Jul 1, 2014, 9:30 AM EST
After stepping into a key role during 2012, many expected Matthias Farley to be the next big thing at safety for the Irish. But an up-and-down season in 2013 has Farley changing positions again, heading to cornerback in Brian VanGorder’s new defensive scheme.
After starting his career as a redshirt wide receiver, Farley’s found a home on the defensive side of the ball. But will the move outside (or maybe inside to the slot) help reboot the senior’s career and get him playing more consistent football?
Let’s spend a little time breaking down Matthias Farley.
Senior, No. 41
One of the true off-the-radar prospects that Notre Dame took early in Brian Kelly’s tenure, Farley intrigued the Irish staff as an extremely raw athlete that had only been playing football for two years. He only garnered three stars from recruiting services and had mostly regional offers, but Kelly and the Irish staff saw something immediately in Farley and area recruiter Mike Elston got a pledge from him early in the cycle.
On Signing Day, Kelly talked about the versatility to Farley’s skill-set, which we are seeing play out four years later.
Extremely gifted young man…If there’s one guy in the skill group that physically, when he walks in here, he looks like a college football player,” Kelly said. “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… He’s been at this two years. So we’ll get a young man that is just starting to learn how to play the game.”
Freshman Season (2011): Did not see action as a reserve wide receiver. Redshirted.
Sophomore Season (2012): Moved to safety. Played in all 13 games, starting 11 after Jamoris Slaughter suffered a season-ending injury. Moved ahead of fifth-year safety Dan McCarthy during training camp. Chipping in 49 total tackles for the Irish, playing through a hand injury. Made nine stops in the victory over USC.
Junior Season (2013): Played in all 13 games, starting only eight at safety. Made 49 tackles and two interceptions from his safety position. Had eight tackles against both Stanford and Navy. His interceptions were against Michigan State and Arizona State.
For those that have begun to throw dirt on Farley’s grave after the position switch, it might be a hair early. For as much as Farley might have struggled at times playing a pure safety role in 2013, forcing some leverage into his game at cornerback might be the best thing for him.
There’s no questioning Farley’s athleticism and physicality. But playing in open space wasn’t his strong suit, and lining up in the slot and playing “outside-in,” as Brian Kelly called it, might do a world of good.
Finding his way back on to the field could be a challenge, and Farley won’t always look good in man coverage. But he’s played a lot of good football for Notre Dame, and has the athleticism you want from a versatile piece of the secondary. With two seasons left of eligibility, his final two will be more productive than the first.
There is a lot of talent in the Irish secondary. Max Redfield is expected to take charge of the free safety job, giving Notre Dame more of your prototype safety. Cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell, Cody Riggs and Cole Luke all look the part as well. Throw in Farley and veteran Austin Collinsworth and you’ve got six guys that should play a lot of football. (And Devin Butler will demand a look as well.)
No, Farley didn’t play all that well last season. But remember, Harrison Smith was a dog after two seasons before he turned into a first rounder. Not saying that Farley is on the same path, but he’s a guy that can help the Irish win and will play a ton of snaps. And leaving 2013 in the rearview mirror will be good for him.
At his best, Farley’s a player that embraces big collisions and feels comfortable near the line of scrimmage, and isn’t bad in coverage. Letting VanGorder find the right schemes and situations for Farley to thrive in is a promising situation that’ll likely trigger a bounce-back season for one of the Irish’s brightest student-athletes.
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