Jul 20, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
A year after contributing as a freshman, Cole Luke‘s assignment will be a bit more ambitious in 2014. One of three cornerbacks who is expected to play major minutes, Luke embodies the personnel Brian VanGorder’s been given to work with: Young and unproven, but undoubtedly talented.
The former blue-chip recruit who chose Notre Dame over schools like Texas, Oklahoma and USC, Luke came to campus with a reputation as a great technical cornerback will advanced cover skills. We’ll get a much better idea if that reputation was earned in 2014.
Irish A-to-Z continues with Cole Luke.
5’11”, 190 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 3
A Top 150 player, Luke was widely regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the country. The Arizona native took official visits to Oklahoma and Texas before choosing Notre Dame, a sentence you don’t often write.
Playing his high school football at Arizona powerhouse Hamilton, Luke played for former Notre Dame quarterback Steve Belles, who head coach Brian Kelly credited on Signing Day. And while the Irish have had a hard time holding elite skill players like Luke all the way until Signing Day, Luke stayed firm in his commitment.
“We’ve got a great relationship with Coach Belles, a former Notre Dame player here, and just a great fit,” Kelly said. “When Cole came up in the summer, recruited by virtually everybody in the country, I remember when we were talking about this, that he called and kind of had a soft commit. In other words, he called and said, I think I’m going to commit, but what I want to do is I want to be able to say that a couple of times and I want to see how it feels. So I think this was maybe on a Tuesday, and he said I’ll call you back on Saturday. So we’re waiting all week, how does it sound, Cole, sound good? Do you like saying that you’re committed to Notre Dame? And finally he called us back a week later and said, ‘Coach, I’m all in.'”
Freshman Season (2013): Played in all 13 games, making 15 total tackles. Broke up two passes. Made six tackles against Air Force.
There’s a reason why Luke was one of the top cornerbacks in the country coming out of high school. And the Irish coaching staff doesn’t seem to have too much of a worry about Luke sliding into the starting lineup (or a heavy dose of playing time as the team’s third corner) as Notre Dame replaces former captain Bennett Jackson.
We’ll see what Luke truly has as a cover corner this season, as Brian VanGorder’s scheme employs a whole lot of man coverage for cornerbacks. That should work well for Luke, who was seen as a great technician coming out of high school. But with the schedule the Irish play, he’ll need to have a short memory and plenty of confidence to succeed as a sophomore.
Getting a read on the Irish cornerbacks is tricky. After all, we’ve got people talking about KeiVarae Russell as one of the elite corners in college football… and that’s after we all saw him get routinely dusted by Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon last year, a seventh-round draft pick.
Right now the position looks like a strength on the roster, but that’s after seeing this personnel group playing mostly Cover 2 under Diaco, not the most athletically demanding version of the position.
One thing that seems fairly certain right now is that Luke’s going to see the field a lot. Whether it’s starting opposite Russell or playing as a third corner, responsibility will be heaped on Luke’s shoulders after surviving a freshman season without getting exposed.
But he’s going to have to compete. Devin Butler should be healthy after sitting out spring after shoulder surgery. Reports from the summer have freshman corner Nick Watkins looking very ready to contribute. Matthias Farley has shifted to the position, adding some physicality to the position as well.
On paper, this is the type of personnel that exists on championship-level squads. And Luke looks like the type of young talent that embodies that depth.
The Irish A-to-Z
Torii Hunter Jr.
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