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August 7, 2012

Motta slips into leadership role


Zeke Motta ended last season on a high that gave the veteran nine months of momentum.

Florida State beat Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl but Motta put the Irish out front in the first quarter with a 29-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown. Motta also recorded a couple tackles and a pass breakup, calling it one of his best games ever.

Now the senior safety hopes the personal high note extends through fall camp.

“(I’m) just kinda staying level headed and focusing on what’s ahead of us,” Motta said. “Focusing each day on competing and winning each day.”

Doing so is paramount given the lack of experience and depth in Notre Dame’s secondary.

Motta and fellow veteran safety Jamoris Slaughter represent all 32 career starts at the back end. They each have 16 total. Cornerbacks Lo Wood and Bennett Jackson, the presumptive starters, have combined for zero starts in their careers.

The situation is exasperated by the loss of safety Austin Collinsworth, who will almost certainly miss the season with a shoulder injury and took a lot of reps in nickel and dime packages last year.

Typically a three-safety rotation would help keep players fresh. That likely won’t happen this year.

“I think more so than anything it’s an opportunity to give a little rest,” Motta said. “Especially on the defensive side of the ball, we’re always flying around, running full speed all the time. That gives you an opportunity to give a little rest. Now we’re really focusing on our condition and making sure we’re in the best shape as possible.”

Motta has been working out his vocal chords as well during the first week of camp.

Developing younger players into legitimate options could help spell the veterans. Helping out the inexperienced group of corners could also mean the difference between wins and losses.

“It definitely puts me and Slaughter into a role where we’re kinda the leaders now,” Motta said, “and we’re focusing on being more vocal and communicating with everybody on the defense, especially the back end. Just really getting them ready to compete.”

Getting those things in order has fallen to Motta, Slaugher and other older players like Danny McCarthy and Chris Salvi. Teaching has become just as important as learning.

“I think it’s more so that everybody can kinda be on the same page. That’s very important, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Communication is a big thing that we emphasize.”

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