Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

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

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6 SEPT. 26, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T here was a popular story about how former Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer (1973‑88) one time ex‑ plained to a recruit's mother that the staff would take a look at him in the secondary. "My son doesn't play secondary," the mom replied. "He plays firstdary." Over the past month, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has seen his "firstdary" become taken over by play‑ ers that were originally slated to be second team in the secondary. When preseason camp at Notre Dame began Aug. 6, the plans in the defensive backfield seemed to be in place: Seniors Cole Luke and Max Red‑ field would be the mainstays at right corner and free safety, while junior Nick Watkins would man the other corner, sophomore Shaun Crawford would be the nickel and junior Drue Tranquill would supply another vet‑ eran at strong safety. Maybe even se‑ nior cornerback Devin Butler could help by midseason after recovering from a broken foot. Plans can be altered quite quickly in college football. • Redfield and his 23 career starts were dismissed from school two days after his arrest the evening of Aug. 19. • Butler remains on suspension for a separate incident that same night/ morning. • Sidelined the second half of spring because of a broken humerus, Wat‑ kins had another setback in August with bone growth. An evaluation will take place the week of the Duke game (Sept. 24), although head coach Brian Kelly admitted that the possibility of medically redshirting Watkins could become more likely with all the prac‑ tice time already missed. "With a nonunion fracture and the procedure that was done on Nick, we're going to have to see some growth [in the bone] that will allow us to believe that he can come back in the next few weeks, or we'll use this as a medical redshirt year for him," Kelly said on Sept. 11. • Crawford suffered a torn Achilles tendon during Nevada's first series on Sept. 10 that will sideline him the remainder of this season. • Tranquill was benched the second half of the opener versus Texas and missed some time against Nevada with a neck injury — after coming back from two separate ACL surgeries. • Sixth‑year senior safety Avery Se‑ bastian, a graduate transfer from Cal, has had an injury‑ravaged career, in‑ cluding an ailment late in the Texas game that limited him to nine snaps during the 39‑10 rout of Nevada. Against the Wolf Pack, 27 Irish de‑ fenders saw action, including a multi‑ tude of freshman defensive backs. Devin Studstill, who was an early enrollee in January, started at free safety and his backup now is fellow rookie Jalen Elliott. With Crawford shelved, freshman Julian Love is now the top nickel, and newcomer Donte Vaughn is working his way into the No. 2 role as well, while sophomore Nick Coleman takes over as the starter at one corner. Kelly said the Nevada contest became more like "an evaluation day." "Unfortunately, we had an injury that is forcing our hand to play some guys," Kelly summarized. "But with the kind of schedule we play and the length of the year, this was a great op‑ portunity for us to get a better glimpse and know who we need to continue to press and push to get better at their craft. … It's too early for me to point out one guy over the other … all are capable of contributing this year." The loss of Crawford might have been mitigated by the return of Wat‑ kins, but if he gets medically red‑ shirted, the options become limited. Kelly said if Watkins is cleared it might take a couple of weeks to prep him. In the opener, Texas went after Cole‑ man like sharks smelling blood in the UNDER THE DOME SECONDARY CONCERNS A thinning, green unit is getting put to the test Injuries have forced inexperienced sophomore Nick Coleman into a starting role at cornerback. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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