Notre Dame verbal commitment No. 20 announced his decision on ESPN radio Tuesday.
For Devin Studstill, choosing Notre Dame was a long-term decision. Choosing Notre Dame, according to Studstill, was “about what I want in life, about how I want my life to be later.”
For Notre Dame, later will arrive a bit earlier with the 6-foot-0 ½, 183-pounder out of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., one of at least five early-enrollees in January, joining linebacker/defensive end Daelin Hayes, defensive end Khalid Kareem, safety Spencer Perry and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson.
That’s significant with the Irish losing Elijah Shumate to graduation and the constant pursuit for back rung defenders who can both come up and stop the run while also making opposing quarterbacks pay for lobbing one up in traffic.
Studstill is a “combo safety.” He’ll come up and strike you from an active safety position, but he’ll also measure an errant throw, gather his weight and high-point passes that are there for the taking.
The Irish do not have that in current starters Shumate and Max Redfield. Their ball skills are nearly non-existent. Some safeties have it; others have difficulty morphing from run defender to pass defender in a split second, which is what the position requires in order to truly be effective in both aspects of the game.
Studstill, whose father Darren quarterbacked West Virginia to an undefeated regular season in ’93 with, ironically, former Notre Dame quarterback Jake Kelchner, was listed at 6-foot-1, 186 pounds during his seven years in the NFL with Dallas and Jacksonville. He moved to safety after the Cowboys drafted him in the sixth round.
Devin Studstill, who donned shades for his Notre Dame announcement Tuesday, is faster/quicker than his currently-listed 4.7 time in the 40. He comes out of his backpedal explosively and drives to and through ball carriers/pass receivers. Studstill does an excellent job of lowering his pads before contact and getting underneath the pad level of his opponent.
One of the things that sets Studstill apart from most defensive backs is that he can attack the run but remain balanced and in control with good pad level upon contact. He doesn’t have to stop his feet from pushing forward in order to get underneath the pads of his opponent. He’s light on his feet with bounce, showing the footwork of a cornerback.
Against the pass, Studstill has shown numerous times that he can high-point the football. Safeties aren’t always afforded the luxury of gathering their weight, springing up and reaching the football at its highest arc. But if he can do that, he also can make plays on the ball in the air while on the run, which he shows in the running game as well.
Although he’ll need to add some weight and strength to his frame, he isn’t afraid to get a body on a wide receiver after the snap and redirect that receiver off his intended path, which is a very valuable aspect of pass defense.
It’s understandable that Studstill is listed as a three-star because, quite frankly, they can’t all be four stars. He’s a little undersized for the safety position for the time being and the 4.7-plus listing in the 40 in and of itself is enough to warrant dropping him down a star.
But there’s no doubt this is a player with four-star qualities, including the desire to play the game he loves, to hit with exuberance and to determine that any ball in the air that he can get to belongs to him.
That’s the confidence and swagger with which he plays, and his early enrollment will allow him to gain that “college confidence” sooner rather than later.
Shumate will be out of the safety equation in the spring of ’16, which leaves senior Max Redfield with one year of eligibility, junior Drue Tranquill (3), sophomore Mykelti Williams (4), sophomore Nicco Fertitta (3) and possibly sixth-year senior Avery Sebastian.
Joining that group will be freshmen Perry, another early enrollee, with Donte Vaughn and D.J. Morgan arriving in June.
You wanted safeties? Here they come.