Tag: Nicky Baratti

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 19: Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish returns a fumble against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on September 19, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Georgia Tech 30-22. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

As injuries mount, Kelly acknowledges depth chart has breaking point


Next Man In has been a bedrock philosophy for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. But even he understands that the Irish are approaching a breaking point.

The loss of Drue Tranquill is the latest season-ending injury for the Irish, pushing the Irish coaching staff into a sticky spot at safety, the latest position group to see its depth chart tested. And as the Irish move forward this week as their focus turns to UMass, Kelly acknowledged that the Irish need to weather the storm, especially at a few key positions.

“Certainly we can’t afford to lose any more players at key positions,” Kelly said. “Quarterback, running back, you start to get into true freshmen, and that will be obviously a significant change in what we look like.”

At quarterback, true freshman Brandon Wimbush was warming up on the sidelines when Georgia Tech recovered an onside kick and held onto the football. Expect to see Wimbush this weekend, with Kelly knowing full well that he needs to get his young quarterback experience before he heads to Death Valley.

Behind C.J. Prosise, freshman Josh Adams received just three carries on Saturday. But both he and Dexter Williams will likely get a chance to wet their feet against a UMass defensive front that gave up 390 rushing yards to the Colorado Buffaloes.

With Tranquill the latest hard-luck Domer to go down, the safety position gets interesting. Avery Sebastian is still a few weeks away from returning, likely after the off week. Max Redfield stayed off the field on Saturday, both scheme and a broken hand limiting him.

That could lead to utilityman Matthias Farley stepping into the lineup, at a position that’s not exactly his natural spot. Or it could means freshman Nicco Fertitta is activated. Kelly was candid when he said he and Brian VanGorder hadn’t decided what to do yet.

“Matthias has the ability to play a couple of different positions,” Kelly explained. “Brian (VanGorder) and I have not had that personnel conversation yet relative to what will be the next move that we make there. Whether we bring somebody up into that role, or whether it’s Nicco Fertitta, or do we have (Nicky) Baratti move. We’ve got to make that decision here in the next 24 hours. I’m not really sure yet.”

The loss of Tranquill takes away an important piece of Notre Dame’s option puzzle, with Navy still to come. And with the defense already short Jarron Jones and nickel back Shaun Crawford, how this team keeps things together remains to be seen.

“There is a break point. You know, we are still at a point where we have guys that can come in and step in,” Kelly said. “But there’s no question that we have to be able to stem the tide here with these injuries.”

Irish A-to-Z: Nicky Baratti


It feels like forever ago, but in one of the crucial moments of Notre Dame’s 2012 undefeated regular season, freshman safety Nicky Baratti made an interception that kept Michigan out of the end zone. That a young player at a depth-starved position was able to step up served as a promising start to the Texan’s time in South Bend, though it’s also been the high-point of an injury-derailed career.

Baratti missed the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury. He stepped onto the field against Purdue in 2014 and ended his season a play later, injuring the same shoulder.

With depth behind Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate slim, getting anything from Baratti would be a great lift to Todd Lyght’s secondary. But after missing the majority of two seasons after a promising freshman campaign where Baratti played in all 13 games, the future is unclear.

Let’s take a closer look at senior safety.


6’1, 205
Senior, No. 29, S


A custom-made RKG, a high-school jack-of-all-trades came to Notre Dame as a projected safety. First-team 5A All-State in Texas.

Offers from Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Ole Miss and Texas Tech.



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.

Junior Season (2014): Recovered a fumble against Rice in season opener. Injured on his first play at safety against Purdue, ending his season in early September.



Here’s what our Crystal Ball said about Baratti this time last year.

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.

In retrospect, not having a sick and twisted sense of fairness kept me from guessing that the worst-case scenario was about to strike Baratti.



It’s now or never for the senior safety. A widely-discussed candidate for a medical hardship scholarship, multiple shoulder surgeries had him in a similar category to Jarrett Grace and Chase Hounshell heading into spring.

But Baratti participated in spring practice, and he’ll be full-go this summer as work in the weight room and in OTAs will force him to test his shoulder early and often.

There’s no veteran depth in this secondary at safety that’ll play before a healthy Baratti does. Of course, assuming health from a player whose shoulder hasn’t been able to withstand the punishment of college football is a risky proposition.

With the depth chart being what it is, there’s no position better suited to allow Baratti the chance to have a successful return to the field. With graduate transfer Avery Sebastian and then a slew of kids, the chance to get back on track is there if Baratti’s body will let him.



Completely murky. While we’ve seen the careers of contributors like Tony Springmann get derailed after major injuries, Jarrett Grace seems to have returned from long odds and turned himself into a rotational player. Baratti will have earned at least one additional year of eligibility, and a sixth-year medical exemption would likely be a possibility if his body can fully recover… and the Irish see him worthy of two more seasons in the program.

Ultimately, there’s no reason not to push Baratti’s shoulder and see if it’ll hold up. That was likely the plan this spring, with scholarship numbers being tight. And that’ll likely hold true this August, with the Irish needing to be down to 85 scholarships before kickoff against Texas.

We saw a smart, athletic and capable football player as a freshman. If he can stay healthy, Baratti can return to form after a painful detour.


THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB


Irish still trying to find the right answers at safety

Purdue v Notre Dame

As Notre Dame’s finishes up a May spent on the road visiting recruits, one of the keys to a successful 2016 recruiting campaign is to restock the safety position. While graduate transfer Avery Sebastian comes onto campus providing immediate experience, the position is one of the lone worrisome spots on the fully-stocked Irish roster.

As Brian Kelly moves into his sixth season in South Bend, struggles at safety seem to be an evergreen issue. While some Signing Day losses last February kept the haul to just Mykelti Williams and Nicco Fertitta, Notre Dame is targeting three safeties in the 2016 recruiting cycle. The Irish lost out on three-star prospect Kenney Lyke to Michigan State last week, though it doesn’t sound like the Irish are giving up on his recruitment any time soon.

Regardless of Lyke coming around or not, the Irish need to restock the position. Both Elijah Shumate and Sebastian will be gone after the season, so will Swiss-Army defender Matthias Farley. Max Redfield will complete his eligibility in 2016. And the future of mismatched John Turner and injury-plagued Nicky Baratti are cloudy at best.

The struggles at safety go back to the roster Kelly inherited from Charlie Weis. In 2010, the Irish had a two-deep with only four scholarship safeties: Harrison Smith, Jamoris Slaughter, Dan McCarthy and Zeke Motta.

Before Smith was a first-rounder and All-American caliber player, he was a guy who Irish fans had given up on and relegated to linebacker. And when Slaughter was injured in the season opener against Purdue in 2010, Kelly was left with Motta learning on the fly while McCarthy—a guy who some might say never got completely healthy after a serious high school injury—struggled to find a role on the field.

While Smith and Motta provided stability on the back end, it’s been a challenge filling their shoes. The 2013 defense didn’t get great safety play, though Austin Collinsworth finished the season strong. And after Farley shifted to nickel cornerback, the Irish were short-handed from the start last season when Collinsworth was injured 48 hours before the season opener, putting the back-end of Brian VanGorder’s defense both shorthanded and inexperienced with the loss of their fifth-year captain.

We’ve heard all the right things about Shumate and Redfield, who separated themselves in spring ball, especially with Drue Tranquill recovering from an ACL injury and Baratti not a full participant. But the health of this duo is critical, especially if it’ll allow Sebastian to play a complementary role and Farley to stay closer to the line of scrimmage as a slot cornerback.

We’ll get to know names on the recruiting trail like Southern California’s Chacho Ulloa and Devin Studstill, a former high school teammate of freshman Te’von Coney. But with Todd Lyght in his first big-time college job, he’ll be thrown into the deep end trying to upgrade a position group that’s proved to be a challenge from the moment Kelly arrived.