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April 3, 2013

From lost to leader

Matthias Farley doesn’t know how else to describe it.

In the course of one year he went from buried on the depth chart at receiver to starting in the BCS National Championship Game at safety to Notre Dame’s most veteran healthy defensive back this spring.

The sophomore, who used to look around the defense and not know what he was seeing, is now the junior who can’t believe the view.

“It’s crazy to me that this just happened in a year,” Farley said. “It’s a big jump from last year, but the coaches have a lot of faith in me and I know that I have to step up and be more vocal.

“For myself, I remember being really lost. But I took advice from coach (Bob) Elliott and coach (Kerry) Cooks and Jamoris (Slaughter) and Zeke (Motta), throughout that time. That really helped me along, just continuing to have the next man in philosophy and having the next guy step up.”

Farley has expectedly worked with the first-team this spring and it’s hard to imagine him dropping off that top line with Motta and Slaughter gone, Nicky Baratti injured (shoulder) and Elijah Shumate switched to safety from cornerback.

Brian Kelly said he expects Farley to be challenged during spring practice for his job, but it’s hard to find a challenger. The Irish head coach also said he needs to find another Farley-esque story within his roster, a more likely scenario.

“We think he played well for us last year,” Kelly said. “That experience is going to prove well for him. Baratti got a little experience playing last year. A much better situation than when we lost Jamoris Slaughter. We felt like we were shorthanded. We don't feel like that's the case. John Turner, Eilar Hardy have had really good (winter) workouts. They're starting to show up a little bit more. I'm noticing them. That's a good thing for them.”

For that talent to develop it will rely on Farley and, to a lesser extent, Austin Collinsworth for help. Farley has gone from the guy seeking out Slaughter and Motta for film tips to the guy being sought out by Shumate and the other young safeties.

Despite just 11 career starts, that’s a role Farley feels comfortable playing. He stepped into the starting lineup for good after Slaughter went down against Michigan State and never left it, even playing through a broken hand in November.

“Toward the end of last year I felt really, really comfortable,” Farley said. “I knew coming back with Zeke and the whole Jamoris thing … I knew I had to focus, lock in and be on my business every play and there was no room for error as well as trying to help others.

“It’s a lot more responsibility, but I feel I’m prepared for it.”

That’s exactly what Notre Dame needs.

The Irish might not be able to find another Matthias Farley this spring, but at least Kelly knows he can count on the one he already has.





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