Position Analysis: Safety

The 2005 season will see changes for the two safety positions, both in personnel and the style of play. Signing two of the nation's elite safeties is the goal for recruiting.

Now that Quintin Burrell has departed after graduation the free safety position is up for grabs. Look for redshirt sophomore Tommy Zbikowski to move from strong safety to free safety to replace Burrell.

Taking over for Zbikowski at strong safety will most likely be jack-of-all-trades redshirt sophomore Chinedum Ndukwe. Ndukwe has been tried at wide receiver, free safety, strong safety and even Apache linebacker thus far during his Notre Dame career.

The two safety positions within defensive coordinator Rick Minter's scheme are essentially interchangeable to begin with, so making adjustments for each opponent should be a little easier as opposed to other schemes.

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis is certainly not afraid to make a position change. That means depending upon the opponent the starters and personnel at safety could change. Notre Dame plays a diverse schedule with many teams that utilize a spread formation. Any safety with coverage skills will have a better opportunity to see playing time.

The wild card at safety is junior Freddie Parish. Which safety position he lines up at is anyone's guess, but do not be surprised if he is used not only at both safety positions, but potentially as a cornerback, especially against teams that utilize three, four and even five wide receiver formations.

Redshirt freshman Leo Ferrine is another player that could play either free safety or cornerback this season. He saw action at both positions during spring practice and will be given the opportunity to earn significant playing time. Redshirt junior Jake Carney will likely see more playing time with the special teams units than he will with the defensive secondary.

Recruiting - Straight to the point, Notre Dame is going after Taylor Mays at free safety and Steve Brown at strong safety.

The 6-3, 220-pound Mays has long since been considered a Southern Cal lean, but Mays has been more indirect during recent interviews. Southern California, Michigan, Notre Dame, California and Washington will battle for his services. Mays is expected to decide before summer is out.

Brown is also expected to decide before the end of summer, with Notre Dame and Michigan being the two finalists. Brown could play cornerback within certain schemes and that is why Notre Dame is so high on him. Coach Weis commented after taking over the head coaching duties for the Irish that he wanted safeties with coverage skills. Brown fits the bill and with 6-1, 205-pound size to boot.

The other name to keep an eye out for is Sergio Brown, FS, 6-1, 190-pounds, Maywood, Ill., (Proviso East). If Notre Dame offers Brown either later this summer or early this fall it should be in good shape to earn Brown's signature.

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