Mood serves Notre Dame safety Redfield well

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Max Redfield forced himself to avoid the frustration.

He traded in his five-star ranking as a recruit out of Mission Viejo, Calif., for a reserve role as a freshman at Notre Dame. It seemed only a matter of time before his athleticism overcame his inexperience.

But opportunities on Saturdays were scarce.

That’s when Redfield’s approach was particularly useful.

"I believe mood is a choice,” Redfield said. “You have to attack the day in a good mood or else it's going to put you in a bad mood and you're going to have a bad day. I just try to continue to get better and try to learn from my mistakes and keep getting better from those. Eventually I felt like they would have to put me on the field and they did."

Opportunities in November led to his first career start in December for the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. He was finally able to unleash as a starting safety.

“It definitely gave me more confidence and kind of confirmed that I'm doing something right,” Redfield said. “It was that ‘Aha’ moment to finally win the starting position and get on the field and finally perform like I’ve been wanting to for so long.”

The only doubts that followed Redfield reflected his unease with the defensive system of former coordinator Bob Diaco. Learning the defense as a freshman with the responsibility of a safety proved a tall task. But it prepared him for a spring loaded with another defensive education.

With the transition to defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder in January, Redfield began to learn his second defense in as many semesters. This time, at least, he started at the same knowledge base as the rest of his teammates.

"I've always had 100 percent confidence in my abilities,’’ he said. “It's just the defense I've been within.

“We all learned this defense together and grew within it. In doing that, I was able to grow and have 100 percent confidence in this defense."

“Aggressive” has been the buzz word in the defensive shift.

With corners playing more man coverage, more pressure will fall on the safeties to prevent big plays. That doesn’t mean the duo of Redfield and fifth-year senior Austin Collinsworth won’t be asked to make big plays of their own.

“We feel like it's a lot more aggressive defense,” Redfield said. “There's a lot more blitzes for safeties, a lot more chances for us to get closer to the ball in the box. We definitely like that. The more action the better for me."

The installation of the new defense, which Redfield admitted to being a bit overwhelming at first, seems to be running smoothly. But that depends on who you ask. Where Redfield claims confidence, head coach Brian Kelly expresses concern.

"He's made a good jump,” Kelly said of Redfield. “Max is an extremely gifted player. We've just got to continue on the learning curve. We have days where you miss an assignment here and you can't miss an assignment back there. That's where some of our inexperience — we have to be vigilant in making sure that we're clean back there.”

Kelly indicated that Redfield needs to be paired with Collinsworth or senior Matthias Farley in order to have fewer responsibilities in directing the defense in front of him.

“There's no quarterbacking for Max,” Kelly said. “Austin Collinsworth will do the quarterbacking back there. And then if Austin went down Matthias Farley would go back there to be the quarterback. We're not going to put much on Max's plate. We're going to ask him to do his job, do it fast and really not put a lot on his plate.”

That was news to Redfield, who confidently rejected the notion that he doesn’t share those responsibilities with his fellow safeties.

“I had no idea that coach Kelly said that,” Redfield said. “I'll say, as probably the rest of the defense would say, that's not the case at all. We all communicate the calls. We all yell out everything we see on a play-to-play basis. I fix Austin sometimes. He fixes me sometimes. That's just how it is."

That’s Redfield’s confidence level at work.

It’s the same kind of confidence revealed when Redfield’s newly created Twitter account was accompanied by a shirtless photo of him and Collinsworth.

Or the skimpy pair of pink shorts Redfield wore to the Kelly Cares Foundation’s Football 101 camp for women in June.

Confidence is the thread holding together Notre Dame’s secondary.

"I think that's embedded in our personalities,” Redfield said. “That's who we are. I have a lot of confidence in myself and we feed off each other. We love playing with each other. We want the best of each other. We demand the best of each other when we play. That's what we want. That's our goal."

The unit comes with a certain bravado. Trying to keep up with the chatty cornerbacks could prove to be a challenge when it comes to trash talking, but Redfield likes the noise. Come Aug. 30, Rice will be the target.

"It fits in perfectly,” Redfield said. “Me and Austin are both trash talkers. We love getting after it and hyping each other up. We all feed off each other. We love to play that way, and we plan to play that way." | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Safety Max Redfield continues to develop confidence in Notre Dame's new defense. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)