When Shaun Crawford went down with a torn ACL earlier this week, one of the few starting positions that was up for grabs this summer was reopened. It turns out a starter whose had a stranglehold on a starting spot since fall camp will end up taking over the nickelback position after Brian Kelly announced Friday Keivarae Russell would be playing the nickel in spots.
Russell, who was finally cleared by the NCAA earlier this week, will move inside to the nickel position at times with junior Devin Butler filling in for Russell on the outside. Russell’s move to the nickel isn’t much of a surprise since he was working there even with a healthy Crawford in an effort to get Russell matched up against speedy, quick slot receivers. What is surprisingly however is Devin Butler filling in on the outside.
Butler’s name had not been heard much throughout fall camp. True freshman Nick Coleman and sophomore Nick Watkins, on the other hand had been mentioned a few times by Brian Kelly so far in camp. Based on Kelly’s post practice comments on Friday though, it will be Butler filling in for Russell on the outside when Notre Dame’s best defender in the secondary moves to nickel.
Matthias Farley could see some work at the nickel position that he started at in 2014 as well, but Kelly was clear that Russell would get a lot of work at the position this fall because of his ability to play man coverage and blitz the quarterback. Farley was one of Notre Dame’s best playmakers a year ago when it came to creating negative plays and still figures to be used in a lot of different roles this fall.
The news of the day, however, is still the rise of Devin Butler. Butler’s played in 25 games the last two years including two starters, but he comes into the season with just 28 tackles and one career interception. That lone pick game against Purdue last year in the Shamrock Series game in early September.