"We used to joke about that (the lack of safeties) when I got here," said Badger, a 2010 early enrollee who subsequently departed and has returned from a two-year religious mission to Ecuador. "Now there's like 12 guys."
Due to a pair of early injuries, that 2010 team played more than two games with three able-bodied safeties, one of them walk-on Chris Salvi. When the Irish take to the Aviva Stadium turf in two weeks against Navy, Elliott's position group will go a full three-deep, that despite a spring injury and move of two players to different positions on the defense.
"Zeke (Motta) and Jamoris (Slaughter) had really good camps and they're on track to have good years," said Elliott of his senior tandem. "It was really going to be interesting as we started camp to see who would be the backups at safety. And Austin (Collinsworth) got hurt, so he's out. It was unknown territory."
Collinsworth's off-season shoulder surgery shelved him for the season. Later, true freshman C.J. Prosise was moved to outside linebacker while position mate and fellow frosh Elijah Shumate stepped out to the field cornerback spot. Since, the position has seen young talent take the reigns from older competitors among the backup ranks.
"Matthias Farley has had a really good camp. He's really been a pleasant surprise," said Elliott of the redshirt-freshman. "f he continues to improve the way he has, he could be a pretty good player for us.
"I have to give him credit. We talked after spring, and I thought Matthias was too heavy," Elliott offered. "That wasn't just my opinion, there were others that felt he was too heavy and that his movement wasn't quite what it needed to be. He did something about it this summer: he re-made his body, shed some pounds, improved his quickness, footwork and those things so those are the major improvements. His physical movement is better than it was."
Farley served as a Scout Team slot receiver last fall after just two seasons of high school ball as a defensive back.
"The rest of it has just come along," said Elliott of Farley's ascent. "He's a smart guy, he's learning at a rapid pace, but all of its new to him. It was all new last spring. The more reps he gets the better he's going to be, because he's just never had any reps doing that. I think he has a future, really a good future."
The redshirt-freshman has a host of other competitors capable of earning time if their development continues.
"Chris Salvi's been solid like he always is," Elliott said of the team's newest scholarship player. "Of the freshmen, I think they'll all be good players, we had four of them come in at the same position. Shumate has done some things at corner, and some of the specialty positions. C.J. Prosise has done some things at outside linebacker but those guys are still possibly safeties in the future, we're just trying to further their evaluation.
"John Turner had a good camp," said Elliott. "I think John will be a good player. But the guy that learned the fastest was Nick Baratti. Baratti's probably going to play some for us this year and I think he has good future, he has good instincts and is a really smart kid. But I like all four of those guys. None of them is out of the mix as a safety down the road. We're just trying to get things ready for this year, primarily."
Projected Depth ChartBelow is a look at Notre Dame's safety depth chart heading into the final weekend of August camp and final two weeks before the team takes on Navy. Slottings are gleaned from Media Day interviews, three practice viewings, and information acquired throughout August.
Second string: Redshirt freshman Matthias Farley (0/0), and true freshman Nick Baratti (0/0)
Depth (in perceived order): 5th-year senior Dan McCarthy (0/0), senior Chris Salvi (22 games, primarily on special teams/0 starts,) true freshman John Turner (0/0), redshirt freshman Eilar Hardy (0/0), freshman Chris Badger (0/0 -- freshman eligible through 2015 regardless of playing status).