Irish A-to-Z: Elijah Shumate

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Entering his senior season, safety Elijah Shumate has the opportunity to put all the pieces together. After a quick start to his career, Shumate’s struggled with the transition to a full-time starter, failing to build off a scrappy freshman campaign where he blanketed slot receivers in a one-dimensional job.

Since then, even as a prototype strong safety, Shumate has struggled once he ascended into the starting job. He was robbed of a full season as a sophomore when injuries and a late-season suspension short-circuited 2013. Then a quick start in 2014 turned ugly when the back-end of the defense had the same growing pains as the injury-ravaged front seven.

But there’s reason to believe that this year will be better than the last. And with a 215-pound sledgehammer more comfortable in Brian VanGorder’s system, the smart money is on a big senior campaign by a defender who already looks the part.

 

ELIJAH SHUMATE
6’0″, 213 lbs.
Senior, No. 22, S

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

An Army All-American, Shumate was a national prospect and a Top 150 player before he picked Notre Dame in San Antonio.

The Don Bosco Prep product out of New Jersey, Shumate chose Notre Dame after taking official visits to Rutgers and South Carolina and over other offers from Michigan, UCLA, Oklahoma, Miami and Georgia.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2012): Played in all 13 games, serving as a nickel cornerback on Notre Dame’s historic 2012 defense. Made nine total tackles while breaking up three passes.

Sophomore Season (2013): Started four games but saw action in just nine games. Tallied 23 tackles on the season, including one TFL.

Junior Season (2014): Played in all 13 games, starting 11 at safety. He made 66 tackles from the secondary, trailing only Max Redfield. He had 2.5 TFLs including one sack. Had an interception against Michigan and recovered a fumble against North Carolina.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Shumate’s ascent into the starting lineup took place 48 hours before opening kickoff, after Austin Collinsworth went down with an injury. But there were struggles in a new system, not entirely unpredictable.

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.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

You want to see an NFL safety? Just look at Shumate. Physically, there’s nothing not to like about a guy who appears chiseled from granite and has all the tangible traits you’d want in a professional secondary.

Now Shumate needs to show the mental aptitude that great safeties possess. There is no room for broken snaps or blown assignments, especially not for one of the veteran players on the Irish defense.

Working with new secondary coach Todd Lyght will help. So will having some urgency added to the situation, there’s no more time to show promise, not as a senior with no eligibility left.

On paper, Notre Dame’s secondary looks elite. But it’ll only be as good as Shumate and fellow safety Max Redfield allow.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’m bullish on Shumate, who I think will play much more fundamentally sound football in his final season in South Bend. Part of that is maturity, the other part of that is comfort in a system that demands far more than Bob Diaco’s did.

Last season, bodies dropping left and right nearly necessitated Shumate to be on the field and learning from his mistakes. That opportunity won’t be afforded to him—or anybody—this season, especially with Drue Tranquill recovered from ACL surgery and young reinforcements who can learn through their mistakes rather than a guy gone come January.

But I’m betting on Shumate, who’ll likely have his nose around the line of scrimmage, especially with great cover corners in KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke. I’m expecting 80 total tackles and a half-dozen TFLs, with the hopes that Shumate might also force a few turnovers between dropping the hammer and stepping in front of a pass or two.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
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
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB