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Courtesy University of Notre Dame
Matthias Farley, who started 19 games at safety, is adjusting to cornerback and a new system under defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

Irish cornerback savors chance to learn new position

– Matthias Farley is ready to tackle his latest challenge.

The Notre Dame senior was moved from safety, a position he started at in 19 games the last two seasons, to cornerback as spring drills began last week.

Farley is accustomed to moving and having to rise to the occasion; that’s how his career at Notre Dame started.

The 5-foot-10, 204-pounder moved from receiver to safety as a sophomore, and he found himself in the starting lineup in 2012 after starter Jamoris Slaughter suffered an Achilles injury three games into that season when the Irish went 12-0 and earned a spot in the BCS championship game.

“I’m excited about it,” Farley said after Notre Dame’s first spring practice March 3. “It’s a new system, a new everything, so why not have a fresh start? I feel like that’s been the story line of my career, adapting to new situations.”

Notre Dame’s entire defense is adapting to a new situation as Brian VanGorder takes over as defensive coordinator for Bob Diaco, who left the Irish to become the head coach at Connecticut.

“Defensively, you know, you can sense the expectations are not going to be within the grasp of any player on the defensive side of the ball with Coach VanGorder,” coach Brian Kelly said. “High expectations he’s coaching, and you love that because there’s a lot going on defensively and there are high expectations for everybody on the defensive side of the ball. His interaction with everything that is going on, you can feel it while you are out there.”

Farley wants to handle this year’s change better than he did last year when he remained at the same position but was expected to play more like his predecessors.

“We were trying to get him to replace Zeke Motta and Harrison Smith, two pretty good players and two physical players,” Kelly said. “He’s not that kind of player and so he kind of got that tag where he’s not as physical as them. Well, that’s not his best trait. He’s really smart and he’s got some tools that I think, if we play him in the right position, he can really help our defense.

“So I’m not going to say he was unfairly evaluated in a sense, but he was put into a very difficult position last year and we really think he can help our defense in a role that doesn’t focus on him being a hard-hitting safety.”

Farley did finish with the same number of tackles (49) last season as he did in 2012 and had two interceptions last year after having one two seasons ago, but he admits he could have handled things better.

“There was definitely a lot on my plate,” Farley said of last season when he started eight games after starting 11 in 2012. “I probably could have handled it better through different stuff and remaining more relaxed through certain situations. There wasn’t a point at all where I felt like I wasn’t capable of doing the job last season.”

And Kelly is convinced that Farley can handle more than one job this season.

“I think he’s going to have a chance to play some nickel for us, some corner,” Kelly said. “I think he’s going to be involved in what we do defensively. I think the role has yet to be determined. He’s a really good athlete. He’s got a lot of snaps. You know, he’s played a lot of football. He’s played on an undefeated defense in the regular season two years ago.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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