A three-star prospect and the No. 34 safety ranked by Scout, Studstill – from Riviera Beach, Fla. – was one of five early-entry freshmen in the Class of 2016. He immediately put himself in position for playing time at free safety in the spring, working along with and even ahead of veteran Max Redfield.
When Redfield ran afoul of the law and was subsequently expelled from Notre Dame in August, Studstill emerged as the starter in the fall of ’16 with nine starts opposite mainstay Drue Tranquill at strong safety.
It was an up-and-down rookie year for Studstill, who finished with 38 tackles, one interception, a fumble forced and just one pass defensed. Injuries played a role in his hit-and-miss open-field tackling.
This spring, it appeared that classmate Jalen Elliott had moved past Studstill at free safety opposite Nick Coleman.
• Class: Soph. (Eligibility: 3)
• On The Depth Chart: No. 2 free safety behind classmate Jalen Elliott.
• Post-Spring Status: Unchanged-to-Descending
STUDSTILL AT HIS BEST
Although Studstill’s high-water mark for tackles was six against Duke, he came off the bench against Stanford and made a career-high four unassisted stops, including his only tackle for a loss in ’16. Studstill also made four unassisted tackles in the last home game against Virginia Tech. His interception and 30-yard return against Michigan State came on a tipped pass by Daelin Hayes.
“Excellent ball skills, excellent retention. He wouldn’t be out there working with the (first) group unless he has a natural ability to pick up what we’re sending him.” -- Brian Kelly in spring of 2016
“Jalen Elliott and Devin Studstill are still in that programming mode in terms of doing all the little things right for us. Fundamentally, they’re getting better. Mike Elko really likes those two kids -- their toughness and their want-to.” -- Kelly in spring of 2017
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Kelly said that Elliott and Studstill could be used situationally at free safety. Elliott played goal-line defense as early as his first game in a Notre Dame uniform against Texas. When healthy, Studstill was a sound tackler for the Irish in ’16. There’s a chance – 25-to-30 percent? -- that he emerges ahead of Elliott.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
At the very least, Studstill goes into training camp as the No. 3 safety behind Nick Coleman and Jalen Elliott…unless true freshman Isaiah Robertson emerges. Studstill should be a mainstay on special teams.
Although Studstill didn’t switch from receiver to safety mid-freshman season as Deke Cooper did in 1996, the trajectory of their careers as freshmen was quite similar. Studstill started nine games; Cooper started six. Studstill had 38 tackles; Cooper had 29. Studstill had an interception; Cooper had three.
Cooper finished his Notre Dame career with 203 tackles and six interceptions. Anything in the vicinity of that for Studstill would be a success. Cooper went on to spend nine years in the NFL with seven organizations after going undrafted.