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Football: Redfield makes his mark on special teams

Mike Monaco | Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Max Redfield has never played quarterback, but he has had to adjust to being a defensive signal-caller.

The freshman safety from Mission Viejo, Calif., who came to Notre Dame as ESPN’s No. 23 player in the class of 2013 and a five-star prospect according to other recruiting services, has played mostly on special teams through five games for the Irish and tallied two tackles. Redfield currently starts on the kickoff, kick-return and punt-return units.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Sunday that Redfield is progressing along and getting “closer and closer” to impacting the defense.

“There’s so many calls, so many things going on out there,” Kelly said in reference to the highly-touted rookie. “It’s a quarterback position when you’re out there at that safety position. It’s not just dropping into cover two.”

As a safety, Redfield agreed there are similarities to the quarterback position, though he said it’s not as complex.

“I feel like to a certain extent, it’s kind of like a quarterback of the defense,” Redfield said Tuesday. “They have to be very demonstrative with their calls to different positions, make sure they’re in the right spot and then obviously, yourself, you have to know the call and know your responsibilities for different situations as well.”

Redfield said he felt he was demonstrative in high school, but it’s harder to be the same way in college without a firm grasp of the defense and all the calls. As a 6-foot-1, 194-pound fluid athlete, Redfield said the most challenging transition to the collegiate level has not been physically playing.

“It’s more, probably, the communication,” he said. “You have to know what the linebackers are doing. You have to let the corners know what you’re doing so they know what they’re doing. It’s more a whole unison thing that you kind of need to experience in a game and practice on a consistent basis to become fluent at it and be able to actually perform the best you can.”

So for Redfield, who notched 65 tackles, four fumble recoveries and four interceptions to go along with 757 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a senior safety and receiver at Mission Viejo High School, the transitional phase to major college football has been difficult.

“I feel frustrated still,” he said. “I still don’t have everything down like I obviously want to, still making the little mistakes that you obviously need to get down to be a big contributor in the game, and that’s why obviously I’m not there. It’s a process, like the coaches keep telling me, and I’ve tried to accept it. But it’s still frustrating, obviously.”

Redfield added that, upon coming to Notre Dame, he quickly realized how little he knew, which served as a “wake-up call.”

“It’s humbling,” he said later. “You’re not the greatest player. You’re not the best player out there. You need to just understand that. … But I’m learning a lot and I’m in the position that I should be.”

Redfield praised safeties coach Bob Elliott for his teaching methods and said he has learned from older safeties like junior Matthias Farley and senior Austin Collinsworth. With the guidance of his elders, Redfield said he has finally begun to feel more comfortable as a defensive signal-caller.

“Just recently I feel like I’ve gotten a better grasp on the defense,” he said. “I still made mistakes today in practice, though. But, yeah, it’s the little things that really count in this game.”

With the bye week before Notre Dame’s showdown with USC on Oct. 19, Redfield has a chance to get more work. Kelly said Sunday he will treat this week differently for different players. Established players will receive more rest, while certain less proven players will have more opportunities to improve. Redfield said he views the bye week as a chance to push for more playing time.

“This is great,” he said. “This bye week is critical for me to keep growing and get the little things down that I need to get down to play in a game and perform and actually make an impact.”

As for when that will be?

“I’ll have my time eventually,” Redfield said. “When the coaches feel it’s ready, I’m ready.”

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu