Skip to content

Spring Solutions: Secondary

Mar 18, 2013, 12:20 PM EDT

Notre Dame at USC AP

After years where numbers dwindled, spring in the secondary will be a different picture. With a depth chart that rolls almost three deep, Kerry Cooks and Bob Elliott have their hands full as they continue to develop a position group that was the most surprising on the roster last season.

But even with their solid play, there’s plenty of work to do for the Irish secondary. At safety, there’ll be plenty of open competition, as Zeke Motta’s departure leaves no clear-cut leader at safety. With Bennett Jackson out for the spring healing from shoulder surgery, it also gives important snaps to a handful of cornerbacks that need to push their way into the playing rotation before three talented youngsters join them in the fall.

Let’s take a look at the Irish secondary, first the depth chart and then some spring objectives.

SECONDARY DEPTH CHART

Bennett Jackson, Sr. (recovering from surgery)
KeiVarae Russell, Soph.
Lo Wood, Sr.
Elijah Shumate, Soph.
Jalen Brown, Jr.
Josh Atkinson, Jr.

Matthias Farley, Jr.
Austin Collinsworth, Sr.
Eilar Hardy, Jr.
Nicky Baratti, Soph.
CJ Prosise, Soph.
John Turner, Soph.
Chris Badger, Soph.

SPRING OBJECTIVES:

Bennett Jackson: Get healthy. Jackson played much of last season with his shoulder in a harness. Taking the spring to get healthy is a luxury the senior cornerback can afford, especially after an impressive 2012 campaign.

KeiVarae Russell: Speaking of impressive 2012s, there might not have been one more impressive than Russell’s. The true freshman converted from running back and stepped immediately into the starting lineup. Outside of being beat long in the season opener, Russell played nicely throughout the season, showing the type of competitor he is as he gained confidence throughout the season.

Building off 2012 will be important for Russell, who needs to add some heft to his frame and continue to work on his speed and quickness out of breaks. Taking Russell’s game from impressive freshman season to just plain impressive should be the objective.

Lo Wood: After a heart-breaking Achilles tear took Wood off the field for 2012, coming back and feeling comfortable this spring should be enough of a reward. The injury couldn’t have come at a less advantageous time, with Wood garnering almost universal praise from the coaching staff for his hard work, which had all but locked him into the starting field-cornerback job.

Wood’s healthy return would mean a lot to the Irish secondary, adding another cover man to two proven entities. There’s every reason to believe Wood will be given the opportunity to fight Russell for the starting job, and at the very least will add some nice depth at the nickel, giving the unit some versatility.

Elijah Shumate: After sliding down to cornerback early in the season, Shumate showed a nose for the football, making more than a few big plays breaking up passes while covering slot receivers. Physically, Shumate has all the tools to be a boundary cornerback, with an impressive physicality to go along with speed that played well enough in his debut season.

It’s worth watching what the staff does with Shumate, who has some positional versatility. If the cornerback jobs are locked up, expect him to get a chance to fight for time at safety as well.

Jalen Brown: It’s not now or never time for Brown, as the junior needs to have a sense of urgency this spring. With three young corners coming in and a younger starter already in front of him, the 6-foot-1 Texan has the size and length the Irish are looking for in cornerbacks, but he’ll need to have that translate onto the field.

John Atkinson: Brown’s write-up could basically be echoed for Atkinson. Heading into his junior season, Atkinson is in danger of getting buried on the depth chart if he doesn’t have a good spring. To his credit, the speedster is taking off the track season to focus on football. But he’ll need to continue to hone his technique this spring as he builds confidence in coverage.

Matthias Farley: After filling in more than admirably last season, Farley heads into spring practice likely in the starting lineup, but still in need of mental and physical reps. The converted wide receiver made a more than impressive debut in the secondary, playing tough and physical near the line of scrimmage (even with a broken hand) while also holding up fine in coverage.

Austin Collinsworth: After an impressive spring, Collinsworth was injured during the Blue-Gold game, a tough break for a versatile defensive back that had stated his case for a lot of playing time. With a shoulder surgery keeping him out for most of the season, Collinsworth also had a back procedure, one similar to the surgery that Tyler Eifert had early in his career.

If there’s a guy that feels ready to step into the starting lineup, it’s Collinsworth. He’s a heady player and while it might take him some time to get up to speed physically, he’s a veteran that the defensive staff can trust in center field.

Eilar Hardy: These are 15 important practices for Hardy, who suffered a knee injury early in his career and spent most of last season buried on the depth chart. Entering his junior season, Hardy needs to show that he’s no longer suffering any ill effects from the knee, and also flash some of the ability that had many believing he was one of the elite recruits in his class.

Nicky Baratti: After an impressive freshman season, Baratti has to feel like he’s in the mix for a starting job. The youngster had a key interception and played significant minutes in crunch time, showing his worth in a unit that was in desperate need of bodies. This spring, Baratti will build on his debut, hoping to be the type of heavy hitter that roams the back-end of the secondary, capable of playing in the box or over the top.

CJ Prosise: If there’s an intriguing wildcard in the secondary this spring it’s Prosise, who spent time moonlighting at outside linebacker before officially saving a year of eligibility. At 6-foot-2, Prosise has great size for the position, and he’s got plenty of speed to spare as well. (I’m curious to see where Prosise weighs in when the updated roster is released.) He’s the type of player that should provide some positional flexibility as well.

John Turner: The Indianapolis native will take his redshirt off as well, bringing another big body to the back end of the defense. Questions about Turner’s speed have been around forever – even the Irish coaching staff waited to watch him run at their clinic before offering him a scholarship. But Turner will likely make an impact on special teams quickly, with the perfect physique needed for cover teams.

Chris Badger: After re-acclimating himself to football after a two year mission, Badger now jumps into a positional battle that many see him as an underdog in. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a chance to watch Badger play, but the guy we saw on tape, and the one that Charlie Weis offered a scholarship, was a physical safety that wasn’t afraid to play down in the box. At 6-foot, 193-pounds, Badger doesn’t have elite speed, but we’ll see if the football instincts he showed in his prep career can thrust him into the positional race.

Latest Posts
  1. Video Roundup from Spring Practice

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly, Malik Zaire Brian Kelly, Malik Zaire

    With Brian Kelly hosting his annual coaches clinic, Notre Dame’s practice field is filled with high school coaches (and some intriguing recruits) taking a look under the hood of the Irish program.

  2. Spring Mailbag: Tillery, Optimism, and practice updates

    Mar 27, 2015, 1:57 PM EDT

    247Sports.com 247Sports.com

    Let’s get to part one of the mailbag. Some very good questions here, so check back over the weekend as there’ll be more to come.

  3. Bars and Nelson impressing at left guard

    Mar 26, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT

    Quenton Nelson

    Matt Hegarty’s unexpected departure opened up a job along the offensive line. With fifth-year center Nick Martin back in the middle, Hegarty choosing to go somewhere else to play center opened up the competition at left guard.

  4. Expectations for Jerry Tillery sky high

    Mar 25, 2015, 1:17 PM EDT

    247Sports.com 247Sports.com

    Jerry Tillery’s recruitment was anything but ordinary. Long committed to the Irish, Notre Dame held off LSU, with Les Miles and the Tigers’ coaching staff doing everything they could to talk the local product into staying home.

  5. Spring practice mailbag: Now Open

    Mar 25, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    New Mailbox

    Drop your questions below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  6. After injury detour, Jarrett Grace looks to be back on track

    Mar 24, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    Temple v Notre Dame Getty Images

    While our inside looks at Notre Dame’s spring practice have been few and far between (blink and you could miss the footage from the YouTube practice reports), the little news that’s been coming out of the Gug has been good.

  7. Elston ready to make his mark on Notre Dame recruiting

    Mar 23, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT

    USA Today USA Today

    Notre Dame landed three recruiting commitments coming out of the weekend’s Junior Day. And if it’s up to Mike Elston, there’ll be plenty more where that came from.

  8. Running back Tony Jones Jr. commits to Irish

    Mar 22, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    This weekend’s Junior Day netted another recruit, with Notre Dame’s coaching staff accepting the commitment of Florida running back Tony Jones Jr. The IMG Academy runner was in South Bend this weekend, and is the first running back in the fold for the Irish in the 2016 class.

  9. Junior Day nets commitments from Julian Love, John Shannon

    Mar 21, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class took a big step forward on Saturday, gaining commitments from cornerback Julian Love and long snapper John Shannon. Both Love and Shannon pledged their commitment after receiving offers this afternoon from the Irish staff.

  10. 2016 recruiting begins with weekend Junior Day

    Mar 20, 2015, 1:41 PM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    Notre Dame’s coaching staff begins their 2016 recruiting efforts this weekend with its first on-campus Junior Day. While the reshuffled staff had an opportunity to hit the road in February, the Irish coaches will host their first major recruiting event of the spring this weekend.

  11. Jeff Quinn officially joins staff as offensive analyst

    Mar 19, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Jeff Quinn Jeff Quinn

    When Notre Dame announced Brian Kelly’s reshuffled coaching staff, one name many expected to be part of the release wasn’t. Former Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn—an offensive coordinator and line coach for Kelly for decades—had been long rumored for a staff position, but wasn’t part of Kelly’s reshuffled team of assistants.

  12. Two different roads to return for Russell and Williams

    Mar 19, 2015, 11:22 AM EDT

    Notre Dame at USC AP

    As Brian Kelly kicked off spring practice with his press conference Tuesday, he gave a long-awaited update on exiled players KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams.

  13. Video Roundup: Spring Practice Begins

    Mar 18, 2015, 1:55 PM EDT

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    Notre Dame kicked off spring practice bright and early Wednesday morning. With our first look at the Irish as they prepare for the 2015 season, Brian Kelly’s troops were ready for action, even if they were relegated to helmets and shorts.

  14. Irish open spring: Five quick updates from BK

    Mar 17, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    With Irish eyes already smiling thanks to St. Patrick’s Day, Notre Dame fans got a free double-down with Brian Kelly’s opening press conference before spring practice starts tomorrow.

  15. Notre Dame, Ball State set to meet in 2018

    Mar 16, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Pete Lembo Pete Lembo

    It looks as if another piece of Notre Dame’s non-ACC football scheduling has come into place. Ball State has announced an agreement to play at Notre Dame Stadium in early September of 2018, likely locking in the Irish’s second opponent of the season.

  16. The road to a successful 2015 season is just getting started

    Mar 16, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT

    USA TODAY Sports USA TODAY Sports

    After Notre Dame’s men won an improbable ACC basketball title, the team and their head coach did little to shy away from their difficulties in the NCAA tournament.

    #NotDoneYet adorns every tweet coming from the team’s official account, and likely serves as a mantra for a team that’s shown flashes of brilliance during regular seasons past, but too often became pumpkins in mid-March.

  17. Notre Dame Mailbag: It’s all about the Quarterbacks

    Mar 13, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Everett Golson

    One question, asked a half-dozen different ways. And it’s all about the quarterbacks.

  18. Mailbag: Now Open

    Mar 12, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    New Mailbox

    With spring practice beginning next week, let’s open up the mailbag.

  19. Tracking fifth-year spots and the bumpy road to 85 scholarships

    Mar 11, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    Jarrett Grace Jarrett Grace

    With Notre Dame on break, the campus is quiet one week before spring practice gets started. But the work inside the Gug is still likely underway, with recruiting efforts for the 2016 cycle pushing forward and discussions about the 2015 roster taking center stage.

  20. No change to CFB Playoff a good thing for Notre Dame

    Mar 10, 2015, 2:53 PM EDT

    Jack Swarbrick

    The only reviews of the College Football Playoff that matter are in. And after one year and a whole lot of excitement and unpredictability, don’t expect to see any changes coming soon.