Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2014 Issue

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

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BY LOU SOMOGYI T here are numerous positions on Notre Dame's 2014 roster where a single individual will stand out as a predictable starter or mainstay. Despite last season's exile, quarter- back Everett Golson is the offense's centerpiece after helping lead Notre Dame to the 2013 BCS National Cham- pionship Game. Classmate Ben Koyack provides strong seniority at tight end despite the early departure to the pros by Troy Niklas, while offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley headlines a versatile line. Defensively, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, outside linebacker Jaylon Smith and lineman Sheldon Day — although none is yet a senior in 2014 — are the primary linchpins. As for what specific areas might fea- ture the greatest competition, here is our top five: 1. SAFETIES IN NUMBERS While 2013 was a transition year at safety with numerous new starters or faces, it now could be the single most competitive area for playing time this season with six legitimate candidates. It's so crowded that senior-to-be Matthias Farley was shifted to corner- back even though his 19 career starts at safety were easily the most at the position and third most on the roster. Farley's skill sets are better suited at cornerback than safety, where he was a top surprise for the powerful 2012 defense but had too much on his plate in 2013 while trying to compensate for the graduation of Zeke Motta. Farley had played on defense only one year, whereas it took Motta four years to master a role that also requires setting other positions properly. The growth curve was similar for 2012 first-round pick Harrison Smith. Farley's forte also was more as an athlete than being a Motta-like force as a tackler. "He was put in a very difficult posi- tion last year, and we think he can help our defense in a role that doesn't focus on him being a hard-hitting safety," head coach Brian Kelly said of Farley. The secondary also had the luxury of moving Farley to corner because of the 2013 experience gained by this year's candidates: • Max Redfield was maybe the second-most touted recruit in Notre Dame's 2013 class, behind linebacker Jaylon Smith, and Kelly has been eager to insert him into the lineup, starting him for the first time in the 29-16 Pin- stripe Bowl victory against Rutgers. • Austin Collinsworth started 11 games last season, and the fifth-year se- nior might grasp the team defense best. Will that be negated with the presence THE HOT SPOTS Competition for playing time grows

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