Grading on a Curve: Safety

Brian Kelly's third full Irish recruiting class is complete, with 24 members joining between September 2011 and National Signing Day 2013. Irisheyes.com offers its grades for the class, position-by-position, with an eye toward both last year's 17-player haul and the team's needs for the upcoming 2014 cycle. Our eighth position unit graded: Safety.

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Notre Dame brought four safeties to South Bend in 2012: Nicky Baratti, Elijah Shumate, C.J. Prosise, and John Turner.

As a result, one became the target number for 2013 and that addition wasn't mandatory. Only in the event a top-level player was interested would he be inked -- the Irish landed him in four-star Max Redfield.

2013 Grade -- B+

It's difficult to grade a team's one-scholarship safety addition, especially because the Irish simply couldn't bring in more than one for 2013 cycle, not with eight safeties already on campus including four 2012 freshmen.

Adding to the numbers glut: no safety will exhaust his eligibility at season's end.

Redfield, a former USC pledge, was the top attainable target and has a chance to make an immediate impact. I considered a grade of A- instead, but passed for the following reasons:

  • Safeties from the 2012 class could fail to pan out as expected...
  • Or could transfer...
  • And will be injured...
  • Thus, adding just one safety in 2013 likely necessitates overcompensation in a future season, likely 2015, as now no more than one can join for 2014, either.
  • But any grade for 2013 is splitting hairs, because Notre Dame hit a home run in safety recruitment over the all-important two-season cycle of 2012-13.

    Quote to Note: "We think Max is an elite player.  He's a young man that has a specific skill set that could see him play offense, he could play defense, he's going to play in that safety position for us, and we think he's a young man that can come in and compete.  He's got all the athletic ability, and he's a very smart young man."
    -- Irish head coach Brian Kelly on his lone safety signee

    2013 Grade Coupled with 2012 -- A

    Five safeties in total, including three who'll embark on their first season of eligibility next fall. The remaining pair, Shumate and Baratti, both played key reserve roles in 2012 with Shumate serving as the nickel defender. The two could square off for a starting spot this spring, though Shumate could also compete at cornerback.

    If Notre Dame can't find three reliable safeties over the next three to four years from this quintet, it will be a player development problem, not a recruiting issue. At no point has the former seemed apparent under the Kelly regime.

    And Redfield is the highest regarded of the bunch.

    Necessary additions for 2014 as a result: An elite safety would be welcomed, especially to help fortify depth for 2014 and add talent and speed to the Irish special teams, but if a top tier player isn't available, any potential safety pledge needs to be a player capable of playing multiple positions at the college level.

    I'm calling for one safety if the class reaches my minimum target of 17 players in 2014 -- otherwise the program will be low on veteran bodies at the position when Redfield nears graduation.

    Were needs filled at Safety over the last two seasons?

    Yes, on par or more so than any position on the roster.

    Notre Dame has the following safeties available for starting duty, two-deep competition, and special teams roles over the next two seasons: Austin Collinsworth (2), Chris Badger (3), Eilar Hardy (3), Matthias Farley (3), Elijah Shumate (3), Nicky Baratti (3), C.J. Prosise (4), John Turner (4), and Max Redfield (4/5).

    The last five on that list signed over the last 53 weeks.


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