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September 16, 2012
Jamoris Slaughter hobbled out of Spartan Stadium late Saturday night on crutches, his left Achilles tendon immobilized after suffering what may be a collegiate career-ending injury. Now comes the hard part for Brian Kelly and his coaching staff, replacing a player viewed as one of Notre Dame's most essential.
Matthias Farley figures to get his second career start and first at safety next week when Michigan and whirling dervish Denard Robinson come to South Bend. Robinson has torched the Irish for 948 yards total offense and eight rushing/passing touchdowns the past two seasons, leading last-minute, game-winning drives both times.
"You lose a Jamoris Slaughter, you're losing an A player," Kelly said on Sunday. "Matthias is certainly not at the level yet of a Jamoris Slaughter, he has to continue to develop, but we have a lot of confidence and trust in him. He'll be getting a lot of work back there."
Kelly has confidence in some of his young defensive backs after Saturday night's 20-3 victory at Michigan State.
Starting cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson both had pass deflections. Russell helped prevent a surefire touchdown pass to Bennie Fowler, who was shutout in the game. Josh Atkinson received the most extensive playing time of his career and fit into the secondary with fellow backup Jalen Brown.
The biggest revelation might have been cornerback/safety Elijah Shumate, who broke up two passes by Andrew Maxwell. Shumate has three breakups this season, more than Slaughter had all last year.
"He's extremely athletic. He's got a great sense of the game," Kelly said. "I think he makes up for any lack of knowledge of our defense with just being a savvy, smart player, and one that's really very gifted.
"The easiest way for us to get him in and make an impact is the nickel position because we're not going to ask you to do a ton of things. We want that to parlay itself into more roles, whether it be corner or safety."
Notre Dame won't have much experience in the secondary moving forward this season, but Kelly believes there's enough talent that the position won't be exposed.
"I think what we're seeing is the development of some really young players that can be really good players for us," Kelly said. "I think you're worried if you feel like you have to hide them out there. We don't need to hide them; they just need to continue to develop."
Kelly said Sheldon Day suffered a bone bruise against Michigan State before he appeared to hurt his knee celebrating a pass breakup. Day also had his first career sack ? Kapron Lewis-Moore played through the pain of a calf injury suffered against Purdue. Kelly said the senior was healthier the day after Michigan State than the day after Purdue ? DaVaris Daniels had a "setback" according to Kelly on his sprained ankle during the team's Friday walkthrough but appears on schedule for Michigan ? Nick Tausch's groin injury may cost him his placekicking job after Kyle Brindza nailed both his tries against Michigan State. Kelly praised both Brindza and punter Ben Turk on Sunday.
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