-handed senior like Robby Toma, but the potential is clearly there.

Charlie (Marlton, NJ)

Now that Toma is graduating, I would expect the WR lineup to be Daniels and TJ lined up wide with Davonte in the slot. We didn't see a lot of Davonte this year (almost seemed like a waste of a year of eligibility). Thoughts on how Neal will fit in and if he'll excel and show off the super high ESPN rating he had as a recruit?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:15 PM)

Charlie, just seeing this question now, but refer to my previous answer.

Charlie (Marlton, NJ)

The team will never admit it, but given everything that's happened with Manti, there's no way the team didn't know what was going on only a few days before. It doesn't excuse their performance, but it does explain how uncharacteristically they played. Thoughts?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:16 PM)

AD Jack Swarbrick said Te'o only told Brian Kelly, Bob Diaco and a few close friends. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think too many on that roster knew about this when they played Bama. Then again, nothing would surprise me with this story.

MeisterNJ (Mendham)

Bracing yourself for the Te'o hour?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:16 PM)

Aren't we all?

MeisterNJ (Mendham)

Where did you have ND in your final rankings?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:17 PM)

4th, behind Bama, OSU and Georgia, in that order.

Kenny Bx [via mobile]

What are your hearing about Kiel? Is he gonna fight for that spot or leave9?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:19 PM)

Kenny, the math clearly doesn't play in his favor at the moment, but you have to remember how Brian Kelly thinks when it comes to the QB situation. I'd imagine he will still have a quick hook with Golson next year, and having another option behind him in Kiel will probably make BK even less hesitant. A lot can happen amid this situation. And Kiel, for the record, said during bowl media day that transferring has never crossed his mind.

Jeremy (CT)

Where has Brian Kelly been on all this? Too silent in my opinion

Matt Fortuna
  (2:21 PM)

Jeremy, I do wonder when we will get a chance to speak to him. I don't think he'll want to stand up there on national signing day -- a day of new beginnings, so to speak -- and face questions about the NFL and his best player's fake dead girlfriend, which will be the case unless something gets scheduled earlier.

Brad (Stilson, GA)

How do we go from "We're Back!" to getting thumped in the MNCG and our star linebacker's phone calls with a dude? Can we please start over next season or will this pall still be hanging over us?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:22 PM)

It's Notre Dame football, Brad. Surely something else crazy will happen between now and the end of August, no? That title game certainly feels like a lot more than 17 days ago, I'll say that much.

Brad (Stilson, GA)

Would a two QB system help the predictable (suddenly) offense?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:23 PM)

Brad, it depends on what each guy can do. If the staff plans on opening up more read-option plays to give Golson more running opportunities, then maybe, but I don't see him running that much over the course of four years, for the sake of his own body. Kiel would appear to be more of the drop-back variety.

Joe (Montana)

I am glad the internet wasn't around when I was in college.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:24 PM)

What are you trying to say there, Joe? (Congrats on your Niners by the way.)

Brad (Stilson, GA)

How many more years are we going to have to listen to this SEC chant before someone else finally wins?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:25 PM)

Bama will be even better next year, so I'm not sure. Till Saban retires? Johnny Football leaves college? I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:25 PM)

Blame USC, Irish fans. They were the No. 1 team entering last year, after all ...

Bob (Seattle)

Do you feel that the Lizzy Seeberg story, and ND's response to her allegations, has been underplayed in the media?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:27 PM)

Bob, it has picked up a lot more steam over the last week. It's a delicate situation with a lot of unanswered questions, so it's not as simple as comparing it with other cases, but I do think that jumps out on the surface as a striking difference to how this case was handled.

jake (MTl)

could reese have sparked the irish in the national championship game, even though, i think everett gave them the best chance. Just curious what your opinion is

Matt Fortuna
  (2:27 PM)

No. ND needed divine intervention.

Gerald (Denver)

Hey Matt, other than the dominance by Bama...what really bothered me is I didn't see (at least the TV cameras didn't show it) any ND players getting pissed off and trying to fire guys up. Especially on Defense. I would have liked to see Teo get in some grills while Bama was driving. Did you see anything on the sidelines?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:29 PM)

Gerald, when I went on the sidelines at the five-minute mark I saw a a group of players who looked like they were in complete and utter shock. Not necessarily starry-eyed, but basically: "What the hell just happened?!" -- a stark contrast from, say, their opponents, whose QB and center were ready to go at it after a miscommunication despite being up by 28 late in the national title game.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:30 PM)

Bama's program is just operating on another level from anyone right now, and I'm not sure college football has ever seen anything like it, especially in this day and age.

James (Oceanside, CA)

With Slaughter being denied a 6th year, who steps up at safety for Notre Dame?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:31 PM)

I'm anxious to see Austin Collinsworth play. He showed plenty of promise early but has been bitten by the injury bug this past year (shoulder, back). He is expected to be ready by spring and should contribute early. I thought freshman Nicky Baratti played well when he got a chance this year, too.

John (Cedar Rapids, IA)

Matt, who do you see filling the Theo Riddick role? He was a HUGE asset this past year in both the running and receiving.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:32 PM)

John, George Atkinson III if he can catch better and master that position a little bit more. He's probably the most explosive player on the roster, and ND needs to find ways to get him the ball in space and create. I don't see him running between the tackles the same way that Theo Riddick did this year. Then again, I'm not sure anyone saw Riddick running that way entering this season.

Mitch (NC)

Do you expect any future charges to be brought against Tuiasosopo? Criminal or civil?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:33 PM)

It doesn't look like it right now, but we don't know everything yet.

Bryan (Maine)

Hey Matt, ND returns 3 starting OL next year, but Braxston Cave at center is a big loss, with no obvious ready-to-go replacement. Do you see that unit continuing to improve next year with the young talent they have, or do you expect a bit of a plateau?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:35 PM)

Bryan, the left side will be back and that is huge, to have two fifth-year seniors with 3+ years of starting experience. I liked Lombard in his first year of starting, too. I think Nick Martin will probably make his way onto the field one way or another, but center is obviously a big question mark, especially with Matt Hegarty's situation. I'm not a doctor, but I've had serious heart issues personally and know how tricky/unpredictable those can be, so I really don't know how that situation is going to play out.

Mike (South Bend)

Do you have confidence in Niklas and/or Koyack? They obviously won't be Eifert's, but will they make big junior leaps?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:37 PM)

Both need to improve their blocking, but that is one big area that no one has really talked about in evaluating next year's talent by position: The school just lost the most productive tight end in school history -- which is saying something at a place that churns out great TEs regularly -- and someone will need to step up. I'd venture to guess that Niklas could eventually be that guy, but we'll see.

James (Oceanside, CA)

In recruiting, it seems like Notre Dame always pursues the players that USC is after. Does it have to do with the rivalry or just the talents of the given players? You don't usually hear them "stealing" a player from other programs as much as USC.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:39 PM)

I think everyone has been "stealing" from USC this recruiting season. As it relates to the common prospects, ND is one of the few schools in the nation -- and pretty much the only Midwestern one -- that can go to that far a part of the country regularly and give itself a good chance with those prospects. Playing in the state every year certainly helps, too.

Mary (Grand Rapids, MI)

I know Saban is an outstanding coach but why is Alabama THAT good. Has any one checked into their program for....let's say steroid use etc...............

Matt Fortuna
  (2:43 PM)

Mary, I'd encourage you or anyone curious to read this SI.com story by Andy Staples that details the depth of Saban's obsession to detail. In short, how many other teams have QBs and centers ready to go at it over a simple miscommunication when they are mere minutes away from their third national title in four years? http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/andy_staples/08/14/sabanization-of-college-football/index.html

Chad (San Diego)

How do you think Theo Riddick will do in the NFL. This year he was a tough runner with great pass catching ability. Was the lower competition the real reason for that?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:44 PM)

Chad, I'd guess he'd be a mid to late round pick. His size and speed aren't ideal for a typical RB, but he certainly has versatility that will help him in other areas of the field.

Charlie (Marlton, NJ)

With Wood officially declaring, only Atkinson and Cam have any experience at RB. Thoughts on where Amir, Bryant and Folston will shake out?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:47 PM)

Charlie, there is a lot of depth back there. A lot of unproven depth, but depth nonetheless. We have a pretty good idea of what GA3 and Cam can do, and I'd expect GA3 to continue to evolve as the staff looks for new and creative ways to implement his speed into the offense. Bryant, based on everything I've read, seems like the prototypical every down back, and I think he will get a chance to prove that early. Carlisle is a guy I'm really anxious to see, too, even if it's on returns.

Chuck (Philly)

When is Kiel going to transfer?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:49 PM)

Chuck, he said he hasn't thought of it. We'll see how things shake up in spring and camp. I can definitely see him on the field next year, it's just a matter of how much/in what capacity.

Tom (Louisville, KY)

I never hear anything on Will Mahone, does he have a shot to play next year or will he be buried on the depth chart.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:50 PM)

Tom, we keep forgetting about him. Add him to the earlier answer about RB depth. Yeah, I think he has a shot to play.

Charlie (Marlton, NJ)

Do you see Jaylon Smith being able to step in right away and (somewhat) plug the huge role that Manti leaves both in terms of Defense and Leadership?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:51 PM)

Charlie, I can see him playing and making an impact early, but asking that of anyone, let alone a freshman, is a giant task. It was kind of like all the DaVaris Daniels/Michael Floyd talk last spring. As Phillip, DaVaris' dad, told me, you can't in your first year do what those guys did in four years. Give it time and let things play out.

Mike (South Bend)

The backfield is crowded but it seems to be a good problem to have. I am more worried about Golson's targets. Will Davonte Neal, Justin Ferguson or Chris Brown become reliable guys to give a third option behind Jones and Daniels?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:54 PM)

Mike, Neal is the most intriguing to me, based on his versatility and the seemingly open spot in the slot position heading into next season. We saw glimpses of what Brown can do, and he won't be sneaking up on anyone in 2013, though I think he will play a huge role. Also, what number will Ferguson wear now with Alex Welch back?

Ben (Chattanooga)

Who is the closest person on our roster to Eddie Lacy?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:56 PM)

Hm, which three running backs should I combine to come up with a solid answer to this one ...

Bryan (Maine)

Matt, what do you see as being ND's biggest test next season, given what teams have coming back? @Michigan, @Stanford, Oklahoma, USC, and Michigan State will all be challenges, but it seems most of those teams lose more than ND.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:57 PM)

Bryan, Stanford jumps out at me given the rivalry, history, end of season implications and the fact that the Cardinal return a lot and are a top-5 team among many people's early 2013 top 25s.

Tom (Louisville, KY)

Matt, are you hearing of any changes they plan on making to our strength and conditioning program? Do you think we will try to look more like Alabama in the future ?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:59 PM)

Tom, that's been the plan all along. Let's remember just how short these same players were coming up a year or two ago. Paul Longo and his staff have done wonders, and the fact they got to the title game in three years -- a year ahead of Jack Swarbrick's expected timeframe -- is a testament to all of that. Swarbrick said after that game that nothing he saw that night in Miami changes his feelings as it relates to the direction of the program, and I have to agree with him. While the Bama loss was humiliating at the time, it doesn't ruin what has been remarkable progress for a program many thought would never reach that stage again.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:00 PM)

That's all from me today, guys. Good catching up. Now let's see what unfolds on Katie's show in the next couple of hours ...