5th-year senior Austin CollinsworthArguments can be made for Collinsworth as a blitzing dime linebacker vs. Michigan in Week Two last fall (his off-the-edge blitz force Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner into an end zone interception), but his best overall outing likely came when the Irish needed it most, a 27-20 regular season finale lost at Stanford.
Staked as a whopping 16-point underdog, Collinsworth bolstered a short-handed defensive crew with a career-best 11 tackles including one for loss and two others for no gain while adding a crucial first-half interception that kept the then reeling Irish (trailing 14-3) in the contest.
Sophomore Max RedfieldEarned his first start in the 2013 season's final contest, a 29-16 win over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl but the rookie's top outing likely came as a special teamer when he recorded three stops, two on kickoff coverage, one defending a punt, in Notre Dame's Senior Day win over Brigham Young last fall. One of Redfield's kick coverage stops saved a potential Cougars touchdown.
Redfield appeared to lock up a starting safety alongside Collinsworth with a strong conclusion to spring ball 2014.
Junior Elijah ShumateShumate experienced a bit of a sophomore slump in 2013 after starring early as a freshman in September 2012 where he served as the defense's nickel defender. His best outing as a rookie came against Michigan State in East Lansing when he broke up a pair of third down Spartans passes in man-to-man coverage, both of which forced punts.
Shumate's best outing in 2013 came in the aforementioned 41-31 loss at Michigan when the promising sophomore recorded five tackles including one for loss, another for no gain, and another that limited elusive triggerman Devin Gardner to just two yards in an open-field situation.
Senior Eilar HardyOff the varsity radar until his junior season, Hardy offered his best effort on November 1, 2013 in a 38-34 win over Navy, registering four tackles including one for lost yardage and more importantly, forcing Navy wingback Shawn Lynch to the outside, thereby allowing freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith to come up for a game-saving, fourth down tackle of no gain on the Midshipmen's final play.
Had Hardy not stayed home as the backside safety vs. Navy's mis-direction option, Lynch would have certainly gained first down yardage deep in Notre Dame territory and potentially scored the game-winner in the process.
Hardy earned his first of two career starts one week later in Pittsburgh.
Junior Nicky BarattiDid not play last season after an injury to his left shoulder August surgery -- his second surgery on the shoulder over an eight-month span -- but Baratti made a major impact in Notre Dame's march to 12-0 in 2012, recording an end zone interception vs. Michigan, a 13-6 Irish victory in late September.
With the Wolverines offense humming behind dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson, offensive coordinator Al Borges inexplicably called for a half-back pass from the Irish 7-yard line. Baratti did not bite on the run-action, and thanks to pressure put on by All-America linebacker Manti Te'o on "passer" Vincent Smith, the true freshman safety was able to stay home and secure the touchdown-saving interception just inside the goal line.
Baratti will play the 2014 season with a harness on his right shoulder, the result of a Blue Gold game injury in April. Graduated senior Bennett Jackson did the same during his breakout 2012 campaign.
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