Skip to content

Restocking: Secondary

Feb 19, 2013, 1:26 PM EDT

Bennett Jackson 2

After 40 days of prep and a January match-up, Alabama coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier finally designed a game plan that beat a young Notre Dame secondary that many thought would have plenty of troubling Saturdays. Yet even as injuries forced inexperience and youth into the lineup, Kerry Cooks and Bobby Elliott worked miracles with a group that in season’s past would have been the Achilles heel of the team.

Losing key building blocks like Lo Wood and Austin Collinsworth before the season and then starter Jamoris Slaughter early in the year was a recipe for disaster, yet the unit played well all season, with only AJ McCarron slicing and dicing the group with precision.

Heading into 2013, the Irish are positioned to have one of their strongest secondaries of the Kelly era. While they’ll need to replace Zeke Motta and Slaughter, who was denied an appeal for a sixth season last week, they’ll have plenty of experience returning, with 2012 acting as a jump start in development for several young players.

Let’s take a look at the last few recruiting classes and see just how much work this coaching staff did to replenish the roster.

2009
E.J. Banks — Spent 2009 season redshirting before leaving program in 2010. Now at Pitt.

2010
Chris Badger — Enrolled early only to go on Mormon Mission. Redshirted during 2012 season.
Spencer Boyd — Early enrollee who left campus before ever suiting up. Now at USF.
Austin Collinsworth — One of Brian Kelly’s first scholarship offers. Will compete for starting job.
Lo Wood — Inside track to starting cornerback job last year until Achilles tear.
Bennett Jackson — Started career as WR. Will sit out spring drills, but locked in as starting CB.

2011
Matthias Farley — Spent ’11 season as a redshirt WR. Started at safety after Jamoris Slaughter went out.
Josh Atkinson — Special teams contributor in first two seasons. Speedster limited athletically.
Jalen Brown — Great size for corner. Saw time as reserve DB after redshirting in 2011.
Eilar Hardy — Knee injury cut short freshman season. Reserve safety saw limited minutes in ’12.

2012
Nicky Baratti — Hard-hitting safety logged some key minutes during freshman season.
CJ Prosise — Jumbo safety worked as a weak-side linebacker, but stayed off the field.
KeiVarae Russell — Switched to cornerback in fall camp. Won starting CB job as true freshman.
Tee Shepard — Highly touted early enrollee never stepped for on playing field.
Elijah Shumate — Played key minutes as freshman nickel back. Played CB after starting as a safety.
John Turner — Big-bodied safety redshirted his freshman season.

2013
Devin Butler — Projects to start career as a big-bodied cornerback prospect.
Cole Luke — Needs to gain weight, but one of the elite cover corners in the recruiting class.
Rashad Kinlaw — Injuries shortened junior and senior seasons. Pure athlete, projected as DB.
Max Redfield — Five-star prospect immediately enters race for time at safety.

Way too early spring projection

It’s worth keeping an eye on the guys returning from injury. Both Wood and Collinsworth would have played major minutes last season. The official departure of Slaughter makes the safety spot really an open competition. A handful of guys should feel like they have a legitimate chance to win jobs. For every logical candidate like Farley, Collinsworth and Baratti, there are a handful of other guys worth watching, like Shumate and Hardy.

At cornerback, the Irish welcome back starters, but should see competition behind them be tight. Wood will expect to fight his way back into the rotation while Atkinson and Brown will take a step forward after another season of development. It’s worth watching what happens with Shumate, who has the athleticism to play either position.

After really thin numbers in previous years, the secondary’s depth chart is finally getting healthy.

Latest Posts
  1. Irish A-to-Z: Tyler Newsome

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    247Sports 247Sports

    With Kyle Brindza gone, sophomore Tyler Newsome takes over the punting duties. And outside of seeing a few not-really live kicks in the Blue-Gold game, what that means remains to be seen.

  2. Offseason Q&A: Stanford

    Jul 31, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    David Shaw

    We wrap up our offseason look at Notre Dame’s 2015 opponents with the Stanford Cardinal. The postseason could come down to a late-season showdown in Palo Alto with David Shaw’s team trying to rebound from a five-loss season.

  3. Irish A-to-Z: Quenton Nelson

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Quenton Nelson

    After a redshirt season, Quenton Nelson is ready to play. Jumping to the head of the line at a crowded (and talented) position, Nelson is taking his five-star pedigree and bringing it to the starting lineup.

  4. Irish A-to-Z: Sam Mustipher

    Jul 30, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Property of Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated Property of Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated

    This spring, you’d have probably won some money if you had Sam Mustipher emerging as the No. 2 center. But with Matt Hegarty’s departure and some failed experiments before him, it was Mustipher who was backing up Nick Martin and snapping the ball to Everett Golson in a spring game played on Notre Dame’s practice field.

  5. Notre Dame ranked 11th in preseason Coaches Poll

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT

    Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

    Notre Dame opens the season ranked No. 11 in the preseason USA Today Amway Coaches Poll. The Irish, who finished last season 8-5, return the majority of their starting lineup, providing some context for the bullish expectations. Only Gus Malzahn’s Auburn team is ranked higher among teams that finished with five losses in 2014.

  6. Irish A-to-Z: Nyles Morgan

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

    Last year, we saw what a talented freshman linebacker in over his head looked like. His name was Nyles Morgan, and the blue-chip recruit personified the second-half defensive collapse that flushed the Irish season down the drain. Want the good part? Stick around, as Irish A-to-Z continues.

  7. Irish A-to-Z: John Montelus

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    When Brian Kelly plucked offensive lineman John Montelus from his hometown of Everett, Massachusetts, the Irish looked to be adding another mauler to the interior of Harry Hiestand’s offensive line. And after two seasons of reshaping his body and learning the ropes, Montelus is in a competitive two-deep, still looking for a role in this offense.

  8. Irish A-to-Z: Peter Mokwuah

    Jul 29, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Photo property of Rich Clark Photo property of Rich Clark

    It didn’t take long for Notre Dame’s coaching staff to know they wanted to offer Peter Mokwuah. After getting a glimpse of the big-bodied defensive tackle, Brian VanGorder and Brian Kelly went to Staten Island and left with a key piece to the depth chart.

  9. Notre Dame releases training camp schedule

    Jul 29, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    We are a little more than a week away from the start of the 2015 football season. Notre Dame released their training camp schedule on Wednesday, highlighting the key dates leading up to the season opener against Texas.

  10. Irish A-to-Z: Mike McGlinchey

    Jul 29, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Stanford v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Last preseason, Mike McGlinchey was the odd-man out along the offensive line, losing out on the opportunity to be the team’s starting right tackle. Entering 2015, he’s one of the key X factors that’ll determine whether or not Harry Hiestand’s offensive line is one of the best in the country.

  11. Irish A-to-Z: Jacob Matuska

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    Jacob Matuska, Reggie Bonnafon Jacob Matuska, Reggie Bonnafon

    With Notre Dame’s defense falling apart, second-year player Jacob Matuska was thrown into the fire, earning playing time after the first (and most of the second) line of defense went down. Let’s check on the rising junior as Irish A-to-Z rolls on.

  12. Irish A-to-Z: Greer Martini

    Jul 28, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Brandon Radcliff, Greer Martini Brandon Radcliff, Greer Martini

    The first recruit to join the 2014 recruiting class, Greer Martini may have been envisioned as a 3-4 linebacker in Bob Diaco’s scheme, but he very quickly showed he could play anywhere the rebooted Irish defense needed him. Irish A-to-Z keeps on keepin’ on.

  13. Offseason Q&A: Boston College

    Jul 28, 2015, 12:44 PM EDT

    USC v Boston College Getty Images

    While discussing Notre Dame’s “rivals” usually turns into some type of screaming hot-take opportunity, it’s undeniable that the Irish’s date with Boston College in Fenway Park is a wonderful place to renew a “rivalry” that’s gotten a lot less regular.

  14. Irish A-to-Z: Nick Martin

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

    In his first season without his brother on campus, Nick Martin looked to make a name for himself. But 2014 was a battle for Martin, not just to escape the shadows of his All-Pro brother, but to regain his health after a lingering knee injury and a multitude of other ailments made the entire season a grind.

  15. Irish A-to-Z: Cole Luke

    Jul 27, 2015, 3:02 PM EDT

    Northwestern v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Ready or not, Cole Luke was thrown into the deep end in 2014, forced into a starting role after KeiVarae Russell’s August suspension. Paired with Cody Riggs as the team’s field cornerback, Luke more than held his own as a sophomore starter, taking on one of the most challenging schedules in college football, with elite receivers testing the Irish secondary nearly every week.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Tyler Luatua

    Jul 27, 2015, 11:52 AM EDT

    Property of the South Bend Tribune Property of the South Bend Tribune

    Looking for a sledgehammer in an offense that sometimes gets branded finesse? Look no further than tight end Tyler Luatua. The big-bodied thumper may not look like the rest of the tight end depth chart, but certainly will come in handy as the Irish do their best to transform into a run-to-win team in 2015.

  17. Irish A-to-Z: DeShone Kizer

    Jul 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    The big news of the spring was supposed to be DeShone Kizer ascending to the job of holder on field goals and PATs. Instead, Kizer is one snap away from being Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, his development kick-started with Everett Golson’s decision to transfer.

  18. Offseason Q&A: Wake Forest

    Jul 24, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Dave Clawson Dave Clawson

    After Jim Grobe presided over the Wake Forest football program for 13 seasons, the school made a change bringing in coach Dave Clawson after five consecutive losing seasons. What followed was ugly, an understandable bottoming out—and a three-win season that may have been one of the least impressive in any Power Five conference.

  19. Irish A-to-Z: Jarron Jones

    Jul 24, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    After struggling to find his way in the program as a defensive end, Jarron Jones saw a lightbulb come on after filling in for Louis Nix at nose guard. With no other options available, the Irish defensive staff called on Jones to fill Nix’s sizeable void, and Jones responded—turning the trajectory of his career around in the process.

  20. Irish A-to-Z: Alizé Jones

    Jul 23, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    Alize Jones, Cordell Broadus Alize Jones, Cordell Broadus

    Notre Dame won a long recruiting battle for Alizé Jones, landing one of the best tight ends in the country over UCLA. To the victor goes one of the most ready-made pass catching tight ends in the country, and Notre Dame gets a potential difference maker from the moment Jones takes the field.