As I stated in my intro on the linebackers it seems to me that everybody is all over the secondary as being the strength of the 2009 Notre Dame defense and it isn’t without good reason. The secondary is definitely the most veteran position group on the defense and the projected starters are very good. In addition there are also a couple of very talented backups that will press for time. After that it delves into the unknown and the overall numbers in the freshman and sophomore class are very thin. Defensive backs are a high priority for the class of 2014 to avoid creating a two class void. With that I think this is probably going to be the best secondary the Irish have had in many years and they will definitely hold up their end of the deal in 2009. They just aren’t quite as deep as the linebackers who are really stacked with young talent. Of note this does not take into account everybody’s favorite special teams guru Mike Anello as I don’t expect him to also suddenly develop into a legit corner.
Listed below is the opening spring depth chart by position for the secondary. Players with an * next to their class are eligible to apply for a 5th year after graduation. Players in Italics are either limited or out for the spring due to injury or personal reasons.
12 R.J. Blanton (Sophomore) R.J. has built a bit of a reputation for "chirping" but to be honest I’d rather he tone that down a little and concentrate on dominating with his play on the field. He had a strong freshman campaign and will definitely be a great corner for the next three years. The sky is the limit for this kid, I hope he gets there.
2 Darrin Walls (Senior*) Darrin is the best corner on the team period. He has great cover skills and his overall athleticism is outstanding. He sat out 2008 for personal reasons but in 2007 he was the best defensive player the Irish had in my opinion. I fully expect that he’ll beat R.J. out for this spot before its all said and done and ultimately become a lock down corner for the next two years.
27 E.J. Banks (Freshman) E.J. is nursing a high school knee injury and is a complete unknown. He also has a pretty steep learning curve ahead of him. It is highly likely he won’t see much time in 2009 unless the Irish are in a pinch.
8 Raeshon McNeil (Senior) I’m a big fan of Raeshon and he gained a lot of experience in 2008 due to Walls being absent. He’s a solid corner but not quite on the same level as Walls. He could very well spend his senior season as the odd man out should Corwin Brown decide to move either Walls or Blanton over to keep those two on the field more.
26 Jamoris Slaughter (Sophomore*) Another unknown at this point. Slaughter is really the X factor in the overall depth at corner. Assuming Gray makes it back to school the two deep is solid but a 5th solid corner would really solidify the depth in this group. For now I have to assume he’s not that far along just yet.
4 Gary Gray (Junior*) Gray had a good season last year and could also contribute greatly to the overall depth here if he can get back on track and re-join the program this summer. Assuming he does that he will most likely jump Slaughter and press McNeil for time.
22 Harrison Smith (Junior*) Harrison is a serious football player. With three years of eligibility left he should be a staple of the Irish secondary for the next few years. He’s one of those kids with a high motor and a knack for showing up at the football. I’m looking forward to seeing him back at his natural position.
15 Dan McCarthy (Sophomore*) The younger McCarthy brother also has a ton of athleticism. The biggest thing he has working against him is being stuck behind Harrison Smith. I’ll be interested to see how that plays out over the next couple of years. In a perfect world one of them will move over to Strong Safety in 2010 to get them both on the field.
24 Leonard Gordon (Senior*) Leonard is a great kid that’s worked his way through the program for three years seeing most of his time on special teams. In addition to playing safety he has also been listed in the depth chart at corner but has seen very little time on the field. Unfortunately for him that probably won’t change in 2009. He’ll continue to be a staple on special teams.
6 Ray Herring (5th year) Herring is Gordon one year later. He is another great kid that will primarily contribute on special teams.
28 Kyle McCarthy (5th year) K Mac is great in run support but I’m still not wholly convinced he’s that great in coverage. I personally think the next guy is better but K Mac appears to be one of Charlie’s "guys" which gives him about as much job security as anyone on the team. He’s a good Strong Safety but in my opinion not quite as good as the guy behind him.
31 Sergio Brown (Senior) Sergio is a serious athlete and in my opinion Corwin needs to figure out a way to get him on the field as much as possible. In reality he should probably play ahead of K Mac but will likely see most of his time as the Nickel Back. I would love to see him finish out his career as the starter here but the likelihood of that happening is slim. K Mac and Sergio comprise a great two deep but the fact that there’s no youngster in the 3 hole to spend the year as an understudy is an issue that could present a serious hole in 2010. I’ll be interested to see if Motta ends up getting reps here in practice with the overstock on outside linebackers.
This should be a truly great secondary. When I said they wouldn't be the strength of the defense it wasn't a knock on them at all. I just think the linebackers have an even greater potential to excel and their depth borders on the ridiculous. The linebackers not only have a great two deep, but also a few 3’s and 4’s that could potentially start at most programs in 2009. Corwin Brown will have these kids ready to play in 2009 and they’ll round out what I expect to be an outstanding defense.