Expectations have been heaped on Max Redfield‘s shoulders since the day he arrived with a five-star ranking. With his final chance to play up to them, the Irish senior needs to put the past behind him and focus on making every snap count, consistency the only thing keeping him from a strong season.
Redfield has the athleticism of an NFL safety. And while Devin Studstill stole some snaps during spring, the senior is the only player capable of anchoring the Irish secondary, three seasons with Brian VanGorder and a professional career at stake if he can get things together.
Even after modest production and more than a few self-inflicted setbacks, there’s no shortage of confidence in Redfield. Now he’ll need to show a consistency that’ll allow the Irish defense to count on him, something Brian Kelly’s been asking for since the day he arrived on campus.
6’1″, 205 lbs.
Senior, No. 10, S
Redfield had a five-star rating before he pledged to Notre Dame at the Under Armour All-American Bowl, leaving a commitment to USC to come to Notre Dame after watching the Irish roll through 2012.
Had offers from the West Coast elite programs and could’ve been a top recruit at either safety or receiver.
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.
Junior Season (2015): Made 11 starts, totaling 64 tackles, two TFLs, one interception and two pass breakups. Did not play against Georgia Tech or in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State after being suspended for violating team rules.
WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR
For the second-straight season I swung and missed on my Redfield projections.
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.
There is no question about Redfield’s physical talents. But at this point, there are major question marks about the senior’s maturity, his ability to grasp this defensive system, and his reliability as the last line of defense for this unit.
A five-star ranking might have been a curse for Redfield. He came in with great expectations, making his freshman season a difficult one—ending with the decision to force-feed him experience as he moved into the starting lineup against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Three seasons later we’re still waiting to see the safety who can impact the game—making big plays as a deep ball defender and tackles as a safety supporting the run game.
The lightbulb certainly can come on later for some than others. And there’s no question that this defense needs him to figure it out sooner than later. But at this point, Redfield may be the team’s biggest risk-reward player.
If he builds some confidence early in the season, I think Redfield is a top-five defender on this defense and will make a big statistical impact. If he doesn’t, I think Devin Studstill is starting by the end of the season.
How this shakes out will likely be determined by the player who comes to training camp. Can Redfield mature? Can he play within the system and be a reliable teammate? Brian Kelly will take a wait-and-see approach—as will the NFL.
As someone who has bet on Redfield for two straight seasons, I’m convinced he understands what’s expected from him. I’m even partially convinced he can live up to that standard.
While I’m not expecting Harrison Smith in the secondary, if Redfield can make a few big plays in the passing game and not give up any glaring mental mistakes, his athleticism and the Irish scheme will allow him to make a positive impact on the unit.
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