In civilian life, a “chip on the shoulder” is often a precursor for conflict. On a football field, a “chip on the shoulder” can give a player a competitive edge on the field of honor.
Veteran units, like ND’s 2015 defensive unit, tend to suffer from “senioritis” or complacency. However, a rare confluence of circumstances has given the 2015 Irish a number of veterans who will be playing with a “chip on their shoulder” in a unit with plenty of Defenders with Attitude.
Max Redfield, after the slobberknocker hit against Devin Gardner that negated Shumate’s TD interception return against Michigan was pilloried as “reckless and undisciplined.” Six weeks later he had morphed from “reckless” to “feckless” and “undisciplined” to “uninterested,” after a desultory outing against ASU. Demoted, then given a reprieve after the injuries to Collinsworth and Tranquill, Redfield seethed.
“Nobody likes to be benched. But at that time you have to reflect: I’m getting benched for a reason. So it came to me to reflect on it and understand ‘I’m not entitled to this spot; I have to earn it every day.’ ’”
Regarding working with Elijah Shumate, the twosome now that Collinsworth is gone, Redfield said “we’re going to get better every day in practice, and we’re going to start by getting after it in the summer. “
Keivarae Russell has maintained silence, but local trainer Ted “no relation” Manson said “He’s like a caged animal. You know when you go to the zoo and see that panther walking back and forth behind that cage? Looks real calm, pacing, but you really don’t want to be in the cage with him.”
“What people don’t realize is I studied my craft every day when I was gone,” Russell said “I had my iPad and I was watching practice film in the Spring, and install, just what the coaches see. I watched myself (on video) from freshman and sophomore years, broke myself down, how I can get better as a player, did all that.”
Last summer, KeiVarae had declared his goal as nothing less than winning the Jim Thorpe trophy. That quest was delayed, but the focus and intensity merely heightened. If lackadaisical had a perfect antonym, it would describe Russell’s play in 2015.
Linebacker Jarrett Grace left the field with a gruesome injury against Arizona State in JerryWorld way back in 2013. Many doubted he would ever return to play the game he loved. This is the guy that Diaco labeled the “werewolf” when he was merely a callow freshman.
Grace’s comeback was both gritty and elegant, a triumph of the will.
“He’s been excellent. He’s a very intelligent player who couldn’t play last year so all he did was study, study, study,” VanGorder said of Grace. “He’s way ahead of guys that have played because of that.
“He’s an amazing guy. There was a point and time where I didn’t know if he would ever play football again. I had my doubts. So to see him out there, says everything about who he is.”
“I see Jarrett Grace of old with how he’s moving,” linebackers coach Mike Elston told Irish Illustrated. “He’s never really been an elite athlete like a Jaylon Smith. What he’s lacked in that, he’s made up in his grit, competitiveness and knowledge of the offense and knowledge of the defense he’s playing. All that stuff is starting to come out.”
You want another reference? Ok, but consider the source. “When I grow up I want to be Jarrett Grace. His dedication is unmatched.” Manti T’eo October 2012
Grace has a near-maniacal, if not werewolfian approach to working out. He believes that most look for a dollar of return for each dollar of workout/rehab effort. He is not satisfied unless he approached two dollars of value for each dollar of effort. Finally, in January’s workouts, it clicked and he rapidly moved his vertical jump form 12 inches to 30 inches, with other commensurate quantum leaps.
“I’ve been grinding for so long…”
Joe Schmidt has been on the Will train since he received his “preferred walkon” invitation. Then he got the scholarship. Then he got the starting position. Then, alas, after being the “glue guy” and perhaps the “brains” of the defense he went down against Navy both breaking and dislocating his left ankle. Louis XV did not play Mike linebacker but he said “Apres moi le deluge.” Had Schmidt, when being stretchered off against USNA, uttered that saying, whether in French or English, it would have been prescient.
Schmidt has said that when he runs through the tunnel and takes the field against Texas on Sept 5th, “it will be the best day of my life.” 5th year player or not, hyperventilation will, for Joe Schmidt, be more of a problem than senioritis.
Sheldon Day went down against Northwestern with an MCL injury, and Day was forced to sit out the Louisville andUSC games. While it was probably too soon, Day did return for the Music City bowl game against LSU. Day was credited with one tackle and one assist but came up with a huge fumble recovery.
Day declined being a potential NFL draft choice to return for his senior season.
“I believe we’ve got an opportunity to have a special season in 2015 and I wanted to be a part of that success. I was blessed to play in the national championship game as a freshman in 2012, and I want to do everything in my power to reach that stage again with my guys.”
Day later remarked that he had not yet left his mark at Notre Dame but was determined to do so.
Jarron Jones went down with a lisfranc injury against Louisville. This completed Notre Dame’s trifecta for the month of November losing Schmidt, then Day then Jones.
T.S. Eliot was wrong. For ND it was not April, but November that was the cruelest month, breeding lower body injuries out of the cold, cold, ground. Some contend that defenses need to be strong up the middle. Notre Dame’s middle was compromised after those three departures.
The lisfranc is tricky but Jones has responded in his rehab. Further, after watching restlessly from the sidelines against USC and LSU, he is eager to get back. Then there is the matter of establishing a legacy for his brother Jamir Jones, a commit for the 2016 Irish class. If Jarron returns to the Irish in 2016, he will be practicing right next to his little brother.
The legacy mission will also impact Romeo Okwara. Already a senior, Romeo saw his brother Julian commit to play for the Irish beginning in 2016, potentially at the same position as his big brother. Romeo will know that he is playing to pave the way for and to pass the baton to Julian.
You might hear this phrase sometime in 2015: “the Irish defense is really playing with an edge, an attitude.” The aforementioned 7, Redfield, Russell, Grace, Schmidt, Day, Jones and Okwara may well have something to do with that. “DWAS” Defenders with Attitude. Straight out of Cartier. Motivation matters. Go Irish!