SOUTH BEND – A year ago, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco referred to Fighting Irish safety Austin Collinsworth as a “werewolf.” At the time, Collinsworth was in the midst of a tremendous spring practice season and Diaco had high expectations of how the then-sophomore was going to be able to contribute to the success of the 2012 Irish.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Collinsworth wasn’t able to strike fear into anyone last fall. Shortly after Diaco’s praise, Collinsworth injured his shoulder and had to sit out the 2012 season.
“There was certainly a lot of frustration,” Collinsworth said. “But with that, you really have to keep the mindset of doing the rehab. There was a lot of work to be done. You’ve got to control what you can control.”
What Collinsworth is able to control now is his being able to get back onto the football field and make an impression on the Notre Dame football coaches.
“I think that I’m the same guy that I was last spring,” Collinsworth said. “I feel really comfortable, and every day it’s more and more so.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Collinsworth wasn’t very comfortable at all. Though he was immersed in his rehab work on the shoulder, he injured his back midway through the season and ultimately had to undergo surgery. That healing process wasn’t complete until early March. He now weighs 197 pounds and hopes to add a few more before training camp opens in August.
“Every day I feel a lot better,” Collinsworth said. “I feel like I’m getting close to 100 percent. Every day is another step forward.”
Collinsworth never missed any of the first 26 games of his career. Though he’s been reliable until last spring, and his play stood out a year ago, this spring, Collinsworth is just another unproven, but talented player trying to get time at the crowded safety spot for his final two seasons of eligibility.
Zeke Motta and Chris Salvi both graduated off of the 2012 squad, but starter Matthias Farley (sophomore) and reserves Nicky Baratti (sophomore), Elijah Shumate (sophomore), Eilar Hardy (sophomore), John Turner (freshman), Chris Badger (sophomore), and C.J. Prosise (freshman) are also trying to earn a job for next fall.
That group doesn’t even include heralded incoming freshman Max Redfield, who has the potential to play right away.
Collinsworth recently made his first tackle in over a year. So how did he hold up through that?
“It was a pretty good feeling,” Collinsworth said.
There’s nothing scary about that for Irish fans.