McCarthy Expected it

On the first day of spring practice head coach Charlie Weis released a pre-spring depth chart. Many eyes were immediately drawn to the strong safety spot to see who was listed first to replace former three-year starter Tom Zbikowski. Some were surprised to see senior Kyle McCarthy listed first string, but not McCarthy.

Youngstown, Ohio native Kyle McCarthy enrolled in Notre Dame as a former option quarterback who was recruited to play cornerback. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound McCarthy didn't last long at cornerback and was moved to safety early in his career. Last season, the junior saw his first real action of his career playing a lot for the Irish as a dime back, and even started a game against Navy……but McCarthy spent last season mostly lining up and backing up David Bruton as a free safety.

So it's natural that most people were somewhat surprised to see McCarthy listed as the starter at strong safety on the pre-spring depth chart, but the former Cardinal Mooney high school wasn't astonished by it.

"I guess I expected it to be there the way last year ended," said McCarthy when asked his reaction to the depth chart. "I know that it's written in pencil, and at any point that could change. I'm practicing that way, that any point it can change. I'm just going to play within myself and hopefully the rest sorts itself out."

The difference between strong safety and free safety is vast. As a strong safety, players are asked to help out a lot in run support and to play closer to the line of scrimmage. As a free safety, a player is usually asked to play more coverage.

McCarthy had no problem tackling people last year. He was arguably one of the better tacklers on the team logging 20 tackles and one forced fumble in limited minutes, and the senior defensive back says he embraces his new position and is confident he can do the job.

"There definitely is a bunch of guys out there battling for that spot opposite of David," McCarthy said. "Some of the best athletes on the field have got to be out there. You've just got to do what you've got to do, play within yourself, and the rest will sort itself out."

"I'm absolutely confident that I can come up there, these last couple days of practice, full-go hitting, really has just validated that fact for me," he said when asked about being physical enough for the position.

"I think if you've got a guy that's going to play in the box and stick someone, you've got to have that mentality. You can't teach that," McCarthy said when asked about playing closer to the line of scrimmage. "Then again, they could draw schemes that could set a guy free and give him a free shot at the running back. I think it's up to that guy to take that shot."

The former Ohio all-stater says there definitely is a difference between strong and free safety, but the playing experience he received last year will come in handy.

"I actually came in as a corner. I didn't think I was going to be playing safety, let alone strong safety," McCarthy said. "There's definitely a difference. You're more run. You've got to play in the box a little more—hang with the big boys. I'm ready for that. Then again, David could also play strong, any of those guys, really. It's different, but we all have the ability to play both."

"My maturity and confidence really kind of came about.…just getting a chance to get on the field," he said. "Last year getting in in certain nickel and dime situations has certainly helped my confidence as a player. Just the experience factor, you can't substitute that in practice, game experience. I think it's really going to pay off for me in the end."

Irish defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Corwin Brown also said the experience McCarthy received has been beneficial.

"He's a guy that didn't play a ton last year, he played some," Brown said of McCarthy. "So anytime you're in that situation, experience is the best teacher. The more experience he gets, the better he will be. He's okay, he's doing well."

The Irish defensive finished ranked No. 3 in the country in pass defense, and this year are expected to be the strength of the defense….a welcome change for the defensive backfield according to McCarthy.

"This is going to be my fourth year. In the first two years all everyone talked about were the DBs, and ‘what are they going to do this year,' because we were toward the end of the back of the country," he said. "Having a good year last year, defensive backs-wise, it's definitely something to build on."

The Irish do return eight starters from last season, but the unit did struggle at times on defense. McCarthy expects this unit to be even better in 2008.

"I'd say confidence, defensive unity," he said when asked how this unit might be different from the previous year. "I think we're a little more hungry after last year. It really humbles you, that kind of record. We've really hit the weight room hard, and we've worked with coach Brown and coach Tenuta, and we're really ready to pick things up physically, mentally, and our confidence as well."


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