On a roster relatively shy of defensive backs, Brian Kelly and staff decided to remove one more from the depth chart.
Only this time, it was before he ever officially got started.
News broke today that incoming freshman Matthias Farley is moving to wide receiver just weeks before the newcomer was set to report to campus. Farley was initially projected to play cornerback for the Irish next season, a position where the Irish have little depth behind starters Gary Gray and Robert Blanton.
The move seems to be one of the last personnel moves before the Irish begin unofficial summer workouts, getting both the players and strength coach Paul Longo properly aligned for June.
Christian McCollum of IrishSportsDaily.com has the details:
Farley ended up with offers from a host of BCS football programs before committing to Notre Dame as a defensive back. He was all set to line up in the defensive huddle at South Bend until a call from his recruiter, Mike Elston, a couple weeks ago.
“They reevaluated after spring ball and decided I would be more valuable to the team if I played slot receiver or receiver period,” Farley said. “I don’t know if it’s in the slot or outside yet for sure. Being so young to the game still, it’s not like I’m so set at one position. Whatever they feel I can contribute the most to. I’m real excited about it.
“I’m still doing the same workout stuff. I started doing a lot more running routes and catching to get back acclimated with that. I play both sides with the same mindset, so it’s not like I have to change a whole bunch of stuff.”
Extrapolating on this one a bit, the move to wide out could be a reaction or a prediction by Kelly and company. First, Farley was an intriguing wide receiver prospect, with the raw athlete only coming to football as a junior in high school after two seasons of soccer. His first season in high school he caught 12 touchdowns, averaging a whopping 25 yards a catch after taking off the Umbros and shin-pads.
Here’s what Brian Kelly said about Farley on Signing Day:
“If there’s one guy in the skill group that physically, when he walks in here, he looks like a college football player. He has that presence about him. Great young man. With great speed. And, again, he’s a young man that can play extremely versatile. Can play at the corner position, the safety position. He can play wide receiver. We’ll kind of sort that out as we move forward.”
Farley’s move leaves the secondary with
six seven cornerbacks — Gary Gray, Robert Blanton, Lo Wood, Bennett Jackson, Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown and Eilar Hardy. Behind Gray and Blanton the depth is unproven, but the Irish must feel comfortable in Jackson’s development as a fourth option and Brown and Atkinson’s cover abilities.
If Farley projected to be a safety, he likely would be behind Austin Collinsworth, who flipped sides of the ball during spring drills and is a favorite of Kelly’s. That leaves Harrison Smith, Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta, Dan McCarthy and Collinsworth for two safety spots. Again, not great depth, but certainly nothing detrimental.
If we look at wide receiver, you’ve got to think that Luke Massa is still a developmental project, and Michael Floyd’s return is probable, but again — not certain. That leaves Theo Riddick, John Goodman, Robby Toma, TJ Jones, Deion Walker, and Daniel Smith, with Davaris Daniels and George Atkinson also entering the fray this year. Best case scenario — that’s ten guys for three spots.
But more than likely, Atkinson is going to play a hybrid role at running back/receiver. Robby Toma has taken strides at owning the slot position, with Theo Riddick also potentially finding a new niche — something closer to Percy Harvin at Florida and not necessarily a true wideout. With Duval Kamara gone, TJ Jones might slide into the outside position opposite Floyd (assuming he’s back), and — well… you can tell that there are a ton of moving parts on the offensive side of the ball, and a lot more places where a physically developed guy like Farley might fit in right away.There’s a very good chance Farley gives the Irish needed depth at a wide receiver position far less settled than in the secondary, even if there are more bodies.
Moving the checkers around the board during preseason camp without any knowledge of what’s going on behind the scenes might be an exercise in futility, but it sure is fun. Farley’s move is another example of Kelly recruiting “Skill,” and finding out where to put him later.