In Case You Missed It: Defensive Backs

Notre Dame's spring session is now two-thirds complete. concludes its position-by-position update of key developments to date with a detailed look at the team's defensive backs.

Click here for our spring review of the offense's skill positions to date.

Click here to review the offensive and defensive lines.

Click here for a closer look at the team's inside and outside linebackers.


Perceived as the team's weakest position group at this point last year appears to be one of strength and potential depth heading into summer 2013.

Projected Starters and Key Reserves through nine practices: Senior Bennett Jackson has missed the contact portions of spring ball due to off-season shoulder surgery. If there's such thing as a "lock" to start at cornerback next fall, its Jackson, at least in good health. Senior Lo Wood and sophomore Keivarae Russell have served as the first-string corners during the spring. A three-player battle is set for summer and August, with the two most consistent -- and likely healthiest, considering Wood missed last season with a ruptured Achilles -- to earn the most snaps, but all three will play extensively.

Junior Jalen Brown appears ahead of classmate Josh Atkinson for No. 4 cornerback duties entering camp.

Key Storylines: The unexpected full participation of Lo Wood, just seven months removed from Achilles surgery. Said position coach and co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks of Wood, "This is my first experience as a defensive back coach with that kind of injury. I didn't think he'd even be ready to go through spring, but through the off-season, he came back and did drills, was running around and doing all the agility stuff and looked great. And in the first two days of practice, he looked like he never had an injury. Very pleased and excited about where he is.

"Now for him, he hasn't played in a year. So its regaining a feel for the game, going against wide receivers, pushing against other people and really letting it go, being confident, and planting off the Achilles in full-speed drills is really the next step. But he doesn't show any signs of hesitation."

Change in the pecking order? We'll know nothing until mid-to-late August, from who'll start, who'll be the crucial No. 3, to where incoming freshman Cole Luke fits vs. Brown, etc.

Quote to Note: "Get onto a rotation as a sub package, as a nickel, as a dime. They have to own a spot somewhere. We're trying to push those guys to do that. They're capable of doing it. Now they just have to prove through preparation and practice.

"I have seen more of a sense of urgency. A more professional approach to how they practice and how they come to meetings. Which is what you'd expect. It takes time for some guys to grow up and mature, but definitely they're moving in that direction."
-- Cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks on his junior pair, Brown and Atkinson.


A seven-deep April crew adds star freshman Max Redfield to the mix in the summer months. August will feature a battle royal for a field safety spot next to boundary starter Matthias Farley and as his backup.

Projected Starters and Key Reserves through nine practices: Farley has the boundary position on lock down while sophomore Elijah Shumate has worked as the No. 1 field safety throughout the spring. His classmate Nicky Baratti, withheld from contact due to off-season shoulder surgery, will be back to battle for that starting role in August camp. Senior Austin Collinsworth and junior Eilar Hardy, neither of whom played last season, have worked as the No. 2 safeties through nine practices.

Collinsworth missed 2013 with shoulder and back surgeries; Hardy 2011 due to a torn ACL, and 2012 due to recovery/coach's decision from that injury.

Sophomore (redshirt-freshman) John Turner has worked with the third team in each of the media's brief practice viewings.

Key Storylines: WIth none of the team's seven safeties set to exhaust eligibility following the 2013 season, where does multi-talented athlete Max Redfield fit when he joins the fray in June?

Change in the pecking order? Aside from Farley, its likely in a state of constant flux, though Shumate, Baratti, and Collinsworth seem destined for two-deep duty. Its up to Hardy to force the staff's hand and make that spring and August camp battle continuous throughout the fall.

Quote to Note: "Shumate is a very talented guy, extremely talented. But he's really inexperienced and raw at the safety position. He played nickel last year, and he played corner. Safety is a position where you have to do some thinking and communicating. With Baratti out this spring, we thought it would be a good time to use Shumate in there and see what would happen. You can see when you watch him play how talented he is, we just have to knock the rough edges off."
-- Safeties coach Bob Elliott on his sophomore pair. Top Stories