Notre Dame DB Matthias Farley has some job security

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – A couple weeks remain before the Notre Dame football team arrives in Nashville for the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl against LSU, but Irish senior Matthias Farley already has begun sifting through what will and will not make the trip with him.

“I have two pairs of cowboy boots,” Farley offered. “Short guys gotta wear cowboy boots.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Farley, because of an injury-ravaged Irish defense, may be forced to wear multiple hats. He’s listed as a cornerback, has started at strongside linebacker, and for this game, because of a depleted safety depth chart, will see time at safety.

Austin Collinsworth is likely out because of continuing shoulder problems. Max Redfield could play, but he’s coming back from a broken rib. A November ACL injury ended Drue Tranquill’s season. Junior Nicky Baratti is out with a shoulder injury suffered in September.

Farley was shifted to cornerback in the spring, and he also has seen time at linebacker this year, so with the scant number of choices, Farley became the obvious choice.

“Farley's going to have to take a little bit of rep work at safety and get some work back there as well just in case Max can't answer the bell,'' head coach Brian Kelly said. "We're hopeful that he can. We think that he can, but we're obviously very thin there,” Kelly said. “So it's important that we get some work back there with Matthias as well.”

Talk of the move was met with a “no big deal” shrug from the laid-back Farley. It’s the position at which he excelled during Notre Dame’s 2012 run to the BCS National Championship Game, although he wasn’t as effective last season. When talk of a potential Farley return for a fifth year in 2015 popped up, Farley again didn’t seem too worried.

“The season’s not over,” he said.

Farley this season has registered 51 tackles, good for fifth on the team, with 3.5 sacks and a team-leading four interceptions.

Still, injuries have depleted the Irish defense, and the four-game losing streak has seen the Irish allow 178 combined points. Jobs, on both sides of the ball, are up for grabs.

“When you have a lot of guys pushing each other,” Farley said, “that really brings out the best in everybody. Everyone understands and realizes that we all have to execute better and play at a high level, so that’ll push us. And if there is competition at different positions, I think that’ll push us as well.”

As an elder statesman on the defense, Farley is helping push the buttons of some of the myriad young players who have been forced into action because of the injuries. One? Freshman middle linebacker Nyles Morgan, now starting because of the season-ending ankle injury to starter Joe Schmidt.

“I think he already is really good,” Farley said. “I think he just needs to understand that he is young and things are going to happen and he’s going to make mistakes and just not get down about it,

“So I’ll try to encourage him when I can and when I see him get down, tell him, 'Dude, you’re a freshman. You have so much more time and you’re (getting) these kind of growing pains or whatever you want to call them out of the way. Everyone has to go through it and you’re doing it at the biggest stage as a 17- or 18-year-old.' ”

Injuries, and the number of young players, have played a significant role in ND’s plummet. Kelly has been happy with how the team has performed in the weeks leading up to games, but hasn’t been pleased with Saturday performances. Farley couldn’t put a finger on why the Irish have stubbed their toes.

“I can’t,” he said. “I think that everybody just needs to be that much more focused on Saturday. I think leading into games throughout the entire season it’s been very focused and I think things on Saturday have been focused leading up to the game time, and there’s been a lapse somewhere and we need to make sure everybody’s even more locked in than normal.”

“At the end of the day we’re going to a cool location to play an opponent we don’t normally play,” Farley said, “but the focus and the outcome is what we’re trying to determine and work toward.

“So it’s just like any other week in that sense.”

An official approaches Notre Dame’s Matthias Farley as he celebrates a stop during the Notre Dame-Navy NCAA college football game on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2014, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN