- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Enjoy the weekend ...
Dan Santivasci from Richland Hills, Texas writes: I am 54 years of age and have been a ND since I was 7. My question is two fold. Does ND have a good chance to be in the top 10 at the end of the upcoming season and did that player on defense really leave because of he wanted to be close to home? Thank you. Dan
Matt Fortuna: Dan, I think the Irish definitely have a shot to finish in the top-10 again this season, but the task becomes much more difficult without Everett Golson leading the offense. The schedule is tough, as always, and the margin for error once again becomes very thin. The Irish will have to mostly rely on their defense once again and need to protect the ball. They probably can't afford more than two losses if they want to finish in the top-10. As for your other question, regarding Eddie Vanderdoes, no one knows for sure, though there have been reports that a family health issue played a factor.
Michael Fry from Irsee, Germany writes: Hi Matt,First of all - your objective responses to wild 'fan' rants are great. The 'sugar on cereal', relating to Brian Kelly's son, was the best so far.Golson is gone - I get it and am at peace with it. Instead of speculating about what will happen at QB, I wanted to ask you what you think that most exciting aspect of Notre Dame will be this year.
Matt Fortuna: A reader in Germany? Wow. Anyhow, I think the most exciting aspect is once again the defense. Eight starters return from a unit that finished second nationally in scoring D last season, and the Irish are much deeper across the board this year as well. Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III are first-round draft picks in waiting, Prince Shembo continues to grow and the secondary finally has a surplus of bodies, something that couldn't be said a year ago. I also think just seeing how this program responds to enhanced expectations after a return to the nation's elite in 2012 is worth keeping an eye on. Notre Dame always has a target on its back, but this year is different, as it is coming off a 12-1 year and is expected to contend for BCS-bowl berths year-in and year-out.
Timothy from Palos Heights, Ill., writes: First of all, why does Coach Kellly make it seem like Golson will learn from the experience and earn his way back to Notre Dame, an elite institution when you could tell he passed on Rees after his problem. Also, why did Coach Kelly yell constantly at Rees when he made mistakes as a sophomore, but seemed so calm and friendly to Goslon; I am tired of hearing that Golson made Notre undefeated(no he needed Rees to save him along with a stellar defense); There is no doubt that Gunner Kiel, a truly elite freshman QB, was the better quarterback and was ND's future(not a good relationship with Martin and probably was never given a real shot at the starting job even though he is the much better player and student/athlete; How does Kelly let Kiel leave without any concern or knowledge of Golson's academic problems.
Matt Fortuna: Timothy, I think Kelly and the staff are being optimistic with Golson and would love for him to return. Golson has, by all accounts, said and done all the right things since the news broke. That being said, the program is smart enough not to spend too much time worrying about someone who isn't there, and the staff is not going to treat 2013 as a year to bide its time while Golson gets back on track for 2014. I think the Rees situation was different, as the job was wide open then and he severely hurt his chances in the legal department (not to mention the turnovers a year earlier). Different offenses — legal vs. academic — but Rees, after all, was suspended for one game, while Golson is gone for a season (at least). I can't explain why Kelly, or anyone, coaches certain players the way that they do, but all players are different and respond differently. And while you are right that Golson needed Rees and the defense to save him on a number of occasions last season, I'm not sure how you can be so convinced that Kiel was the better quarterback. Were you at closed practices every day? If Kiel was better and the future, why would the staff go to Golson? Kiel has yet to take a snap on the college level, has had obvious commitment issues and, if he were still around, probably would still be no better than third on the depth chart at this moment, though that could easily change. And Kelly is not the type to worry about those who aren't around, or don't want to be around. He used five quarterbacks in one season at Cincinnati and made a BCS bowl. He will work with what he has, and there are few better than him at doing just that, especially at the quarterback position.