- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brad from Benton, Ky., writes: Matt- Any word on Tuitt's weight gain? During the Spring Game his physical appearance as opposed to last season was very bad. I'm just hoping it doesn't slow him down and make him less of the great end that he is. Thanks!
Matt Fortuna: Brad, in short, I wouldn't worry about it. Stephon Tuitt missed the first half of spring ball recovering from an offseason operation to repair a sports hernia that bothered him late last season, which, from personal experience as a child, I can confirm severely restricts your movements. (Even if you don't have a whole lot of athletic tools in the arsenal, like yours truly.)
Tyler Kelly from Jacksonville, N.C., writes: Where do you think Notre Dame will rank in the pre-season polls and how do you think they will finish?
Matt Fortuna: Tyler, it's never too early, is it? Based on some of the early post-spring indications (our Mark Schlabach has the Irish 10th, SI.com's Andy Staples has them fifth, CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm has them slotted for the Orange Bowl), I'd expect this to definitely be a preseason top-10 team, maybe even a top-five. I'm not about to make a record prediction more than three months before the first ball of the season is kicked off, but I do think this team has the potential to be better than the 2012 team, even if the record at season's end may not indicate it.
Sam from Dallas writes: How will joining the ACC in 2014 affect the scheduling for the four open dates on their schedule going forward? I am taking into consideration the five ACC games and the three games with USC, Stanford and Navy to fill eight of the twelve slots. Would you expect ND to play at least three if not all four of those other games at home each year or possibly a neutral site game? Looking ahead do you see them scheduling home & home with teams like Texas in the future? It may be difficult to guarantee some teams home and home arrangements. Thnx.
Matt Fortuna: Sam, there are plenty of logistical issues with scheduling moving forward, some of which we covered this morning in conjunction with Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett. The Shamrock Series will continue, but does that become a ninth game or, in some cases, will an ACC game get to be used for that? I think the home/road configuration will depend on the year, as the Irish get three ACC home games one year and two the next. Look at 2014, for example: Notre Dame gets Louisville, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Stanford at home; it faces Florida State, Syracuse (in East Rutherford, N.J.), Navy (in Landover, Md.) and USC on the road. There are also home games scheduled for Rice, Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern, and road ones at Temple and Arizona State. That's 14 total games, and the only one I can say will stay on for certain among the second group is Michigan, as that will be the final matchup between the Wolverines and the Irish for the foreseeable future. So there are nine games. I would guess that Purdue stays on for that season, as the contract for that game runs through the 2014 season, two years before the Big Ten implements a nine-game conference schedule and makes that series more difficult to schedule. As for the rest, the Rice game is a one-game deal, the ASU series is seemingly up in the air, the Northwestern deal is part of a home-and-home that will be returned to Evanston, Ill., in 2018 and Temple is part of a three-game series that starts in 2013 at Notre Dame, continues in 2014 in Philadelphia and returns to Notre Dame in 2017.
5dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information