Happy Mother's Day to all of the great moms out there. Now, onto your questions ...
Mike S. from Chicago writes: Hi Matt! This question is around the new FieldTurf. In the past, the grass was always "hit or miss" as an advantage. (Unofficially), ND could grow the grass to limit opponents with better athletes, and vice versa. Do you think the FieldTurf decision was in part signed-off on because Coach Kelly is recruiting better athletes, and that more of these athletes are coming from FieldTurf in high school anyway, which helps future recruiting? Do you think this is a good move for ND, putting tradition aside? Thanks as always, and great work!
Matt Fortuna: Hey Mike. While I understand some of the attachment that many had to playing on a traditional grass field, I think in the end this decision was a no-brainer. Yes, Brian Kelly has recruited better athletes at Notre Dame. And yes, many of those athletes are coming from FieldTurf in high school. But at the end of the day, the field that the Fighting Irish had been playing on by the end of last season (and in the spring game) was nothing short of an embarrassment. The players, most of all, deserved better, and they are the ones whose preference mattered most on a decision like this. There are other positives that could come from this as well, be it a hockey game or a concert taking place at Notre Dame Stadium.
Richard from Austin, Texas writes: Is the ACC the right place for ND? Though ND can afford travel, a regional conference is better. A 10-team conference with an 11 game season for example: ND, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, NIU, Bowling Green, Toledo, Central MI, Eastern MI plus 2 non-Conference games: USC & Navy. Every FBS team needs to move to a regional conference with 10 teams based on the Power Five. The SEC with 3, B1G with 3, ACC with 2, PAC with 2, Big XII and a 12th from the old PAC.
Matt Fortuna: Richard, that's a lot to digest, but the simple fact of the matter is that the Notre Dame brand would be greatly diminished by playing only regionally. Part of the football program's luster is that it plays across the nation and attracts a countless number of fans, many of whom don't even know where the school is located. (Trust me, I grew up with people like this.) At the end of the day, the ACC agreement was perfect for the Irish, who can show their product off from Boston to Miami while, football-wise, protecting that national brand. The only thing Midwest about the rest of the Irish's sports is location, as Notre Dame has a strong East Coast affiliation and regularly recruits that area for basketball, lacrosse and other sports.
Michael Fry writes: Hi Matt. Just looking for some thoughts on who was off the radar last year but who fits well into the new DC's system well. Thanks for the great blog -- keeps the off-season interesting.
Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Michael. I think Joe Schmidt is going to be a very important piece for this defense, as Kelly called him the leader and Brian VanGorder said there is a significant knowledge gap between Schmidt and the rest of the linebackers. We all know about Jaylon Smith and KeiVarae Russell, two guys who have the potential to be among the best at their respective positions nationally next season. But one guy I think could take a big step is Jarron Jones, who showed plenty of promise at the end of last season and was forthcoming this spring when discussing how much he enjoys playing in VanGorder's scheme.