Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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10 SEPT. 10, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME During the Aug. 28 practice the week of the Michigan game, senior cornerback/nickel Shaun Crawford suffered a torn ACL during a one- on-one drill that will sideline him for the third time in his four seasons at Notre Dame. "It's difficult for him, but he's handling it the best he can, given the circumstances," head coach Brian Kelly said, noting it's not the same knee that Crawford injured three years ago. Crawford was the top nickel last season, played 12 games with one start, and finished with 32 tackles (20 solo) to go with the two intercep- tions he recorded at Boston College. He also was credited with five passes broken up and made a cru- cial momentum-changing forced fumble and recovery of the loose football in the end zone at Michigan State. His 408 snaps (34.0 per game) were the fifth most in the Irish de- fensive backfield last season. Throughout the preseason Craw- ford was the backup for Troy Pride Jr. at field corner, but also remained in the nickel rotation with senior safety Nick Coleman. He was vying for a possible role on kick and punt returns as well. According to Kelly, Coleman will now share the nickel role with fresh- man Houston Griffith. Junior Donte Vaughn, who started four games as a freshman while tying for the team lead in passes broken up (six), is now the third corner who can play either the field or boundary. He was slowed by a back problem last season — and Kelly candidly added maybe too much instruction. "He's established as a three," Kelly said of the 6-3, 211-pound Vaughn's role in the corner rotation. "Donte's a long corner who has a real good ability to get his hands on footballs. … He's always carried that. "I think the thing that's held him back a little is we might have over- coached him a little bit. We've backed off on trying to fit him into a particu- lar technique and gave him a little more freedom to be more comfort- able with what was best for him and utilizing the technique that worked best for him. "I think he's really blossomed from that perspective." Freshmen D.J. Brown (6-1, 191) and TaRiq Bracy (5-10, 170) also are competing to become the fourth op- tion at corner, while classmate Noah Boykin (6-0½, 178) is currently on the scout team. Their skill sets are different enough that who is the fourth figure probably will depend on the strategy Notre Dame em- ploys against a particular team. "TaRiq is a guy you can feel very comfortable just playing straight up man-to-man coverage," Kelly said. "D.J.'s much more technically ahead in terms of playing zone coverages." Crawford was sidelined as a fresh- man in 2015 because of a torn ACL, also suffered in a preseason practice. He returned in 2016 to regain his starting role as the nickel, and re- corded an interception and a two- point conversion after returning a blocked extra point attempt for a score in the season-opening, dou- ble-overtime 50-47 loss at Texas. However, early in the second game, versus Nevada, he incurred an Achilles injury that shelved him the final 11 contests. — Lou Somogyi For the third time in four years, senior cornerback Shaun Crawford suffered a season-ending injury when he tore his ACL in practice Aug. 28. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL Shaun Crawford Is Out For The Year With A Torn ACL

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