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Ray Herring: After injury, Herring still has unfinished business

Greg Arbogast | Friday, November 21, 2008

Ray Herring is no stranger to grabbing the attention of tens of thousands of people.

Before his senior year at Holy Trinity High School, Herring was asked by the Florida Today newspaper to keep a diary of his final season. Plenty of people were interested in what Herring, a starter both ways during the first four years of varsity football at Holy Trinity, had to say.

“Anytime I had thoughts, I wrote them down on the website for Florida Today,” Herring said. “The day I committed [to Notre Dame], I think I had 100,000 people visit my site. [Florida Today] said that was the most they’d ever had, even more than when the Challenger blew up, so I broke that record on that.”

While Herring is a bit of a celebrity in his tiny hometown of Melbourne, Florida, he’s still trying to achieve the same status in South Bend.

Pegged by the Notre Dame coaches as a strong safety, Herring came to South Bend behind Tom Zbikowski on the depth chart. The former Irish All-American didn’t leave much opportunity for Herring to play over the next three years.

Herring did make one start, in 2006 against Stanford when Zbikowski was out because of an injury. Herring made the most of his opportunity, recording nine tackles during a 31-10 Irish victory, and he recalls that game as one of his favorite memories of his Notre Dame career to-date.

“It was good because it was my first start,” Herring said. “I was pretty nervous.”

Other than the Stanford game, Herring was primarily consigned to special teams duty his first three years. His freshman year, Herring made his first appearance on special teams against Washington, and he recorded five tackles in 115 special teams appearances on the year.

Herring’s role expanded slightly his sophomore year as he became a mainstay on special teams and received playing time at safety late during several games. On the year, he finished 13th on the team with 18 total tackles, and he also added two pass break-ups. After playing both ways for four straight seasons in high school, Herring had to adjust to more limited playing time at Notre Dame.

“It was kind of hard,” Herring said. “But at a good program like this where you have good players, sometimes you got to wait your turn. I believe everything happens for a reason.”

Herring may still be searching for the reason why his junior season went down the drain. Four games into the year, Herring injured his groin and wouldn’t play for the rest of the season. Although Zbikowski’s decision to return for his senior year in 2007 meant that Herring was still blocked on the depth-chart, Herring’s injury opened the door for teammate Kyle McCarthy. McCarthy hasn’t looked back as he assumed the starting strong safety spot and currently leads the Irish in tackles in 2008 with 89.

“I kind of had to start over on the depth chart,” Herring said on the effect of his injury. “I had Kyle [McCarthy] behind me, and he’s a good player. He got in front of me, and it was kind of hard to pass him because he’s a good player too, so I kind of have to wait right now.”

Herring has received academic eligibility for a fifth season, and he plans on returning for a final season in hopes of working towards his dream of playing in the NFL. In order to do so, Herring will likely have to beat out McCarthy for the starting strong safety job as McCarthy also has a potential fifth year of eligibility.

If Herring can do so, though, he’ll have another chance to grab the attention of tens of thousands of people.