Notre Dame football coaches looking for 'next step' from Christian Gray

Defensive backs are impressive the Notre Dame football coaches but there's still progress to be made from guys like Gray and Adon Shuler.

Cornerback Christian Gray warms up before Notre Dame football practice.
Cornerback Christian Gray warms up before Notre Dame football practice. / MATTIE NERETIN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Thanks in large part to the injury to Benjamin Morrison, the defensive backs have been the talk of Notre Dame football spring practice this year. People in and around the program want to know who is going to step up in the secondary should Morrison not be able to play right away when the 2024 season starts.

They’re also wanting to know who is making the most of their opportunities this spring both because of Morrison going down, and because there are a few spots open on the depth chart that need to be filled. 

Count Christian Gray among those who have impressed Notre Dame football coaches so far. Defensive backs coach Mike Mickens addressed what he’s seen and what he would like to see in future practices after the Irish’s session on Wednesday morning. Specifically, he talked about what he expects to see from Gray in his second season.

“Yeah, just the next step, right?” Mickens said during his media appearance. “Just the next step. He's very talented. He's very competitive. So just seeing him growing and understanding the game is going to slow down and just continue to go out there and be a playmaker as he is.”

Notre Dame football coach heaps praise on defensive backs

Gray is expected to have an expanded role for the Golden Domers in 2024. He appeared in seven games in 2023 and seems to have saved his best for last. In the Sun Bowl, the defensive back made three tackles and had a pass defended.

Gray wasn’t the only young defensive back who got some praise from Mickens on Wednesday. Adon Shuler also drew praise from his position coach.

“He's growing and he just wants the knowledge and he wants to keep coming in,” Mickens said. “He just wants to get better and find a way to get better every day, almost the challenge everything part of it. So that's what he's doing. We can see he's hungry, you can see that he's being very intentional on the field.

He's working hard on and off the field, so it's been a pleasure.”

All of these comments don’t mean a ton until Notre Dame football is back on the field and playing against other teams, but it’s still exciting to hear about improvement for a defensive unit that was one of the best in the sport a year ago.