Elijah Shumate – Now or Never ’14

Elijah Shumate - Notre Dame S
Elijah Shumate has a battle on his hands for a starting role in the 2014 defense after beginning the 2013 season entrenched as a starter.  (Photo: Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

Our series on Now or Never players for Notre Dame in 2014 continues today moving back to the defensive side of the ball with a look at junior Elijah Shumate as he battles for a starting role a year after many thought he was primed for a breakout season.


Elijah Shumate came to Notre Dame as a versatile defensive back out of powerhouse New Jersey prep program Don Bosco Prep.  One of the premier programs in the state of New Jersey, Don Bosco cranks out numerous division 1 caliber prospects on a yearly basis and Shumate was another in a line of standouts they produced.

Elijah Shumate, an official visitor to Notre Dame this past weekend, is one of several elite prospects left on the recruiting board for Notre Dame on the defensive side of the ball.  (Photo - Tyler Kaufman/Icon SMI)
Elijah Shumate, came to Notre Dame from New Jersey powerhouse program Don Bosco Prep. (Photo – Tyler Kaufman/Icon SMI)

Prior to committing to Notre Dame, Shumate held offers from USC, Michigan, Georgia, Penn State, Oklahoma, Miami, South Carolina, Rutgers, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina among others.   A US Army All-American, Shumate committed to Notre Dame during the All-American Bowl festivities in San Antonio.  At the time, Shumate was ranked as the #2 safety in the country and a top 100 overall prospects by 247 Sports – distinctions that were backed up by his offer list.

As a freshman at Notre Dame in 2012, Shumate saw action in all 13 games including the BCS National Championship playing primarily the nickel roll in Notre Dame’s stout defense in addition to having a prominent role on special teams.

A year later as a sophomore in 2013, however, Shumate began the season with a starting role but saw his playing drop after his responsibilities grew and as he battled a nagging hamstring injury.

Reason for Optimism

There may not be a more athletically gifted safety on the Notre Dame roster than Elijah Shumate.  He’s big and strong and can run and hit with the best of them. Physically, he is just a better athlete than most of the other safeties on the roster in 2014.

Elijah Shumate - Notre Dame S
Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Elijah Shumate (22) breaks up a pass intended for Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Bennie Fowler (13) in the third quarter at Spartan Stadium. Notre Dame won 20-3. (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports)

Similarly to Harrison Smith a few years ago, to this point in his career, Shumate just hasn’t been able to have the game slow down for him to a point where all of that athletic skill is able to be turned into consistent production on the field.  Shumate has that same kind of potential though that we saw in Smith during the first few frustrating years of Smith’s collegiate career when then head coach Charlie Weis bounced the Tennessee native around from position to position.

If the game slows down for Shumate this year, he has the potential to be a playmaker at strong safety in Brian VanGorder’s defense.  He has shown the ability to make a big hit in his limited playing time the past two seasons.  Add that hitting ability with the ability to run like a corner and you have a potentially dangerous strong safety.  That kind of speed is exactly what Notre Dame has been lacking on defense far too many times over the years.

Reason for Doubt

While Shumate’s talent and athletic ability has never been in doubt, he has not yet shown the ability to be able to consistently make plays or even be in the proper position to make plays.  It is not a given that the game will slow down for him as we’ve seen with many players before who had all of the athletic skill in the world but just could never turn that skill into on the field production – think most recently of a guy like Steve Filer.

Shumate will also have to beat out Austin Collinsworth for a starting position to really be able to make his mark in 2014.  Collinsworth is not the athlete that Shumate is but has shown the ability to make the necessary calls from the safety position and be in position to make plays.  For Collinsworth, the problem has been he has not always made the plays he has been in position to make.

Another factor that could work against Shumate is his own discipline.  He sat out the season finale against Stanford due to a violation of team rules along with fellow safety Eliar Hardy.  It was never revealed what that violation was but it’s safe to say that after one such incident, Brian Kelly won’t be quick to tolerate similar lapses in discipline from Shumate regardless of how much potential he has.

2014 Outlook

There are a lot of question marks on the 2014 Notre Dame defense due to all of the talent the Irish must replace on that side of the ball in addition to having an entirely new scheme under VanGorder.  Having Shumate step up and earn a starting role would answer one of those questions by getting a whole lot of speed and athletic ability in the defensive backfield.

When Mathias Farley was moved to corner after a very up and down junior campaign, it opened up an opportunity for Max Redfield to find his way into the starting lineup – a opportunity he seemingly grabbed a fairly firm grasp of during the second half of spring practice.  Shumate has a similar opportunity in front of him this summer.

Collinsworth will start fall camp atop the depth chart at strong safety just as he ended spring practice, but Shumate will have every opportunity to unset the 11-game starter from 2013.  It might, however, take a monster fall camp for Shumate to crack the starting line on August 30.  That doesn’t mean that Shumate won’t end the season in the starting lineup though.

Look for Collinsworth to be the opening day starter for Notre Dame as Shumate continues to learn the position and master the nuances of playing safety.  By the end of the season though, look for Shumate to be lining up next to Redfield in the back of the Irish secondary.  If that happens, Notre Dame will have its most athletically gifted starting safety duo in some time.

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  1. So, Toulmin, you were the fastest straight ahead, but did you have “suddenness” (one of my favorite sports malapropropisms!

    There are a google (it’s original meaning was a VERY large number) to measure recruiting effectiveness but just for snorts and giggles I took the last five years of Steele’s recruiting rankings, in which he aggregates the ratings of most of the recruiting services in the know universe of recruiting. This eliminates the bias of any one service.

    I scored them golf style, one point or stroke for each ranking point, and a swagged “26” if you didn’t finish in the top 25. Again, I conced that any of a myriad of rankings would be no less valid.

    I used the last five years. Here are the top 10:

    (1) Bama 11
    (2)(tie) USC 28
    (tie) Ohio State 28
    (4) Florida State 29
    (5) Texas 38
    (6) (tie) LSU 44
    (tie) ND 44
    (8) Georgia 47
    (9) Florida
    (10) Oklahoma 62

    For Mike, a healthy skepticism is worthwhile. and in any great team of either friends or rivals, a resident skeptic is a sine qua non.

    Burgundy, you are better than this. I’ve seen the research and analysis you do when you do not descend into badinage. Bash Mike if you will, but when you do, include me out. It would, again be nice, if we can depersonalize and deinfantilize this site and have nice football conversations in which we have folks who agree, folks who disagree and folks who always agree to disagree agreeably.

    1. Hello bj.

      Where’s Bruce?
      Have you seen Bruce today?
      We want to talk to Bruce.

      Bruce doesn’t yell and scream.
      We like Bruce.
      Bruce is good.

      We know he’s in there.
      Can he come out?

  2. On Saturday, I was at a memorial for a Hawaiian pal of mine. His best friend (John DeFries) coaches at Mission Viejo HS. That’s where Max Redfield came from. He said Max had dropped by the high school recently. I told him Max was going to start for us this year. I asked John how Max looked. He said “good, real good”. He really likes Max. John has coached plenty of D1 kids.

    Also, I like Shumate a lot because he brings the power. I think these 2 will be excellent this year!

    Looking forward to this season.


    1. I’m pulling for shumate too! Big, strong and fast!

      How about grace?! Anyone heard anything about his return or progress? Fall camp is right around the corner!!

  3. There are reasons for optimism about our secondary. People keep picking on Collinsworth while forgetting how Zeke Motta improved as a senior and how Collinsworth was recovering from an injury last Fall. It is most probable that all five safeties will see a lot of play: Collinsworth, Redfield, Shumate, Baratti and Hardy. Baratti showed a lot of promise before his injury and Hardy made some key plays and is a a particularly good tackler. As Frank hinted, Collinsworth may be a placeholder until Shumate is ready to step in alongside Redfield.

    But people are napping on the the difference that Cody Riggs will make. He immediately upgrades the experience and athleticism of the cornerback crew and will most probably push Luke to a back up role. When was the last time we had back up cornerbacks of the quality of Cole Luke and Devin Butler? Then there is Nick Watkins who comes in more credentialed as a cornerback than KeiVarae Russell was in 2012 when he started on a 12-0 team.

    And yes, I avoided mention of hewhoisnolongeerasafetybutwillscrambleforplayingtimeasabackupcornerback.

  4. Toulmin you are right.

    First, Alabama is almost frightening in their recruiting. And there are no signs of backsliding. It’s not that they rack up the top recruiting ranking, but the MARGIN by which they do it.

    But after them, we are right there. I did a quick pro forma on the top composite recruiting rankings in the Phil Steele rankings and we were in the top 6.

    Our depth is by FAR the best since ’93.

    Keep on keepin’ on Toulmin. You seem to keep your own counsel, and avoid the mistakes of the madding crowd. Good for you.

    1. This will get Mike very uneasy. He will surely tell you the ranking is flawed and this is only a snapshot in time. The class is destined to be ranked #35 due to lack of top 100 talent. The Toul not only keeps good counsel but is the fastest white boy in Louisiana.

      1. I was the fastest boy in Louisiana / any color. (but I had to train daily to remain consistent) the year was 1966. ND remembers that season I feel confident.

        Now if Michigan State can whoop Stanford in Pasadena in the most coveted bowl The Rose then ND can whip Alabama in the playoffs and it ought to be a goal the Irish set and meet.

  5. Elijah Shumate?!?!? Please tell me we aren’t relying on his play to solidify our defense…didn’t he get burned on a consistent basis last year?

    I hope our offense can score 40 on a regular basis…

  6. Speaking of Michigan State….

    Anyone remember MSU and the “Little Giants” play?

    I bet Austin Collinsworth does.

    That’s because Collinsworth is one of just a couple returning players that was on the field that fateful day back in September 2010.

    He and his teammates learned a hard lesson that day.

    And tough lessons like those are the ones that provide lasting knowledge and experience.

    Collinsworth now brings that knowledge and experience.
    Traits that every successful football program must have.

  7. The athletes are there for Notre Dame. Nobody’s recruiting like Alabama at this time but ND’s right up there with the cream.

    There is a current powerhouse whose “Team Rankings / Rivals.com / places them at #51!


    How can a team this powerful (MSU) be ranked at this low level in recruiting?

    Is recruiting accurate or guesswork?

    I must come to the conclusion that Notre Dame’s Irish have more than enough talent rich studs to put a smart ND into the winners bracket.

    Elijah Shumate and company will surprise many this year.

    1. I agree with your post, this isn’t BVG,s first rodeo. The best players will be on the field, In my opinion we will have a “D” that will be up for the job. Coupled with an offense that will be damn hard to get off the field, we’re going to be tough to beat.. Go Irish.

  8. Collinworth started out his ND career as an outstanding special teams player where he proved he could play…. and tackle.

    He missed the entire 2012 season with an injury, but to his credit, he worked himself into the starting lineup for 2013 and lead the defense in interceptions last year.

    Having someone at safety with knowledge and experience is just as important as any projected talent or possible potential.

    Modern passing attacks have always hinged on trying to out maneuver or fool the safety.

    Him being a player with good experience at the position was probably a big reason why he was granted a fifth year.

    Even if he only comes in as a 5th defensive back, I think he will be a benefit to the defense.

    1. If Collinsworth lead the team in INTs last year, that’s merely an indictment on the defense in general. Collinsworth isn’t as bad as Farley for example, but he’s probably the weakest link in the starting lineup. Could you imagine Collinsworth staring on a FSU or Alabama? He’s just not there talent-wise, obviously. It seems like the logic for him being a starter is that the likelihood of him making a mental error is smaller than that of Shumate. I guess that type of logic is typical, but it would be nice if Shumate could learn how to play his position after three years.

  9. Get Collinsworth out of here. He will always be a liability in coverage and against the run. If we are going to have a issue with safety I would rather have it be with a high talent high potential guy than an old vet who proved his skills are lacking in terms of physical ability

  10. I’m beginning to foam at the mouth for this season to get underway! Over the last few seasons I’ve been anxious to see how well the returning starters have progressed. This year is different all together. There are so many unknowns and unproven highly athletic athletes that are slated to hit the field.

    This is the year that all the “depth” of the prior recruiting classes shine. It’s also going to show just how well Kelly & staff have recruited and developed these kids.

    August 30!! Go Irish!!

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