Farley embraces another challenge

Safety Matthias Farley had a forgettable junior season in 2013. His 2014 campaign began with change, and that's likely a good thing.

From unexpected starter (and part-time season savior) to the object of scorn among fed-up Irish fans, Matthias Farley's journey between the outset of the 2012 season and the conclusion of the 2013 campaign was not dissimilar to the program's rise and fall:

Sound fundamentals gave way to fumbled opportunities. Good fortune yielded to repeated bad breaks. Surprising, often stunning successes turned to failures few fans tend to forget. Or forgive.

On 2013 defense that lost its epic fastball from 2012, Farley struggled to tackle throughout the 13-game slate. He had a role in crucial communication breakdowns at both the beginning and end of the season as well.

As the last line of defense, the team's post safety, poor tackling and communication issues make for a toxic tandem.

But entering spring ball 2014, Farley will compete as a cornerback, and according to his head coach, placed better for success.

"He's a really good athlete. He's got a lot of snaps. He has played a lot of football," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly. "He played on an undefeated defense in the regular season two years ago. I think we all recognize that. I think he was put into a very difficult situation. We were trying to get him to replace Zeke Motta (2012) and Harrison Smith (2011), two pretty good players and two physical players. He's not that kind of player. So he kind of got that tag of he's not as physical as them. Well, that's not his best trait.

"He's really smart. He's got some tools that I think if we play him in the right position, he could really help our defense. I'm going to say he was unfairly evaluated in a sense. He was put in a very difficult position last year. We really think he can help our defense in a role that doesn't focus on him being a hard-hit safety."

The "right position" won't only be cornerback. Farley will battle to work for a starting role against slot receivers in Notre Dame's sub (nickel and/or dime) packages as well.

"I think he's going to play more than corner, he's going to have a chance to play some nickel for us, some corner," said Kelly. "I think he's going to be involved in what we do defensively. I think the role is you have to be determined."

Eager to adapt, overcome, and thrive

Equipped with depth -- unproven but undeniably talented -- at safety, Farley's move to cornerback offers the best chance at regular playing time, either as a rotation corner in the defense's new left-right CB alignment (the Irish lined up as boundary/field CB from 2010-2013) or as a nickel/dime package competitor.

Regardless, the new scheme offered by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder provides a breath of fresh air for returning players not yet solidified on a youth-filled Irish defense.

"I love him. I think he's a great guy," said Farley of VanGorder, formerly the New York Jets linebackers coach and an ex-collegiate coordinator at Auburn and Georgia. "He's very honest and up front about everything. You can talk to him about anything, very approachable. He made that clear from the start, I think it's going to be good for everyone moving forward."

Farley was approached by the Irish staff about a potential switch after VanGorder joined the fray in January.

"The conversation had started several weeks ago, here or there, nothing nailed down," said Farley of how he was informed of the potential switch. "Then it was official just last week. I'm really excited about it, new system, fresh start, why not change positions?

"That's been the storyline of my career," said Farley who moved from scout team slot receiver in 2011 to safety for 2012. "Adapting to new situations. I think it will probably fit my skill set better."

Why is the senior leader -- eligible to play college ball through 2015 -- better equipped to compete at cornerback?

"Especially in this system as it's been installed so far, it's more aggressive," said Farley. "There's more reading and reacting based on what the quarterback does. You don't have to think as much about what's going on around you (as at safety). I feel like I'm fast enough and strong enough to play the position and I look forward to it."

Farley didn't agree he was out of position last season, but admits his role as the secondary's de facto quarterback was taxing.

"There was definitely a lot on my plate," he said. "I could have handled it better through different stuff and remaining more relaxed through some situations. (But) there wasn't a point at all where I felt I wasn't capable of doing a good job."

"I was asked to do a lot of things," he continued. "It's not that I felt I wasn't prepared for it, but it had been 5th-year guys (Smith) and 4th-year guys (Motta) that had been in the system a long time previously. It was a big jump from being in your first year (2012) to have all that on your plate in 2013.

"You have to know where everyone lines up. You have to know where you fit in it, getting the calls to everybody, so it was definitely a lot but I think it was a beneficial year for me, going through some struggles, some ups and downs and being better for it."

Solid in 2012. Sub par in 2013. Ready to rebound this spring and next fall.

And as always, ready to adapt and overcome.

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