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Redfield earns the praise of his head coach

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The arrow is pointing up for Max Redfield. Notre Dame’s senior safety, a mercurial performer if there ever was one, has impressed his head coach this camp.

“I’ve been very pleased with Max Redfield. He has elevated to that level of consistent performer,” Brian Kelly said Thursday. “I hate to throw  kind of cliches around, but he’s been that guy that everybody was hoping for out of high school.”

Redfield, for those that have been under a rock the last four years, was a five-star recruit, pulled away from USC after playing in the Under Armour All-American game. With physical gifts that made him a prototype free safety from the moment he stepped onto campus, getting the physical and mental demands of the game to match his talent has been an ongoing challenge.

After bottoming out and being sent home from the Fiesta Bowl, then struggling to separate himself from true freshman Devin Studstill in spring drills, Redfield has taken the challenge given to him by Kelly and the defensive staff and run with it. And while Kelly wasn’t willing to comment on Redfield’s improved attitude and effort after day one of camp, he went to great lengths to talk about the consistency and effort that’s now coming through.

“He’s playing at that level. He’s at an elite level, the way he’s practicing, the way his volume has increased where he can go all day and play at a high level,” Kelly said.

Elite production from a safety would be a huge step for this defense. Not since Harrison Smith roamed centerfield in Kelly’s first two seasons in South Bend have the Irish had that type of weapon.

Redfield doesn’t need to be Smith for the Irish to be a good defense. But he does need to be a reliable player at a position where a mistake often turns into six points. In his final season at the college level, the light appears to have come on at the right time.

“He just matured,” Kelly explained, when asked about the change in attitude. “He went through a couple of rough spots and decided that being a leader, being in this last year, I’ve seen it over 26 years sometimes, it’s just, time. He’s been impressive.”

Dew-Treadway, Watkins to miss extended time

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Wide receiver Michael Thomas #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs with the ball as Nick Watkins #21 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish attempts to make a tackle during the first quarter of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. Buckeyes won 44-28. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s defensive depth took a hit this week as Micah Dew-Treadway and Nick Watkins both underwent surgical procedures. Dew-Treadway fractured his foot and is expected to miss eight weeks while Watkins had another surgery to help speed up his recovery from a broken arm.

Head coach Brian Kelly gave the injury updates after Thursday’s practice, Notre Dame’s first day back in South Bend after opening in Culver, Indiana.

Dew-Treadway wasn’t projected as part of the two-deep as he begins his second season in the program. But the additional surgery for Watkins is a setback for a player who was expected to compete for a starting job across from Cole Luke.

“Nick Watkins had a procedure to stimulate bone growth,” Kelly explained. “We’re hopeful that this procedure, which is you know a bit of an aggressive procedure, does the trick. We’re very hopeful that it will.”

With a timetable of four weeks, the Dallas native doesn’t appear to be on schedule to face off against Texas. But this staff clearly believes he’ll be a contributor on this defense, capable of winning the starting job when he’s back healthy.

Until then, young players will step into the role. Shaun Crawford and Nick Coleman appear to be the first candidates, with Crawford sliding inside to nickel. Ashton White also is having a strong camp after redshirting last season. True freshman Donte Vaughn will also likely be activated, a 6-foot-2 cover cornerback with a skill-set that’s unique on the roster.

“We feel we’re in pretty good shape,” Kelly said. “We feel like the depth that we’ve got there, it just means some freshmen will be elevated into a more prominent role.”

Video: BK talks training camp

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Jack Nolan catches up with Brian Kelly as the Irish wrap up their time at Culver Academy.

 

Irish A-to-Z: Avery Sebastian

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For Irish safety Avery Sebastian, a sixth season is a rare opportunity to make an impact after a star-crossed career. Sebastian, who came to Notre Dame as a graduate transfer and lasted less than a game before suffering a season-ending foot injury in 2015, now needs to find a way to get through a full season healthy and find a niche as a physical, downhill safety.

That could be in sub-packages. That could be as a building block on special teams.

After spending four years at Cal and another season at Notre Dame, we’re still not quite sure what the Irish have. But as a veteran in a young secondary, Sebastian is an intriguing piece if he’s able to stay on the field.

 

AVERY SEBASTIAN
5’10”, 200 lbs.
Grad Student, No. 8, S

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star recruit, Sebastian was ranked as high as the No. 6 safety in the country by ESPN. An All-State player in the state of Georgia, he was listed at No. 8 on the Rivals national list of “top 10 headhunters,” before picking Cal.

He was a US Army All-American Bowl participant and played for the USA U-19 National team.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2011): Played in 12 games off the bench for Cal, a key special teams cog. Made nine total tackles, with a season-high four against Arizona State.

Sophomore Season (2012): Played in 11 games, making four starts at safety. Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 for his special teams work. Made 56 tackles, fifth on the team, adding 1.5 TFLs.

Junior Season (2013): Started the season opener at safety, making 10 tackles and an interception before a season-ending injury.

Senior Season (2014): Played in seven games with a start. Made 21 tackles on the season, including seven against Stanford.

Fifth Year (2015): Appeared against Texas in the season opener before an injury ended his season. Qualified for a sixth season with a medical redshirt.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

What happens when the insurance policy gets injured?

Consider Sebastian an insurance policy, and I’m guessing he’ll be a fixture on every run team on special teams. Don’t be surprised if he also finds a role in some third down packages, or perhaps as a in-the-box safety against run-heavy opponents.

Sebastian feels like the logical backup to Elijah Shumate, though Tranquill will certainly have something to say about that. But with a gap between the young freshmen who just hit campus and veterans like Shumate and Max Redfield, Sebastian is a perfect plug-in, earning his way to Notre Dame after handling his business at Cal.

Regardless of what happens at the next level, a degree from Berkeley and a masters from Notre Dame? Sebastian will be just fine in the future.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Sebastian isn’t a starter unless something goes wrong with Drue Tranquill. But he also wouldn’t be in South Bend if he didn’t have a specific value, and Brian Kelly and Brian VanGorder keeping him around certainly means he’ll be able to contribute in this system.

Undersized and not a natural in coverage, Sebastian’s game might be a little one-dimensional. But that’s not the worst thing in the world if it’s something that can help fill a deficiency, something this defense currently has.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Predicting a healthy season from Sebastian is difficult at this point. But I liked the idea of adding Sebastian before last season and I still like it now. It’s tough to find snaps for Sebastian right now, though those snaps are currently being allocated to a player with two major knee injuries in his last half-dozen football games.

So he’s a Next Man In candidate who’ll likely be a key contributor on special teams. That’s a very good way to utilize a scholarship, especially from a veteran who is key depth at a position of need.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer
Julian Love
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Deon McIntosh
Javon McKinley
Pete Mokwuqh
John Montelus
D.J. Morgan
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Julian Okwara
James Onwualu
Spencer Perry
Troy Pride Jr.
Max Redfield
Isaac Rochell
Trevor Ruhland
CJ Sanders

Camp highlights: Day three

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Yes, we did this out of order. We’ll take the 5-yard penalty and replay first down.

 

0:08 — Digging the music as CJ Sanders (#3) runs against air on the jet sweep.

0:18 — Nice ball from DeShone Kizer to Kevin (or let’s go with K.J.) Stepherson (#29) on the flag route. I fully expect an ACC officiating crew to spend three minutes overturning that catch.

0:27 — Brian Kelly expects a big season from Jay Hayes. What that looks like remains to be seen, but he’s an impressive looking football player. What a great decision (though probably very difficult) to redshirt him last year.

0:39Max Redfield (#10) breaks up the end zone attempt to CJ Sanders, making a nice late play at the ball after getting slightly out of position. Redfield certainly has the athleticism that allows him to run with athletes like Sanders, though he didn’t necessarily track the ball all that well.

0:50 — If Durham Smythe can hold up at the point of attack against Isaac Rochell (or guys like him), this running game will be very, very good.

0:53Malik Zaire on the move. He’ll likely be at his best once the pocket breaks down, though it’s much easier to shake-and-bake in the open field with a red jersey on. (That said, I think Zaire prefers to run like a sledge-hammer not a tap-dancer.)

1:07 — Hold on to that football, Tony Jones. It’s tough to make out who that is coming off the edge, but it looks like it could be Julian Okwara (#42) or Jamir Jones (#44) making a nice play.

1:16 — Gotta hold on to that one, Tyler Luatua (I think it’s Luatua). Great closing speed by Nyles Morgan, who I’m expecting to be sneaky good against the pass.