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Football

Redfield, Shumate solidify play after strong finish

| Tuesday, March 31, 2015

They might have entered spring practice with a new coach and new style of play, but the Irish safeties are looking to solidify a core duo they had already established last season.

Senior Elijah Shumate and junior Max Redfield both earned the start for the season opener against Rice on Aug. 30, but they weren’t able to hold that job for the entire year. Former Irish captain Austin Collinsworth and current sophomore Drue Tranquill had switched on and off with Shumate and Redfield in the secondary’s first-team, but by the home finale against Louisville on Nov. 22, Collinsworth and Tranquill had slid into the starting roles together.

One week later against USC, Redfield and Shumate regained significant minutes on the field after Tranquill tore his ACL against the Cardinals and Collinsworth reinjured his shoulder against the Trojans.

Irish safeties junior Max Redfield, 10, and senior Elijah Shumate, 22, tackle an LSU ballcarrier at the goal line during Notre Dame's 31-28 win in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30.Kevin Song | The Observer

Irish safeties junior Max Redfield, 10, and senior Elijah Shumate, 22, tackle an LSU ballcarrier at the goal line during Notre Dame’s 31-28 win in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30.

Just a month later, the safeties flashed a new form during the Music City Bowl against LSU, holding the Tigers to 151 passing yards and one touchdown through the air, and Redfield registered a team-high 14 tackles.

“The bowl preparation was absolutely crucial to both of those guys,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said March 25. “Defensively, they could see where they needed to grow, and they did, both of them. And now they get into this year, and they know it’s time to really deliver.

“I think they look back on the year and see that there were clearly some tough times for them, but they’re going to be better because of it.”

Last offseason, the safeties had to adjust to a new defense from then-first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder, a learning curve that was steepened by the increased minutes because of injuries.

This offseason, they’re under the instruction of a new position coach, former Irish cornerback Todd Lyght, who served as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Philadelphia Eagles before moving back to South Bend.

Lyght said he’s tried to bring a new mindset to Notre Dame — one which emphasizes all 11 players on defense knowing each other’s roles and responsibilities — and he’s seen Redfield and Shumate respond accordingly in the first few weeks of spring ball.

“I think they’re being more assertive at their position because you have to be very vocal,” Lyght said March 23. “When you’re at the safety position, you’re pretty much the quarterbacks of the defense, so you’ve gotta do a good job of commanding the defense, anticipating change, anticipating shifting, motions, thinks like that, and anticipating the adjustments that need to be made, and I think last year, with the new defense, they were kind of hindered with that a bit, and it kind of slowed up their thinking process.”

Redfield said he and his partner in the secondary have bought into the new style of play that Lyght brought.

“Well, the fact that he was such a great player, and now he’s coaching us, he knows how to basically translate the message he’s trying to get to us, and he makes it really clear, and he understands the fundamentals that are going to make us succeed,” Redfield said Friday. “He understands the technique down to a dot that we need to succeed, and he’s really good at communicating with us.”

Redfield said he also learned from losing his starting job over the course of last season.

“Obviously, it was kinda rough for me,” he said. “Nobody likes to get benched. But at that time, you kinda have to reflect. I mean, I’m getting benched for a reason. The coaches have to have some kind of motive behind this.

“So it kind of gave me some time to reflect upon it and understand that I’m not entitled to this spot. I have to earn it every day.”

With this new mindset in place under the new coach, Kelly said he’s been impressed with the job his two veteran safeties have done throughout the spring so far.

“Their development is clearly evident and so much different from where we were at this time last year or anytime during the season,” he said. “We don’t see the missed assignments. Really two guys that have grasped a hold of what we’re doing out there. [They’ve] kind of settled into two solid football players back there for us.”

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Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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