Aug 22, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
A blue-chip recruit who immediately contributed on the 2012 defense, junior Elijah Shumate is still looking to find his fit in the Irish defense. One of the more physically gifted players in the Irish secondary, the New Jersey native battled injuries and a transition to safety in 2013.
Learning a new system under Brian VanGorder, Shumate is still battling for time as a safety playing in the box. After not hearing his name through spring practice and much of fall camp, Shumate has emerged as a candidate to spell veteran Austin Collinsworth, getting into the two-deep with the season just around the corner.
Here’s a closer look at Shumate.
6’0″ 208 lbs.
Junior, No. 22
An Army All-American, Shumate had an impressive offer list before choosing Notre Dame in San Antonio. A product of Don Bosco Prep, Shumate was a Top 150 recruit by every measure and an instant impact athlete.
“He’s a young man that played running back, returned kicks, played safety position,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “He’s got great versatility, can play off the hash, close to the ball, excited about having Elijah with us.”
Shumate took official visits to South Carolina and Rutgers before visiting South Bend in December. He also turned down offers from programs like Michigan, UCLA, Oklahoma, Miami, Georgia and Penn State.
Freshman Season (2012): Played in all 13 games, serving as a nickel cornerback and also playing on special teams. Made nine total tackles for the Irish and also broke up three passes.
Sophomore Season (2013): Shumate started four games, but only saw action in nine total games. Shumate battled injuries and was also didn’t make the trip to Palo Alto after violating a team rule. Made 23 tackles on the season, including four against Arizona State.
That Shumate isn’t starting as a junior isn’t an indictment on his future, but most expected him to surpass Austin Collinsworth by now. But the transition from slot cornerback to safety has taken longer than most Irish fans hoped, a product of expanded duties and a depth chart with some talent as well.
Shumate has started to find his niche, and could be a serviceable in-the-box safety, playing like a bull in a china shop, the type of high energy sledgehammer we saw in 2012. Shumate was capable of running like a cornerback covering slot receivers, and could slide into that role if the suspension of KeiVarae Russell lasts a significant amount of the year.
But Shumate’s down to two seasons of collegiate eligibility, needing the light switch to flip on soon if he’s going to play up to his recruiting ranking and the promise he showed as a freshman.
It’s hard to predict Shumate’s season without knowing how well Collinsworth plays. But in a defense that has multiple packages, you’d be hard pressed to think Shumate doesn’t have a role in there somewhere. A better athlete than Collinsworth, Shumate showed skill in coverage as a freshman, though playing a role the Irish have pushed to Matthias Farley.
That Shumate hasn’t moved to that hybrid spot likely says that he’s still a great option at safety, merely one not quite as reliable as the fifth-year Collinsworth. But with two seasons under his belt and a year away from the nagging injuries that kept him off the field, Shumate is another unproven quantity that needs to play well this season for the Irish to have a chance.
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