Our countdown of the Top 25 Notre Dame football players for 2013 continues today by sticking on the defensive side of the ball for a 4th straight selection – sophomore safety Elijah Shumate.
Shumate, the second member of the Notre Dame secondary to make our countdown, came to Notre Dame with the pedigree of a winner. Shumate didn’t lose a game in his high school career – a span of 46 career games. Shumate brought that winning streak and winning attitude with him to Notre Dame last fall and extended his personal winning streak to 58 games before it came to a crashing halt in Miami last January.
As a true freshman, Shumate was not just a casual observer during Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season. On the contrary, Shumate stepped into an inexperienced secondary and seized the opportunity by immediately earning playing time over several players who had been in the program longer than him.
As Notre Dame’s primary nickel back last year, Shumate collected 9 tackles and 3 pass breakups as a frosh. This spring, however, he got a long look at safety where he is now the front runner to replace Zeke Motta in the starting line up.
Why Elijah Shumate could be ranked higher
Shumate is a very talented football with a high ceiling. Versatile enough to play corner, but big and strong enough to play safety, Shumate has the potential to be a big time playmaker in the Notre Dame secondary. In fact, Shumate is one of the players I’m most excited to see on the field this fall after a full off-season in the weight room and a full fall camp running with the first team at safety.
While there were times a year ago when Shumate looked like a freshman, it was very impressive that he was able to step in and leap frog several players who had been at Notre Dame for at least a full year such as Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson for a role in the nickel defense right off the bat a year ago.
If there was a knock on Zeke Motta the last few years, it was with regards to his range. That should not be a problem with Shumte at all considering the Notre Dame defensive coaching staff entrusted him to play the nickel spot and fill in at corner at times a year ago.
Why Elijah Shumate could be ranked lower
One of the few reasons Shumate isn’t higher on this list is mainly because of our #24 ranked player Max Redfield. The incoming super freshman is talented enough that he could seriously challenge Shumate this fall. Any other year and Shumate would have found himself ranked much higher as he’s got the skill-set and talent to be just as good as Harrison Smith was for the Irish.
Other than that, it is tough to find a reason why Shumate would be ranked lower on our list. There is just a lot to like about what the New Jersey native brings to the table for the Irish defense. His tackle total from a year ago is on the low side considering he played in all 13 games, but some of that can be attributed to being a true freshman and the role the Irish coaching staff asked him to play.
What would a successful 2013 season be for Elijah Shumate?
First off, Shumate is going to have to increase that tackle total… a lot. Zeke Motta was second on the Notre Dame defense in tackles a year ago with 77. Shumate doesn’t have to quite get that high to have a successful season, but as a starting safety he will need to eclipse last year’s total of 9 by the time the Irish are leaving Ann Arbor in week two.
Despite being Notre Dame’s second leading tackler last year though, Motta didn’t have a single interception while starting all 13 games. That is where Shumate’s skill-set will come into play and benefit the Notre Dame defense this fall. Having Shumate’s cover skills on the field at the same time as Matthias Farley’s at the safety spots with a pair of lockdown corners in Bennett Jackson and Keivarae Russell is going to give the Notre Dame secondary the kind of range we just haven’t seen in South Bend since the early 90′s.
A successful sophomore campaign for Shumate would include locking up a starting role and then contributing at least 60 tackles and having a hand in creating a few turnovers – whether those be interceptions or fumble recoveries. All very attainable – and likely to be surpassed – by an athlete of Shumate’s caliber.
The rest of our countdown so far: