Irish A-to-Z: Max Redfield

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Irish fans have been waiting to see Max Redfield emerge as the star safety Notre Dame has desperately needed since Harrison Smith went to the NFL. But entering his third season, Redfield is still a work in progress.

It hasn’t all been the Southern California native’s fault. Redfield has had two defensive coordinators. He’s had his position coach change. And he’s seen information overload likely impact his ability to make split-second decisions, the different between playing great football… and getting replaced, like Redfield was last season.

2014 was an up-and-down year for Redfield, with a public benching after the Arizona State game serving as the low point and a nice performance against LSU in the Music City Bowl a impressive rebound.

The junior is Notre Dame’s best hope at safety. Let’s take a closer look at the former five-star prospect.

 

MAX REDFIELD
6’1″, 198 lbs.
Junior, No. 10, S
RECRUITING PROFILE

Redfield had a five-star rating before he pledged to Notre Dame at the Under Armour All-American bowl. It was just part of the strong finish the Irish had on the recruiting trail, snatching Redfield’s commitment from USC and putting him in the Irish secondary.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2013): Played in 12 games, starting against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Made 12 tackles on the season.

Sophomore Season (2014): Played in all 13 games, starting 11 at safety. Made 68 total tackles, tops for defenders in the Irish secondary. Had interception against Michigan. Made 14 tackles against LSU, putting him on multiple All-Bowl Team lists.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

To put it bluntly, I missed on this. Redfield didn’t thrive in Brian VanGorder’s system, as the safety play for Notre Dame was a huge liability.

Count me among the believers in Redfield, who should put up big numbers roaming center field for VanGorder’s defense. If cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke and Cody Riggs are capable of holding strong in coverage, Redfield is going to be the beneficiary of plenty of misdirected passes, with receivers rubbed off their routes and timing interrupted.

That said, one of the tenets of a Brian Kelly defense is a disdain for giving up big plays. And ultimately Redfield will be the Irish’s last line of defense, with the responsibilities of being the man over the top and ultimately understanding all that’s going on.

After struggling with the transition to the college game and a complex system, one listen to Redfield assures you those worries are gone and his confidence is back. We’ll see if that short memory continues when things break down on the field, but for now the Irish have the makings of a young star at safety.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

There’s a fairly large disconnect between what the coaching staff views Redfield’s ceiling at and what we’ve seen from him on the field. Again, it’s worth the standard boilerplate disclaimer: Redfield’s a safety and it sometimes takes some time. If it were up to Irish fans, Harrison Smith would’ve been an outside linebacker as a third-year player. Instead he became one of the country’s best safeties.

At this point, I just don’t think Redfield has the same ceiling as Smith, even if he was a blue-chip recruit with five-stars next to his name. But I do think he’ll take a large step forward, and there’s no question that he’s got elite athletic abilities, even if his natural playmaking ability hasn’t come out yet.

On paper and at their best, the duo of Redfield and Elijah Shumate look like future NFL contributors. In reality, we haven’t seen anywhere close to that yet. But they’ll be different players now that they’ve spent a season with VanGorder and benefit from the coaching of Todd Lyght, and that’s a big reason why it’s still logical to be bullish about Redfield’s future.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’m going to bet on Redfield one more time, taking my own advice that sometimes it takes a little bit longer for safeties to figure it out. That said, there are some things that I’d like to see cleaned up in his game, and it’s hard to un-see that missed tackle on the sidelines against Arizona State, the kind of olé that sticks with a player for a long time.

You need to be a ball-hawking centerfielder if you aren’t the most physical guy in the world. And Redfield’s single interception and just two pass breakups sure doesn’t look like ball-hawking. He was a step slow too often in 2014, seeing a play develop, but not reacting soon enough to make a difference. That’s not good safety play.

But Redfield’s bowl game performance really helped. (No, the touchdown pass wasn’t his fault.) And that’s the way Redfield should play every week, near the football constantly and racking up tackles while playing physical.

This spring, we heard all the right things about Redfield’s game. And the change at position coach will be good for Redfield, a new voice—and clean slate—important. Make no mistake, there isn’t anybody else in this secondary who can play safety the way the Irish staff needs Redfield to play. So if the Irish are going to be as good as they think they can be, they’ll need Redfield to up his production.

My guess? He’ll do it. So I’m putting the baseline at 85 tackles and four interceptions, while also expecting him to exponentially increase his ability to be disruptive in the passing game.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
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Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
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