Camp Packet: Safeties

Matthias Farley

Need-to-know items, top talents, question marks, buzz, position battles -- our camp preview packets catch you up to speed. Next in the series: the last line of defense.

Returning Regulars: Junior Matthias Farley, senior Austin Collinsworth

Rookies -- Relative and Otherwise: Junior Eilar Hardy, sophomores Elijah Shumate, Nicky Baratti, John Turner and Chris Badger, freshmen Max Redfield, Rashad Kinlaw, and Devin Butler -- one (or both) of the latter pair could receive an initial evaluation at cornerback.

Position Coach -- Bob Elliott: Enters his second season with the program, the first a rousing success in which the Irish back line allowed just seven regular season touchdown passes and one in excess of 25 yards, that in the season opener vs. Navy. The safeties though, like most of the defense, crumbled vs. Alabama in the BCS Championship game. Elliott toiled through the 2012 season on dialysis in need of a kidney transplant.

"I didn't feel bad doing dialysis," said Elliott, who received a new kidney from his sister, Betsy, in February. "It was just a pain in the butt. I didn't feel bad last year at all. Again, endurance and things like that are a factor when you're doing dialysis, but it wasn't a huge deal other than the inconvenience."

Established Starter: Matthias Farley. Coupled with cornerback Keivarae Russell, Farley and the true freshman cornerback served as 2012 poster-children for the staff's Next Man In mantra. It was Farley that stepped in for injured safety and potential star Jamoris Slaughter in Game Three in East Lansing last fall and the Irish defense never missed a beat. A junior with three seasons of eligibility remaining, Farley showed he could play the deep zone (a key interception with Stanford) while also excelling as a goal line run blitzer (Stanford and USC).

Highly intelligent, competitive, and coordinated (an overlooked skill at this level), Farley could lock down a starting safety position through 2015 despite a wealth of younger talent at the position.

Camp Buzz: The battle between Shumate and Baratti for the starting field safety role. Both sophomores, both with a solid taste of playing time as true freshmen, but with Shumate receiving a spring leg up in the competition due partly to off-season shoulder surgery that kept Baratti from contact through the Blue Gold Game.

Both will play -- both will likely earn starts over 13 games -- and both will help the defense in nickel and dime packages and on special teams.

Secondarily (no pun intended) is the arrival of Redfield, one of the three most intriguing newcomers to the 2013 squad and an athlete that won't be kept from the field long.

The Pressure is on… Eilar Hardy. Shumate, Baratti, Turner, Redfield, Kinlaw, and Butler are younger. Farley is his junior classmate with the same remaining eligibility. Collinsworth a year older but with two seasons left at the program -- the clock is ticking for Hardy, a 2011 August camp casualty to a torn ACL, to make his initial impact at the college level.

(Another) Battle is Among… Collinsworth and young blood. Expected to backup Farley on the boundary, the former special teams star will play a major role in the secondary this September -- can he keep it through January? Regardless, Notre Dame's 2012 free fall in kick coverage should receive a boost from the senior guided missile barreling through opponents' blocking schemes.

Wither? John Turner. Benefitted greatly from a redshirt true freshman season last fall if only because his eligibility clock begins to tick this September (he can earn a fifth year for 2016). Safeties coach Bob Elliott noted Turner had improved since scout team duties last season and could help on special teams from the outset. He'll have to, because there is a host of talent ahead of him, in his class, and coming into the program at safety.

BCS Dreams Because... Farley was impressive as a neophyte last fall, especially in goal line situations in which he dominated as a run defender off the edge. The junior could be among the nation's most improved this season just as he was last year, going from scout team slot receiver to backup safety, to starting safety for a 12-0 football team…Shumate and Baratti have ample talent and if they can endure early bumps, could make for a formidable tandem in rotation at field safety…The freshman Redfield is among the team's three to five best athletes as he steps on campus…Collinsworth is a veteran, hard-nosed backup who impressed coach Elliott prior to suffering a torn labrum in spring 2012, missing the entire season as a result.

Cause for Pause: Zeke Motta was one of the team's seven best players during the 2012 regular season. His penchant for the physical, desire to play past the echo of the whistle, ability to keep big plays to a minimum, and leadership by example won't be replaced this fall…The new field safety starter will be thinking, rather than playing naturally, during a trying opening quintet of games…The "proven" Farley's performance vs. Alabama was befitting a 42-14 deficit...

Take it to the bank: Five safeties will contribute heavily to Bob Diaco's defense over the course of 13 games.

Note: Click the links below for previous Camp Packets previewing each Irish position group entering August:

Cornerbacks

Inside Linebackers

Outside Linebackers

Defensive Line

Offensive Line

Quarterbacks

Tight Ends

Wide Receivers

Running Backs

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