Notebook: Notre Dame needs to see more from Shumate, Redfield
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brian Kelly acknowledges that the depth-chart resurrections of safeties Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield have more to do with injuries to the other options at the position group than actual redemption.
Not that he’s ruling out the latter.
“We saw a little bit better play from Elijah,” the Notre Dame head football coach said Friday evening after his Irish (7-5) logged their first practice following a brief Christmas break with an eye toward Tuesday’s clash with No. 22 LSU (8-4) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field.
“We still need to see more. We have higher expectations for Elijah. We have higher expectations from Max. They know it. It’s been articulated to them. We’ve had one-on-one meetings with them.”
The mass intrigue around the Irish still centers on the quarterbacks and which member of Kelly’s QB tag-team will start against the nation’s No. 1 pass-efficiency defense and eighth-ranked total defense.
Kelly said he hopes to make that decision in the next 24 hours, though it may not become public until Monday, the coach’s next media availability. He remains committed, he says, to a time share arrangement.
He’s just as committed, if not more, to renovating a defense that spent November regressing, in large part because of injuries, but exacerbated by the late-season slumps of two of the team’s best athletes, junior Shumate and sophomore Redfield.
Shumate is ND’s third-leading tackler with 64, with Redfield No. 4 with 54. Neither recorded a tackle on Senior Day, Nov. 22 against Louisville, a 31-28 Irish loss in which Austin Collinsworth and Drue Tranquill took their places in the starting lineup.
Both those players are done for the season with injuries, and senior Eilar Hardy, suspended for ND’s first eight games, and senior Matthias Farley, who has been ND’s valuable nickelback option, are the only other viable alternatives.
“Those two (Shumate and Redfield) will be our guys,” Kelly said when asked if he considered starting Hardy and/or Farley. “They know what they need to do. And they’re going to be asked to do a lot against LSU. They’ve got to come up big for us.”
Sophomore Malik Zaire’s comfort level and efficiency running the read option has helped keep the quarterback derby in play throughout December, even though Kelly has gone down that road only reluctantly and intermittently throughout his coaching career.
It’s easy to see why he is considering going against that grain in this case.
In LSU’s four losses this season (Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State), the Tiger defense played well enough to win both the Arkansas (17-0) and Alabama games (20-13 in OT).
In the games where the defense faltered, and in a narrow 30-27 win over struggling Florida, there’s a common thread. And that is that the opposing QBs truly and continually put the LSU defense in a run-pass dilemma from the QB position.
Auburn’s Nick Marshall ran for 119 yards on 16 carries and two TDs, while throwing for 207 yards and two more scores in a 41-7 Auburn rout. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott had 105 yards on 22 carries and a TD to go along with his 268 passing yards and two TDs in a 34-20 Bulldog triumph.
Florida’s Jeff Driskel ran for 71 yards on 21 carries and a TD, and threw for 183 and another score in the three-point loss.
“We’ve constructed the game plan to take advantage of what we believe their strengths are and what they can contribute to us moving the football and scoring points,” Kelly said of Zaire and incumbent starter Everett Golson. “We can do a lot with two quarterbacks, and I think it can be pretty exciting.
“It opens up everything, and you go into a game where you’re going to really see the best from both of them, because they know they’re going to get an opportunity and they’re going to have to play very well.”
• Sophomore Mike McGlinchey continues to get first-team reps in anticipation of his first collegiate start on Tuesday.
Grad student Christian Lombard continues to struggle with a recurring back condition that opened the door for McGlinchey.
• While Kelly is optimistic star defensive tackle Sheldon Day will start Tuesday for the first time since suffering a sprained MCL (left knee) on Nov. 15 vs. Northwestern, the coach is not sure what kind of volume he’ll be able to get from a key piece to ND’s run defense.
“We’d like him to play every play,” Kelly said. “We don’t think that’s realistic. If we could get between 40 and 50 plays, I think we’d be ecstatic.”
The Irish averaged 74 defensive plays per game this season.
• Kelly said every Irish player made it through final exams with their eligibility intact.
• The coach said the four underclassmen who requested information for the NFL Draft Advisory Board received their draft grades, but Kelly declined to reveal what those were.
The four seeking feedback were offensive guard Nick Martin, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, Day and Golson. The deadline for underclassmen to jump into the 2015 NFL Draft pool is Jan. 15.
• Notre Dame’s agenda in Nashville is a little light on the tourist traps and heavy on the business of winning the game.
“They’ll have 17 days off after the bowl game,” Kelly said of the Irish players. “They’ll have New Year’s. And they can run around then. We want to really be prepared and play our best against a very good football team, so those are the things we talked about.”
• The Irish practiced outdoors, with temps in the high 40s, Friday at Father Ryan High School in Nashville. LSU doesn’t arrive until Saturday, and the Tigers will practice in Baton Rouge before departing.
Game-day forecasted temperatures have moderated to a high of 45 and low of 28 after early projections of highs in the 30s. All of LSU’s practices in Nashville will be indoors, at Vanderbilt’s practice facility.
Their first exposure this month to playing in the 40s will be on game day.