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Irish A-to-Z: Nicky Baratti

May 1, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT


Entering last spring, Nicky Baratti looked like a candidate to win a starting job at safety. But his career trajectory was thrown into doubt when a shoulder injury cost him his sophomore season. Healthy after returning to action this spring, Baratti enters a depth chart that doesn’t even resemble the one he entered in 2012. But he’ll be back in the thick of a secondary that’s talented but still needs to sort things out.

Let’s take a closer look at the rising junior from Texas.

6’1″, 206 lbs.
Junior, No. 29


In the height of the RKG craze, Baratti looked like a custom fit. The Spring, Texas native was an “athlete” that projected to be a safety at the next level. Baratti’s offer list was good, but didn’t contain many elite options, though schools like Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Ole Miss, Northwestern and Texas Tech chased him, even though he committed early to Notre Dame.

Baratti played five positions during his senior season, working as a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and safety. He also punted. He was named to the first-team 5A All-State team by the Texas Sportswriters Association.

Like most recruits, Baratti “shrunk” when he actually got on campus, not quite the 6-foot-2, 215-pound safety that Rivals advertised. But he saw the field quickly, contributing a key interception as a freshman and working his way up the safety depth chart immediately.



Freshman Season (2012): Played in all 13 games both on special teams and as a back-up safety. Made eight tackles and a key interception against Michigan in the end zone, the first by a freshman since 2008.

Sophomore Season (2013): Missed the season with an injury.



There’s no question Baratti’s career is at a crossroad. Since his injury, Max Redfield has emerged as a starting safety and Austin Collinsworth has returned to action. Classmate Elijah Shumate is also battling for playing time at safety along with Eilar Hardy, who had a nice 2013 season in Baratti’s absence.

But there’s still reason to believe that Baratti can be a productive player. Brian VanGorder’s system has shifted “safeties” like John Turner and James Onwualu into a different mold, likely pushing them closer to the line of scrimmage. That leaves Baratti, Hardy, and Shumate as the depth at the position, now that Matthias Farley has turned into a cornerback.

One place Baratti will likely stand out is on special teams. He showed a knack as a true freshman on coverage units and will likely add some speed and athleticism to those teams this fall. But that likely won’t be enough to satisfy Baratti, who managed to play his way onto the field early as a freshman, giving you an idea that his football IQ is above-average. With the Irish rebooting their system this year, Baratti has a chance to make up some lost ground with a strong knowledge base.



I tend to think Baratti is too good of a football player to not see the field. If not for his shoulder injury, some expected Baratti to be one of the winners of last spring’s wide-open safety battle, and if he’s fully healthy and can play at full speed, there’s no reason why he can’t be a contributor.

It might not happen in 2014, but the depth chart starts to clear up once Collinsworth departs, as it’ll be interesting to see if Eilar Hardy sticks around for a fifth year.

Without having seen Brian VanGorder’s defense in action, it’s hard to know how often he’ll utilize the safety position in nickel and dime packages. Bob Diaco loved using a safety as the next defender in, though it sounds like VanGorder will put an extra corner on the field first, especially with the talent Notre Dame has at the position.

But Baratti was known for his speed coming into South Bend. So if he’s able to cover, he’ll have a chance to play.


The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson

  1. upthera44 - May 1, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    Can Baratti get a medical red shirt for last year to extend his eligibility?

  2. shaunodame - May 1, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    What I most love about Baratti, more than the obvious RKG mold, is his overall athleticism. He is both great in space and a beast in the box. Baratti plays with an absolutely fearless mentality. That probably has something to do with him getting banged up. I’d still take his heart and athletic ability everyday when debating safeties. If there’s playing time to be had at safety for Nicky, I see him overtaking Eilar Hardy this season on the depth chart.

    Off the field, Baratti was one of the the earlier kids to flow through Notre Dame’s newly founded Texas Recruiting Pipeline so I’ll always appreciate him for helping to get that ball rolling. Regardless of how his chances at playing time turn out I hope he sticks around, ala Josh Atkinson, and plays out his eligibility here at ND. Nicky Baratti is an A-Okay player in my book.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - May 2, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      he was clearly smart enough and athletic enough to see the field plenty as a true freshman, including during that redzone stand where he recorded the INT.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenging collinsworth for time. he’s just as quick/fast/big as collinsworth, or more so, and assuming his recognition is up to par he should be a staple in the back for the next couple of years. sure, he’s not 6 ‘ 2″, 220 as we might have thought and hoped, but now we see the redfield isn’t either and he’s working out just fine.

      baratti could be the clock-cleaner that ND has been missing at safety since motta left. though not as tall as motta, look for baratti to be a muuuuch better tackler and avoid the horrendous angles motta was known for taking. I like the comparison to burris. it’s funny how at the time, at 6 ft., 200 lbs burris was one of the bigger safeties to play the position. these days, those specs put you toward the bottom of the list.

  3. onward2victory - May 1, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Underrated player, wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the field a lot this fall. I actually hope we do.

    • dickasman - May 2, 2014 at 2:12 AM

      C’mon onward you don’t really mean that do you? If he cracks the line up we is be in lots of trouble.

      • onward2victory - May 2, 2014 at 2:45 AM

        He cracked the line up in the 2012 season as a freshman when the defense was awesome. So yah I think he can crack the line up this year.

      • 1historian - May 3, 2014 at 1:25 PM


  4. ndfenian - May 1, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    I wonder if we will see a thumper at safety emerge akin to a Zeke Motta or Harrison Smith….or Jeff Burris… just had to throw that last one in cause damn Burris could hit.

    • dickasman - May 2, 2014 at 2:10 AM

      Redfield certainly has the specs but we ll see!

  5. dickasman - May 2, 2014 at 2:09 AM

    Lol at shrinkage. Did he jump in the pool?

    Didn’t expect much from him really. If he doesn’t get arrested for stealing crabs or get the crabs, that’s a solid contribution.

  6. yaketyyacc - May 2, 2014 at 4:53 AM

    Keith, would it be difficult to put a photo of the player in your article. all we get to see is a number and helmet.
    and why is it hard to envision Baratti, who was in every game in his freshman year, not being a factor in 2014?

    • 1historian - May 2, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      1) I hit ‘report comment’. Mistake, my bad, didn’t mean it, sorry

      2) Picture – good idea, but we could go to ‘Roster’ to see what he looks like

      3) I would answer that the reason Baratti might not start this year, although he will certainly see the field a lot, is because we have a lot of depth at the position. This is good.

    • dickasman - May 2, 2014 at 6:46 PM

      Is he hott?

  7. jem5b - May 2, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    A nice tribute to Louis Nix, and Lou’s feelings about Our Lady’s University.

  8. 1historian - May 2, 2014 at 2:21 PM


    To start out – thanks for doing such an outstanding job. I come to this site multiple times every day – especially to your stuff – and I’m always glad I did.

    I’m 70 years old, retired and I’m an old coot who has one question – what is this ‘offseason’ of which you speak so highly?

  9. 4beav - May 2, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    I’d like to see someone like Nicky who can bring some more toughness (which was lacking last year) to the field much like the ultimate tough guy,,,,,,,,,, Zibby!

  10. whiskeystraight - May 2, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    Baratti is my pick to start opposite Redfield. Though he is coming off of injury, its not a knee or ankle or anything that should hurt his athleticism. He has great acceleration and a high football IQ. As long as he stays healthy I think he is the next Harrison Smith.

  11. jem5b - May 3, 2014 at 8:37 PM

    Re; Louis Nix 111. His final words…..”love thee Notre Dame”.

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