Considering the 2015-2016 college football season has finally come to a close and underclassmen have officially declared for the 2016 NFL Draft, Slap the Sign presents its “Exit Interviews,” where we review the players leaving the program, what they’re leaving behind and taking with them, and how Notre Dame plans on replacing their production and experience.
Elijah Shumate, S
Production at ND
Elijah Shumate came to Notre Dame as a 4-star safety recruit and U.S. Army All-American with fantastic athleticism and size. As a freshman on the 2012 BCS Championship runner-up team, he saw time on special teams and at nickel back, appearing in all 13 games and totaling 9 tackles and 3 pass break-ups on the season. He followed that promising start with a sophomore year in which he played in 9 games (4 of which he started at safety) and notched 23 tackles.
Elijah’s junior season in 2014 was when he strode confidently into a starting safety spot when senior Austin Collinsworth went down with an injury, and he proceeded to start 11 of the 13 games he played in that year. He finished third on the team in tackles with 66 while also making an interception (and subsequent touchdown, no matter what anyone else says), a sack, 5 passes defended, 4 pass break-ups, and a fumble recovery. As a senior in 2015, Elijah started 12 of 13 games, finishing third on the team in tackles once again with 70 (6.5 for loss), and added another interception, 2 pass break-ups and 3 passes defended.
What His Departure Means
The graduation of Elijah Shumate means the loss of another great athlete and experienced player on the defensive side of the ball. Shumate was absolutely fantastic in run support, and was especially useful against the triple option attacks Notre Dame faces every season. He was prone to making mental mistakes in pass coverage that gave up big plays, but the entire secondary had issues with that last season, so he was not alone in that regard.
His athleticism, size, and durability were important to a safety position that has been decimated the past few seasons by injuries, and so his loss certainly hurts in terms of depth and general playmaking ability. Several young, inexperienced players may be forced into action in the secondary in 2016, so Shumate’s departure could hurt even more than we currently think.
Who Will Step In?
The short and easy answer is absolutely Drue Tranquill. The junior-to-be has already seen extensive time in his first two seasons before suffering major knee injuries, and has proven strong against the run, just like Shumate. Tranquill was the defensive star in the surprisingly strong defensive effort last season against Georgia Tech’s vaunted triple option offense, and if he is healthy and ready to go come fall of 2016, count on him starting alongside Max Redfield at safety and becoming more of an every-down type of safety.
Other possibilities to step in and see time at safety in Shumate’s place could be rising sophomore Mykelti Williams and incoming freshman Devin Studstill, but neither is likely ready to take on more than a bit role in the 2016 season.
Favorite Personal Memory from Elijah’s Career
It was the play that made me scream louder and jump higher and generally be more ready to rip my enemy’s throat out than any sports moment since the defense stuffed Stepfan Taylor at the goal line in 2012. It was the play that put about a billion exclamation points on what was already a complete and utter evisceration of a hated
opponent who played the Chicken Dance song after beating us the year before. It was the touchdown that will never be visible in the official score, but will be remembered by Notre Dame fans forever as the ultimate F-you to that classless, embarrassing program in Ann Arbor.
I’m talking about this play:
Oh, and that gorgeous moment and all the other events that preceded it (including 10 tackles, a pass break-up, and a QB hurry from Shumate) led to this touching, heartfelt send-off gesture by Irish fans directed at the despondent Wolverines, which, for this Remember the Titans super-fan, was the pinnacle of my ND fandom:
Elijah, thank you for everything you gave the program over your four years there, and congratulations on graduating and preparing to go make a career in the NFL. If someone can coach you up a bit in terms of pass coverage, they might have found a diamond in the rough who can contribute a great deal at safety for years to come. Good luck Elijah Shumate, and keep on keepin’ on!