Farley making the switch to wide receiver


On a roster relatively shy of defensive backs, Brian Kelly and staff decided to remove one more from the depth chart.

Only this time, it was before he ever officially got started.

News broke today that incoming freshman Matthias Farley is moving to wide receiver just weeks before the newcomer was set to report to campus. Farley was initially projected to play cornerback for the Irish next season, a position where the Irish have little depth behind starters Gary Gray and Robert Blanton.

The move seems to be one of the last personnel moves before the Irish begin unofficial summer workouts, getting both the players and strength coach Paul Longo properly aligned for June.

Christian McCollum of IrishSportsDaily.com has the details:

Farley ended up with offers from a host of BCS football programs before committing to Notre Dame as a defensive back. He was all set to line up in the defensive huddle at South Bend until a call from his recruiter, Mike Elston, a couple weeks ago.

“They reevaluated after spring ball and decided I would be more valuable to the team if I played slot receiver or receiver period,” Farley said. “I don’t know if it’s in the slot or outside yet for sure. Being so young to the game still, it’s not like I’m so set at one position. Whatever they feel I can contribute the most to. I’m real excited about it.

“I’m still doing the same workout stuff. I started doing a lot more running routes and catching to get back acclimated with that. I play both sides with the same mindset, so it’s not like I have to change a whole bunch of stuff.”

Extrapolating on this one a bit, the move to wide out could be a reaction or a prediction by Kelly and company. First, Farley was an intriguing wide receiver prospect, with the raw athlete only coming to football as a junior in high school after two seasons of soccer. His first season in high school he caught 12 touchdowns, averaging a whopping 25 yards a catch after taking off the Umbros and shin-pads.

Here’s what Brian Kelly said about Farley on Signing Day:

“If there’s one guy in the skill group that physically, when he walks in here, he looks like a college football player. He has that presence about him. Great young man. With great speed. And, again, he’s a young man that can play extremely versatile. Can play at the corner position, the safety position. He can play wide receiver. We’ll kind of sort that out as we move forward.”

Farley’s move leaves the secondary with six seven cornerbacks — Gary Gray, Robert Blanton, Lo Wood, Bennett Jackson, Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown and Eilar Hardy. Behind Gray and Blanton the depth is unproven, but the Irish must feel comfortable in Jackson’s development as a fourth option and Brown and Atkinson’s cover abilities.

If Farley projected to be a safety, he likely would be behind Austin Collinsworth, who flipped sides of the ball during spring drills and is a favorite of Kelly’s. That leaves Harrison Smith, Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta, Dan McCarthy and Collinsworth for two safety spots. Again, not great depth, but certainly nothing detrimental.

If we look at wide receiver, you’ve got to think that Luke Massa is still a developmental project, and Michael Floyd’s return is probable, but again — not certain. That leaves Theo Riddick, John Goodman, Robby Toma, TJ Jones, Deion Walker, and Daniel Smith, with Davaris Daniels and George Atkinson also entering the fray this year. Best case scenario — that’s ten guys for three spots.

But more than likely, Atkinson is going to play a hybrid role at running back/receiver. Robby Toma has taken strides at owning the slot position, with Theo Riddick also potentially finding a new niche — something closer to Percy Harvin at Florida and not necessarily a true wideout. With Duval Kamara gone, TJ Jones might slide into the outside position opposite Floyd (assuming he’s back), and — well… you can tell that there are a ton of moving parts on the offensive side of the ball, and a lot more places where a physically developed guy like Farley might fit in right away.There’s a very good chance Farley gives the Irish needed depth at a wide receiver position far less settled than in the secondary, even if there are more bodies.

Moving the checkers around the board during preseason camp without any knowledge of what’s going on behind the scenes might be an exercise in futility, but it sure is fun. Farley’s move is another example of Kelly recruiting “Skill,” and finding out where to put him later.

QB depth chart thinning as Massa moved to wide receiver


With word last week that junior quarterback Nate Montana was considering a transfer to D-IAA Montana, it appears that the quarterback depth chart that was six-deep is now down to a four-man race.

Rising sophomore quarterback Luke Massa, who along with Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees joined the Irish in the 2010 signing class, will shift to wide receiver for spring practice. Massa spent last season working as a scout team quarterback along with Hendrix.

Head coach Brian Kelly made it clear that changes were coming at the quarterback depth chart, as only four quarterbacks would get reps during the upcoming spring practices. With Dayne Crist on track to participate after recovering from another knee surgery, Tommy Rees putting together a strong freshman campaign, and early-entrant quarterback Everett Golson giving the Irish their best spread quarterback option, Massa was likely lumped with Montana and Hendrix as the fourth quarterback to get snaps during spring. The coaching staff and Kelly have long been intrigued by Hendrix’s potential and it looks as if they’ll give him every opportunity to win the quarterback job after spending a freshman year learning from the sidelines, something that got tougher to do as the depth chart thinned.

Massa’s a big-bodied kid, listed on the Irish roster at 6-foot-4, 215-pounds and he has the opportunity to grow even larger, as Kelly mentioned on signing day last year when he inked his letter-of-intent. Massa also starred as a high school basketball player at St. Xavier High School and could give the Irish some match-up opportunities as he learns the position and exploits his size. While the depth chart at tight end is full, it’s a place that Massa could also end up, depending on how much weight strength coach Paul Longo can put on the relatively lanky youngster.

The news of Massa’s move, something that likely will be officially acknowledged when the Irish open spring practice, helps clarify one of the storylines to follow during spring camp, where an infusion of four quarterbacks in the last two recruiting classes likely presents challenges for Kelly and his offensive staff as they balance roster needs and the ability for players to see the field. Massa’s move to wide receiver likely quells any rumors of another quarterback transfer, with Montana’s uncertain status on the team the only question mark at the position.

Bennett Jackson moving to defensive back


Today the Irish recruiting class took a hit, with cornerback Bennett Okotcha reportedly switching his commitment from the Irish to Oklahoma after a weekend visit. But whether it was a reaction to the news or an already planned switch, the Irish responded with a fairly large cornerback commitment of their own — quite literally — when Bennett Jackson announced on his Twitter page that he’s switching to defensive back, taking over Darrin Walls’ No. 2 jersey.

Expect Brian Kelly to discuss the move on Wednesday during his 1:00 p.m. signing day press conference, but he hinted at something like this 10 days ago when he wrapped up season one. While most people focused on Theo Riddick’s name, the idea of shifting Bennett Jackson, or one of the surplus wide receivers to defensive back, makes perfect sense. The fact that Jackson was a tackling machine on special teams makes this move all the more logical.

Jackson immediately moves into the two-deep conversation at either cornerback or safety, and he’ll provide top-flight speed that’ll help him overcome any catching up he’ll need to do developmentally.