Lo Wood was expected to be a huge impact for the Fighting Irish this season. A stellar performance from him was one of the things that Notre Dame’s season hinged on. At an extremely thin position, Wood and Jackson were the only players who had the right combination of experience and talent to make a contribution this fall. This leaves Notre Dame with Bennett Jackson as the only CB with playing experience.
Lo Wood played sparingly last year as Notre Dame’s third CB behind Robert Blanton and Gary Gray. Wood’s career high point so far was his 57 yard interception return for a touchdown against Maryland. His performance during fall camp had indicated that he was ready to jump into a starting role.
His injury leaves Notre Dame with no CBs with any playing experience at the position. The options for the Fighting Irish are Jalen Brown, KeiVarae Russell, Josh Atkinson and Elijah Shumate. Brown and Russell were running with the second team before the injury. These two players are obviously the top candidates to take over the starting position. Because of Brown’s experience in the system, it would seem likely that he would be the favorite to take over for Wood. Josh Atkinson has a full season in the system as well. Despite several predictions that Atkinson would emerge and make a push for a starting position, he has been bumped to the third team recently by Freshman KeiVarae Russell. Elijah Shumate, who moved from safety to CB, is a physically imposing Freshman. He may play against more physical running teams like Navy and Michigan State.
However, Notre Dame may have another option. Matthias Farley has emerged to become the second team safety behind Jamoris Slaughter. Slaughter has shown flexibility in the past in being able to move around. He moved from his safety position to the dog linebacker position in several games. He was not there just filling a spot. He excelled at it. Could he move to the cornerback position? Is Farley ready to play at the safety position?
Diaco and Kelly should not move Slaughter because it would be limiting the defense’s potential. Slaughter provides stability and leadership at the backend of the Fighting Irish defense. If Slaughter is moved to CB, that removes him from his ability to be vocal and get everyone in their respective position. In addition, Slaughter at safety is a known quantity. Slaughter at CB is more unknown. The same can be said for Farley. Notre Dame try to get by with a combination of the players that they have currently.
To state that this is a devastating blow for Notre Dame is a massive under-statement. Notre Dame needed to survive the season with no injuries in the secondary. An injury in the pre-season is devastating. This could make a difference of a win or two. The pass heavy teams undoubtedly got more daunting today for the defense. Could someone step up and surprise us?