SOUTH BEND – In light of having an inexperienced secondary, as well as having suffered a significant injury to that youthful group, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly could use a bit of positive news during this training camp.
Thank you Matthias Farley.
The sophomore safety is in his first season on the defensive side of the ball after coming to South Bend as a wide receiver. He is learning as he goes, but Farley is definitely learning well and learning quickly according to Kelly.
“Matthias has done a really nice job for us,” Kelly said. “Getting him in a position where he could get actual, meaningful reps. He played on the offensive side of the ball and he was a scout team player, so he really didn't have an opportunity to show himself.”
Seniors Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter have long been penciled in as starters for the 2012 season at safety. With depth at the position being provided by seniors Dan McCarthy and Chris Salvi, as well as the emergence of junior Austin Collinsworth, who was having a nice spring until being injured, few envisioned Farley being a significant figure on the field this fall. That all changed during this training camp.
“Farley has done very, very well,” Kelly said. “He's changed the dynamics back there. I know that I had spoken that McCarthy had that position locked up; well, it's a battle right now.”
Perhaps Kelly – along with the media – have been surprised with Farley's meteoric ascension. However, Motta doesn't really get what all of the amazement is about. He thought Farley was a really good player all along.
“It's kind of expected actually,” Motta said. “With his personality and the way that he approaches his business.”
Interestingly, both Motta and Kelly expressed the importance that assistant coaches Bob Elliott (safeties) and Kerry Cooks (co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks) have played in getting all of the young secondary players up to speed quickly.
“Going out there, one of the main things is communication,” Motta explained. “We certainly have the coaches to get the players right. (Each of the defensive coaches) have really been focused on getting Matthias ready for that position.”
As little experience as Farley has in the defensive secondary, each day is an opportunity to learn and grow and he has seized it virtually in each drill. His rise up the depth chart has occurred daily leading up to Saturday's season-opener in Dublin, Ireland against Navy (9 a.m., CBS).
“Farley has really been impressive,” Kelly said midway through camp.
After being moved to the defensive side of the ball, Farley's development was slow at first, but he took advantage of this summer to prepare himself to be in a position to compete for playing time.
“He came into this summer really committed,” Kelly said. “He was in the best shape of his life, he's lost some weight (he's listed at 200 pounds), and quite frankly, we have two outstanding coaches back there in coach Elliott and coach Cooks. They can get kids ready back there in a very short period of time.”
Now that Farley is off of the scout team, which limits the amount of instruction a player receives, the solidifying of where he'll be on the field, plus his maturation and focus, all of these aspects should lead to what Kelly believes is a very bright future with the Fighting Irish.
“The combination of coaching,” Kelly explained, “getting an opportunity, and then physically being in the best shape of his life in terms of the position that he knew that he'd be playing… all of those things coming together at once have allowed him to grow as a player.”
The accolades continue to stream in for Notre Dame senior tight end Tyler Eifert.
Not only has the Bishop Dwenger High School graduate earned All-American status for his ability on the field, he is now being recognized for his leadership qualities off of the field.
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly posted on Twitter that Eifert, along with senior teammates Manti Te'o, Zack Martin and Kapron Lewis-Moore were named as captains for the 2012 season.