Seeing the field in all 13 games in 2012, but with extremely limited action, the young man out of Jersey spent most of his time at the nickel position. This year though Elijah Shumate is hoping a stronger fall practice and a better understanding of the defensive scheme will earn him a promotion and a title that simply says starting safety. Shumate is just one of many players vying for one of the few starting positions on a defensive squad that should be among the elite again in college football, where securing a starting position is just as hard as it sounds.
Only a sophomore, the Jersey native is doing all he can to impress the Irish coaching staff both on and off the field. As Shumate tries to adjust to the safety position from the nickel back, he has a full understanding that the transition requires a lot more brain than brawn. No longer the occupant of a position that simply requires one to go out and be physical, now he must play smart football, just as much as he plays physical football.
Shumate may be penciled into the starting lineup right now by most media outlets(along with Mathias Farley), but he knows that nothing is guaranteed at this moment. Returning players such as Eilar Hardy, Austin Collinsworth, John Turner and newcomer Max Redfield are pressing to take playing time away, as the safety position in South Bend is deep and competitive. Shumate will rely heavily on third year safety Matthias Farley, which is a good thing, as Farley dealt with the same “trial by fire” transition last year after replacing injured teammate Jamoris Slaughter in week three. If Shumate is to succeed at his new position it will require exceptional communication skills, a true understanding of the opposing teams offense, and intelligent play on the field. The 2013 Notre Dame defense has a tremendous amount of confidence and continuity, and that is nothing to be trifled with.
If you listen to Brian Kelly speak on Shumate, he conveys confidence in the young man, but also is quick to point out that Shumate has a ways to go, and nothing is a guarantee right now. Kelly has been quoted in fall practice as trying to keep the defensive scheme simplistic in order to get players such as Shumate, and freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith on the field as much as possible. A former linebacker in high school, Shumate is trying to grasp all aspects of the new position, but understands it will be a work in progress early on. For those Irish fans unfamiliar with Shumate’s ability, they will like what they see out of the 6-0 213lb sophomore, but will need to show patients and understanding as he learns from his mistakes.
Since Kelly arrived in South Bend, the phrase “right kind of guy” has been prevalent on campus and in the media, and Shumate seems to fit that mold. Since his sophomore year in high school, Shumate has only lost one game, and that game happened to be the BCS title game. Kelly wants guys who want to win, and better yet, understand how to win, and Shumate fits that description in every way possible. The sophomore from Don Bosco Prep still has more to prove on the field, but if he can live up to his potential, the Irish secondary will be much better during his tenure with the program.