Matt Cashore /

ND A to Z: Devin Studstill

Studstill is at his best when he’s roaming the secondary and making plays on deep throws down the middle. He flashes excellent ball skills and athleticism defending the pass.

The 2015 Sun-Sentinel (Florida) large-school defensive player of the year and Associated Press all-state Class 7A second-teamer was just the 93rd-ranked cornerback in the country by Scout.

The son of Darren Studstill, who played quarterback at West Virginia (1990-93) and was drafted in the sixth round by the Cowboys, was coerced by Irish running backs coach Autry Denson to come to Notre Dame, which he chose over offers from Miami, Michigan State, Texas and Wisconsin, among others. He’s from the same high school -- Palm Beach Gardens -- as Notre Dame sophomore linebacker Te’von Coney.

Studstill was one of five scholarship early-enrollees at Notre Dame this spring and wasted no time turning heads on the practice field. Within short order, he was working with the No. 1 unit at free safety ahead of veteran Max Redfield.

Studstill maintains the starting role he grabbed in the spring and aligns at free safety in the season-opener against Texas. He continues to show the solid play he displayed in the spring and proves to be a real asset on the back end of the Irish defense.

Even if Redfield “re-wins” the starting free safety job, Studstill will have a role as a true freshman in ’16, and it almost undoubtedly will be a prominent one. Studstill figures to be a candidate in Notre Dame’s dime package and a full-time member on Notre Dame’s special teams. At the least, he should share the free safety spot in some capacity.

Since 2006, the year Notre Dame first allowed early-entry freshmen, Studstill is the first “senior-in-high-school” free safety to participate in spring drills. Zeke Motta arrived in the spring of 2009, and a year later, Chris Badger was an early enrollee, but both were strong safeties.

In terms of physical and athletic comparisons, he appears to be along the lines of 2003-04 starting free safety Quentin Burrell.

Any involvement with the No. 1 unit as an early-entry freshman this spring would have put Studstill ahead of schedule. Listed as a three-star prospect and the No. 34 safety by Scout, Studstill’s offer list was relatively modest. To emerge as the lead free safety within days after spring drills commenced puts Studstill on an accelerated track.

Studstill is an athletic, lithe, rangy free safety who tracks and high points the football well. Any play that offers Studstill the opportunity to cover a deep ball down the middle of the field is in his wheelhouse. He also showed a willingness to mix it up and support the run in the Blue-Gold Game.

“It just flows easily to him. It’s not hard to him. He’s had no setbacks in terms of the learning curve. Excellent ball skills, excellent retention. He wouldn’t be out there working with the first group unless he had a natural ability to pick up what we’re sending him.”
-- Brian Kelly Top Stories