The arrow is pointing up for Max Redfield. Notre Dame’s senior safety, a mercurial performer if there ever was one, has impressed his head coach this camp.
“I’ve been very pleased with Max Redfield. He has elevated to that level of consistent performer,” Brian Kelly said Thursday. “I hate to throw kind of cliches around, but he’s been that guy that everybody was hoping for out of high school.”
Redfield, for those that have been under a rock the last four years, was a five-star recruit, pulled away from USC after playing in the Under Armour All-American game. With physical gifts that made him a prototype free safety from the moment he stepped onto campus, getting the physical and mental demands of the game to match his talent has been an ongoing challenge.
After bottoming out and being sent home from the Fiesta Bowl, then struggling to separate himself from true freshman Devin Studstill in spring drills, Redfield has taken the challenge given to him by Kelly and the defensive staff and run with it. And while Kelly wasn’t willing to comment on Redfield’s improved attitude and effort after day one of camp, he went to great lengths to talk about the consistency and effort that’s now coming through.
“He’s playing at that level. He’s at an elite level, the way he’s practicing, the way his volume has increased where he can go all day and play at a high level,” Kelly said.
Elite production from a safety would be a huge step for this defense. Not since Harrison Smith roamed centerfield in Kelly’s first two seasons in South Bend have the Irish had that type of weapon.
Redfield doesn’t need to be Smith for the Irish to be a good defense. But he does need to be a reliable player at a position where a mistake often turns into six points. In his final season at the college level, the light appears to have come on at the right time.
“He just matured,” Kelly explained, when asked about the change in attitude. “He went through a couple of rough spots and decided that being a leader, being in this last year, I’ve seen it over 26 years sometimes, it’s just, time. He’s been impressive.”