Commitments Build Depth: DBs

The Notre Dame secondary is generally a question mark, but heading into the 2011 season, it will be strength for the Irish defense. The Irish return a wealth of experience in the defensive backfield, but what they lack is depth. The four Irish freshmen will help provide that in 2011.

Notre Dame will lose cornerback Darrin Walls to graduation, but otherwise their secondary returns intact and will be the strength of the team. There is depth at safety, but at cornerback there is little behind starters Gary Gray and Robert Blanton.

Notre Dame signed four defensive backs in the 2011 recruiting class. All four can play cornerback, but it will take some time before the Irish staff settles on which players will stay at cornerback and which ones will slide back to play safety.

Josh Atkinson is one of the recruits that could very likely stay at cornerback. Atkinson is the son of former Oakland Raider safety George Atkinson. His dad was a physical, punishing defender and Josh plays the game with the same attitude. He plays the ball extremely well when it's in the air and doesn't give the receiver a lot of room.

He plays the game very aggressively. During his senior season he didn't allow a single pass to be completed on him. He's confident open-field tackler, with very good speed. He has a career best 10.6 in 100 meters.

At 6-foot-1, Jalen Brown is a very long cornerback, but an ideal fit for the Irish defense. Brown played against some of the best competition in the state of Texas. He's a very smooth athlete in transition and is plays the ball aggressively when it's in the air.

Brown uses his hands very well when defending the run and will come up quickly in support. He's a sure tackler and has no trouble tackling in space. Brown has good speed as well. His career best in the 100 meters is 10.8.

Matthias Farley is the most interesting prospect in this group. Farley has only been playing football for two years, so he is very raw, and he understands that he's going to need time to develop. The one thing that Farley has going for him is great speed. He's likely the fastest player in this recruiting class.

At 6-foot-0, 195-pounds, Farley already has very good size. That size might indicate that he would be one of the prime candidates to move to safety. He is versatile enough where he could even get a look on the offensive side of the ball.

Despite only playing the game for two years, Farley is a very physical player with outstanding instincts. He certainly isn't afraid to come up and lay a hat on a ball carrier. He's played wide receiver and has shown the ability to go up and attack the ball when it's in the air.

As a senior Farley registered 39 tackles and two interceptions. He also caught 37 passes for more than 600 yards and 10 touchdowns .

Eilar Hardy might be a player with the biggest upside of the four defensive backs. He's an outstanding athlete and an even better football player. He loves to play the game and you can see it in the way that he plays the game. He played all over the field for Pickerington Central High School (Ohio), but will get his start on the defensive side of the ball for Notre Dame.

Hardy is the other player in this group that could end up at safety. He's a guy that understands what the offense is trying to do and is aggressive in attacking the play at the point of attack. He's an outstanding tackler.

Hardy had 63 tackles as senior to go with five tackles for loss and six passes broken up.

Once this group of players hit campus, it will take a little time to evaluate them and figure out exactly where they'll fit into the depth chart. What is apparent is that at least one of these players will need to get some game experience at cornerback this year. Both starting cornerbacks will graduate after the 2011 season, leaving only Lo Wood and newly converted Bennett Jackson at cornerback for the 2012 season.

At safety, the Irish have solid depth with Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter, Dan McCarthy and Austin Collinsworth. Top Stories