Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 23, 2015 Issue

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

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Page 27 of 113

ball will still fail seven out of 10 times, corners are inevitably going to be on the losing end often in today's pass‑ oriented offenses. It's about making some plays on your own at times. "They were 13 for 32 — very, very low percentage," Kelly said of Pitt, which actually finished with 12 com‑ pletions in 32 attempts. "… The ball is going to be in the air. There are no shutdown corners. "It's the nature of college football to‑ day, that corners are going to have to have short memories, come back and make some plays, like he [Russell] has this year." Maybe more unsettling was the use of junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. for three plays as the nickel back. The natural inquiry from that is whether Notre Dame's corner depth — specifi‑ cally junior Devin Butler, sophomore Nick Watkins and freshman Nick Cole‑ man, all of whom have played — is progressing so poorly that Hunter has to be moved from offense to aid the nickel spot. Coleman especially would seem like a nickel candidate, where fellow fresh‑ man Shaun Crawford was pegged for the top spot before he suffered a torn ACL in August. However, Crawford was training specifically at nickel, just like Shumate was as a freshman in 2012, while Coleman has been working exclusively at corner. "It's a position that we certainly can put him in there," Kelly said of Cole‑ man at nickel. "We think it's a lot for him, quite frankly. We'd rather have him focus on his technique and devel‑ opment outside at the cornerback posi‑ tion in case he needs to go in the game, and we don't want to put too much on his plate." Kelly added that it's "an ongoing process of development" with Butler and Watkins at corner, so they didn't want to add nickel to the equation. "We just didn't want to cross‑train them at a position that takes reps away from them in the second team or it takes them away from where we re‑ ally may need them at corner," he ex‑ plained. "So as Brian [VanGorder] and I were talking about it, our options were limited because we didn't want to continue to pull Matthias away from his job at safety to stay at the nickel position. We wanted somebody that could play more man coverage. "So consequently it was you've got to move one of your other corners in there, or is there somebody else on your roster that could do it? And I felt like Torii could do it because he was doing a great job as a jammer for us on our punt team." In order to prepare Hunter, he was taken off special teams duties and the reps he used to take there were on de‑ fense instead. Next year, the secondary will likely have the most question marks, espe‑ cially at safety with Shumate and Far‑ ley both graduating. Plus, Tranquill, se‑ nior Nicky Baratti and fifth‑year senior Avery Sebastian, who could apply for a sixth season if he doesn't exhaust his eligibility this fall, have had an exten‑ sive history already with injuries. Having a safety net down the line will be another topic for another time, but there is little doubt finding rein‑ forcements in the secondary is a future priority. ✦

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