September 15, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Theo Riddick (6) after the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Notre Dame won 20-3. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Bye Week Grade: Notre Dame’s Defensive Backs


Notre Dame’s secondary was the biggest question mark heading into the season. The Fighting Irish Defense ranks 23rd with 178.8 passing yards allowed per game.

KeiVarae Russell

The biggest surprise move to the Secondary in the fall was the move of Russell from Running Back to Cornerback. He has been great at times but overall inconstant. Against the Naval Academy, he was beat badly on a post. Since then the Freshman has played fairly well. Russell is extremely athletic, which helps him make up for his lack of technique and experience. Despite moving to Corner in fall camp, Russell looks like a natural Cornerback. He has loose and fluid hips. This is one of the keys to any great Cornerback. He will most likely continue to grow into a competent starter as the season progresses. Russell has recorded 10 tackles, 1 interception, 1 break up and 1 pass deflection. Look for these stats to increase exponentially as the season progresses.

Bennett Jackson

Even though Jackson had only played a few downs for Notre Dame at Cornerback, fans were expecting a lot from the Junior player because of his physical play on Special Teams. So far, he has not disappointed Irish fans. Jackson has tallied 22 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 break up and 4 pass deflections. He has been equally as good against the run as he has been against the pass. Jackson is quickly becoming Notre Dame’s shut down Corner. He is the type of player that could produce a big play such as interception return for touchdown in the future.

Matthias Farley

The biggest surprise of Fall Camp and maybe Notre Dame’s season is the outstanding play of Matthias Farley. Four years ago, Farley was not even playing football. One year ago, he was not even playing Safety. Now, he is Notre Dame’s starting Safety along side Zeke Motta. Not only is he just playing, he is playing really well. Farley has recorded 8 tackles so far this season.

Zeke Motta

Motta was the lone returning starter from the last year’s team. He has played consistent and solid throughout this season. Motta has recorded 26 tackles, which is second highest to Notre Dame’s leader Manti Te’o. Motta is Notre Dame’s leader in the Secondary and has done a good job at communicating with the Defense.

Notre Dame’s secondary has played very well. They have not gotten beat deep, which is how Bob Diaco plays. Notre Dame tries to bend but not break. Therefore, Notre Dame allows a lot of throws from 1-5 yards then attempts to come up and make the tackle. They have done this well so far. Will this approach work against Oklahoma or USC? Russell and Farley will continue to improve. This will allow Notre Dame to be move aggressive if they need to be. The good thing about Notre Dame’s new Cornerbacks is they have excellent speed. Notre Dame should be able to better cover Wide Receiver’s like Marques Lee and Robert Woods than they have been before in the past.

Slap the Sign Grade: B

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