Matthias Farley’s departure leaves a void in the back line of the defense and means the loss of another key veteran and leader. How will the Irish compensate in 2016?
Considering the 2015-2016 college football season is in the rear-view mirror and the 2016 NFL Draft is just days away, Slap the Sign continues 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.
Matthias Farley, DB
Production at ND
Matthias Farley came to Notre Dame in 2011 as an under-the-radar wide receiver prospect from North Carolina who displayed solid athleticism and leadership but was still pretty raw considering he didn’t begin playing football until his junior year of high school.
He did not see any game action during his freshman season, which made his sophomore campaign all the more impressive. Farley was switched to safety during the offseason and was said to have made considerable progress during fall practice. That progress became crucial for the 2012 team, as Farley was forced to step in for injured senior safety Jamoris Slaughter, who tore his Achilles tendon a couple games into the season. Farley thrived as a starter, owning the role for the final 11 games of the season and completing the year with 49 tackles and an interception, helping anchor the back line of the best defense Notre Dame had fielded in a decade.
His junior year in 2013 led to heightened expectations considering his early success, and injury troubles and a down year for the team as a whole led to some criticism flung in Farley’s direction. Nevertheless, he still racked up 49 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 5 passes defended while starting 8 of 13 games for the Irish.
By his senior year in 2014, Farley had relinquished his ownership of a starting safety role to younger safeties Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield, becoming the team’s starting nickel back and a utility defensive back, called upon to play numerous positions and be a leader to the younger players. His knack for making big, clutch plays really came to light that season, as he managed to pick up 53 tackles (5th on the team), 4 interceptions (T-1st on the team), 3.5 sacks (2nd on the team), and 6.5 tackles-for-loss (5th on the team).
Farley decided to come back for his 5th year at Notre Dame, and was named a captain along with Sheldon Day, Nick Martin, and Jaylon Smith. He finished his final season with 41 tackles, an interception, 2 passes defended, and a forced fumble, all while serving as a strong leadership presence in the locker room and in the secondary.
What His Departure Means
Matthias Farley was not irreplaceable in terms of skill set, and he was never the fastest or most athletic player on the field. However, despite some limitations, he was an exceptional and versatile football player who could make plays at safety, nickel back, or even cornerback if necessary. He was one of the only players on the defense who seemed to consistently create turnovers, and he was even able to be effective in a pass rushing role, specifically in 2014. He also made significant contributions on special teams, adding to the myriad different ways he contributed to the team’s success.
Furthermore, his leadership cannot be overstated. Farley was a calm, collected, well-spoken beacon of guidance and strength in the locker room and on the field, which explains why he was made a captain for his final season despite not being a starter on defense. His departure means a loss of experience and wisdom that benefited all the players around him, and he will certainly be missed and remembered as a player who exceeded all expectations of the 3-star recruit he was back in 2011. Also, his beard and dreadlocks games were on-point. That loss cannot be overstated, either.
Who Will Step In?
This is an interesting question, considering Farley was not a starting safety the past couple seasons. However, he was crucial in the nickel back role, and so I can confidently say that rising sophomore Shaun Crawford, finishing his recovery from an ACL tear in the summer of ’15, will step in and seize that role. Crawford was poised to win the job last year until that injury, and all reports from spring practice have conveyed the message that he is looking great and ready to contribute in that spot immediately.
Another interesting player to watch in the safety/versatile defensive back role is early-enrollee freshman Devin Studstill. Studstill has, like Crawford, received glowing praise from coaches all throughout spring practice, and some even have him currently starting over incumbent rising senior Max Redfield. No matter if he actually takes Redfield’s job or not, Studstill is likely to see some serious time in the defensive backfield, so Irish fans should definitely look out for him.
Favorite Personal Memory from Player’s Career
This one’s tough, because Farley has contributed quite a few big-time plays over the course of his career, but none of them feels like a truly defining moment. Was it his play against Stanford in 2012, including a key interception + return and his take-your-helmet-off-and-celebrate-like-a-wild-man reaction to he and his team’s goal line stand? Was it his clutch pick against Arizona State in 2013 to stall a possible winning drive by the Sun Devils? Was it his interception in the 2014 comeback against Arizona State, which ultimately proved to be a moot point but was absolutely perfect in terms of giving the Irish tons of momentum?
I’m going to have to go with his Stanford ’12 performance, as that game will definitely go down as my favorite ND football game I’ve ever attended, and at that point in his career, we had no idea what Farley was capable of. Here are the highlights from that game, including his big interception and his emotional celebration after the goal line stand:
Matthias Farley wasn’t always perfect in his 5 years with the Irish, but he was a fantastic leader who made a habit of coming up big in big moments, and I will always remember him fondly for everything he was able to give the ND football program.
I wish him the best of luck, and am positive he will find success in whatever he does next, football or otherwise, due to his intangibles and intelligence and clutch ability. Thank you, Matthias!