Notre Dame’s win over Michigan State this past weekend was not without cost. The Irish lost the leader of their secondary, 5th year senior Jamoris Slaughter, for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury.
Slaughter, Notre Dame’s most talented and experienced defensive back injured his Achilles on the first play of the 2nd half on Saturday and later found out his season, and possibly his college career, was over just 2 and half games into his 5th year at Notre Dame.
With Slaughter out, Notre Dame loses the most senior member of a secondary that was already starting two converted offensive players at corner and will now feature a third starter who began his career on the other side of the ball with converted wide receiver Matthias Farley stepping in for Slaughter.
Notre Dame’s young secondary has played surprisingly well after a rough start, but the loss of Slaughter will leave a huge void in the secondary in terms of leadership and production. Zeke Motta has made huge strides this year and will assume Slaughter’s leadership role, but that will be a daunting task considering all of his fellow starters all were originally recruited at other positions.
Farley made strides of his own over the summer and received a lot of praise from the Irish staff, but Slaughter has been a mainstay, when healthy, in the Notre Dame secondary for the past three seasons. That kind of experience cannot just be replaced, even though Farley is a wonderful athlete with the potential to be even better than his predecessor if he continues to develop and likes up to that potential. A team off to a surprising 3-0 start with multiple elite quarterbacks on the upcoming schedule, however, doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for that potential to turn into production.
Notre Dame should be fine for the next two games against Michigan and Miami with the patchwork secondary, but come October 13 when the Irish travel to Norman to face Oklahoma and star quarterback Landry Jones that could be a much different story. Farley, along with the rest of young defensive backs – Bennett Jackson, Kei’Varae Russell, Elijah Shumate, Josh Atkinson, and Jalen Brown – will all have their baptisms by fire that day if they haven’t had them already.
For Slaughter, this is the latest in a series of injuries he has suffered throughout his career – a career that could be over without ever coming close to fulfilling its potential because of all the time he missed. It is possible, however, that Slaughter could petition the NCAA for a 6th year of eligibility based on a hardship waiver since he was injured at this early juncture in the season, but how the NCAA rules in those cases is usually anyone’s guess.
Slaughter’s injury is now the 3rd season ending injury to either a starte or player who had the chance to start in the secondary for Notre Dame this season. The Irish lost safety Austin Collinsworth before fall camp and then lost junior cornerback Lo Wood for the year in the early stages of camp. Notre Dame’s ability to overcome these injuries and perserve is really a testament to the coaching job being done by Bob Elliot, Kerry Cooks, and Bob Diaco.