Former Cal safety Sebastian considering Notre Dame transfer

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Brian Kelly left the door wide open for safety additions for his 2015 roster.

At his National Signing Day press conference, Notre Dame’s head coach hinted at a search for a potential transfer that could help a thin depth chart at safety.

“We've got some more work to do there,” Kelly said. “We're not done.”

The first unofficial name to surface in that search is Avery Sebastian. The former Cal safety graduated in December and has been pursuing a fifth year as a graduate student elsewhere. Sebastian confirmed with the Tribune this week that he had been in contact with Notre Dame.

Sebastian, who has returned to his home state of Georgia and is training in Atlanta, also said he’s been contacted by Auburn, Oregon, Louisville, North Carolina and Penn State. The former four-star recruit ended a once-promising career at Cal with two injury-plagued seasons. A torn Achilles in the 2013 season opener wiped out his junior season. He returned to play seven games as a senior despite a nagging quadriceps injury.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound defensive back retained a year of eligibility because of his lost junior season and will be able to play immediately this fall.

National recruiting services gave Sebastian — then known as Avery Walls — high grades coming out of high school. He played in the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his senior season at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in McDonough, Ga., the same program that produced Irish defensive lineman Isaac Rochell.

ESPN ranked him as the No. 6 safety in the 2011 class, and Rivals ranked him No. 8 at the position. CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming slated him No. 141 regardless of position that year.

“One of the surest tacklers in the south, he’s a coach on the field with terrific range,” Lemming wrote in his annual Prep Football Report.

Sebastian's career at Cal started successfully under then head coach Jeff Tedford. He played in 23 games in his first two seasons and made four starts.

“He was real good early,” said Jeff Faraudo, who covers Cal football for the Bay Area News Group. “He's a big hitter. He's a very enthusiastic kid and a really good team guy. He was always one of the guys that was helpful to the coaches during recruiting, busy on Twitter encouraging recruits and talking up the program. I think he was well-liked on the team. He's a smart kid. Then he ran into a bunch of bad luck physically.”

Sebastian entered the 2013 season as the starting strong safety, but it would only last one game. He recorded 10 tackles and an interception against Northwestern before tearing his Achilles. His return last season was filled with setbacks. He made 21 tackles, intercepted a pass and forced one fumble in limited action.

“He just had leg problems and couldn't get fully healthy,” Faraudo said. “Even when they played him, he probably wasn't 100 percent. He was able to get on the field because they needed him. I don't know that he's an NFL player, but he was a good college player early on. I don't think they really got to see how good he might become because of the injuries."

Head coach Sonny Dykes took over the program during the last two injury-riddled seasons for Sebastian. The safety decided to part ways with the Golden Bears in December.

Notre Dame’s need for safety depth has been well-documented. The Irish spent the final months of the 2015 recruiting cycle trying to land a third safety to join fellow commits Nicco Fertitta and Mykelti Williams but failed.

Notre Dame returns just two scholarship safeties from the 2014 roster that finished the season healthy: senior-to-be Elijah Shumate and junior-to-be Max Redfield. A third safety, Drue Tranquill, should return for his sophomore season following ACL surgery. Senior Nicky Baratti’s status remains shaky with chronic shoulder issues, but Kelly said Baratti plans to participate in spring football without contact.

Sebastian could provide a needed extra body in the fall.

“He's primarily a big hitter at strong safety,” Faraudo said. “If he's physically OK, fully healthy and ready to go, he can probably help a lot of people.”

Coach departures official

The hiring elsewhere of three former Notre Dame assistant coaches was made official this week.

Oklahoma named former Irish defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks to the same position Monday. Cooks spent the previous five seasons at Notre Dame.

Ohio State named former Irish recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Tony Alford to its staff Tuesday. Alford, who worked for Notre Dame for the last six seasons, will be the assistant head coach for offense and running backs coach.

The Atlanta Falcons announced the addition of former Irish quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur to the same position Tuesday. LaFleur, who coached just one season at Notre Dame, is reunited with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The two previously coached together with the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Former Cal safety Avery Sebastian will join Notre Dame in June. (Photo courtesy of Michael Pimentel/GoldenBearSports.com)