There’s no contingency plan at safety this fall. While Cal transfer Avery Sebastian will add some much needed depth, the starting jobs as Notre Dame’s last lines of defense belong to Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate.
The duo held the same jobs for most of the 2014 season as well, until their inconsistent play banished both of them to the doghouse. Yet injuries and depth issues forced both back onto the field. And after a much needed step back during bowl prep, while they weren’t perfect against LSU, each ended the season playing one of their best games.
If the Irish defense is going to excel in 2015, they’ll need to get more from Redfield and Shumate. And is sounds like the veteran duo has responded to the challenge.
“Their development is clearly evident and so much different than where we were at this time last year or anytime during the season,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “We don’t see the missed assignments. We see clearly two guys that have grasped a hold of what we’re doing out there, so they’ve kind of settled into two very solid football players back there for us.”
That’s a necessity for the Irish if they intend to reach their lofty 2015 goals. And it’s also time for both former highly-touted recruits to play up to the potential they brought with them to South Bend.
As we saw with players like Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta and Kyle McCarthy, the lightbulb doesn’t always turn on immediately. And last year’s scheme change clearly took some getting used to, robbing two very good athletes of the first-step quickness that disappears when you’re thinking too much.
But second-year coordinator Brian VanGorder has kept a close eye on the safety position this spring. And at perhaps the most veteran position on the roster, the progress is coming.
“They’ve been real solid, both of them. Way more comfortable, more knowledgable. Not getting a lot of panic snaps from them. Just playing way more confident,” VanGorder said earlier this spring.
“Both of them have very good physical traits… The consistency of the position and the comfort of the position will bring out more of those physical traits that they have and make them both more productive. They’ve just got to keep working.”