Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Irish A-to-Z: Nick Coleman

Even in a season when nothing went right, Nick Coleman’s year stood out for how badly it went wrong. Now a safety, the junior is hoping for a reboot.

Class: Junior (Eligibility: 2)
On The Depth Chart: Coleman ran with the first-team defense all spring after shifting from cornerback. It’s not clear if he’ll stick with the starters at safety, but it’s better than being buried at his former position.
Post-Spring Status: Ascending

Remember Nick Coleman while parsing training camp coverage this fall.

Because last August the former cornerback looked like a potential starter in the Irish defense, putting together multiple practice performances that hinted he would help all season.

Then Texas happened. And Nevada. And Michigan State.

In those three games Coleman was targeted 15 times and allowed 240 yards of offense (receptions plus pass interference calls). The former three-star prospect’s sophomore season didn’t survive September.

Now he’s a first-team safety instead of Notre Dame’s sixth-best cornerback.

It’s not clear how this move will shake out, but the Irish could use a boost from the product of Archbishop Alter in Ohio, the same program that produced Malik Zaire and Chris Finke. The Irish don’t need an All-American performance, but they need a capable safety. Coleman should be able to provide that after a decent spring practice.

Just don’t get too carried away in August. It’s September when Coleman needs to show.

COLEMAN AT HIS BEST

It speaks to how poorly last season went that it can’t even be included in this category. Coleman’s sophomore season was that big of a wash. So go back to his freshman year when Coleman showed something against UMass, making a couple pass breakups in that blowout of the Minutemen. Maybe those ball skills will come back after completely vanishing last season. If they do, the Irish could have a decent defensive back ready for a rebound junior season.

QUOTABLE

“For me to tell you today that he’s our starter, he’s our guy, we need more of a body of work, but he won’t be moving anywhere else. He’ll be a safety.” – Brian Kelly during spring practice

BEST CASE SCENARIO

Coleman offers the Irish a competent safety with above average cover skills, which would actually be a big upgrade after last season. Remember that last year’s opening day starters at safety against Texas were Drue Tranquill and Avery Sebastian. One has since moved to linebacker. The other ran a 4.96 40-yard dash at Pro Day. Coleman is a much better athlete (for the safety position, at least) than either of those guys. Notre Dame isn’t looking for the next Harrison Smith back there. It just needs a good athlete who can tackle and understand coverages. If Coleman can do that he’ll be an asset to the defense.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

It never gets any better than April for Coleman, who slips behind some combination Jalen Elliott, Devin Studstill and Isaiah Robertson during training camp, dropping him to special teams. Unfortunately, Coleman struggled there too last season after getting benched in September. The worst-case here is Coleman can’t find a way to help the roster this season on Saturdays. The Irish have more numbers at the back now than they did last year, but there’s always room for an upperclassman to aid the coverage units. At a minimum, the Irish need that from the Ohio product.

CAREER COMPARISON

Garron Bible actually enrolled at Notre Dame as a running back and took a red shirt, but like Coleman this former three-star prospect moved from cornerback to safety before his junior year and ended up helping as a rotational player in the secondary that fall. Bible ended up starting as a senior and even scored off a fumble return at Stanford in a 57-7 blowout of Buddy Teevens. Maybe their careers will go in different directions, but for now there are a lot of similarities between Coleman and Bible.


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