Farley has big shoes to fill in Notre Dame secondary

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Farley has big shoes to fill in Notre Dame secondary

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Matthias Farley has been playing football for most of his life. The thing is, though, he played what most of the world knows as football until his junior year of high school, when he picked up the American version of the game.

On Saturday, he'll make his first start at safety for Notre Dame, getting the nod with veteran Jamoris Slaughter lost for the year after tearing his Achilles' tendon last week against Michigan State.

Farley played wide receiver and safety during his final two high school years in North Carolina, earning a three-star rating from Rivals and offers from schools such as Illinois, North Carolina, UCLA and Wisconsin. He was designated as a wide receiver his freshman year at Notre Dame, but didn't play.

In high school, Farley's transition from the pitch to the gridiron didn't go smoothly at first.

"I don't know if I didn't love it at first, or if I wasn't liking the fact that I wasn't good at it and had to learn everything, be the guy -- no, Farley, do this, no, Farley, do that -- I didn't like that aspect of it, because in soccer I was pretty good, so they weren't do this do that, do this," he explained. "In football, it was like an everyday 'you're doing it wrong.'"

But Farley has been doing enough right for Notre Dame this year, appearing in all three of the team's games and recording six tackles. With Slaughter out, Farley will take on an increased role, and it's one his coach thinks he can handle.

"You lose a Jamoris Slaughter, you're losing an A player," coach Brian Kelly said. "Matthias is certainly not at the level yet of a Jamoris Slaughter. He's got to continue to develop. But we have a lot of confidence and trust in him. He'll be getting a lot of work back there."

Senior Zeke Motta has helped, as Farley described his fellow safety's experience and knowledge as a "huge asset" whenever he needs a question answered. Motta learned from former Irish safety Harrison Smith, who was a first-round pick of the Vikings in April, and has tried to apply the dynamic between he and Smith to he and Farley.

"It's a lot like how Harry was to me in kind of trying to bring him along to communicate, be on the same page, watch film, anticipate," Motta said. "All those things that really keep you confident on the field and keep your composure. I think all those things are working well right now, and our preparation has been excellent up to this point."

While Notre Dame is led by plenty of veterans, its 3-0 start has been just as much a product of some success by the team's inexperienced youth. Kelly and his coach staff have put plenty of confidence into the likes of Everett Golson, KeiVarae Russell, Elijiah Shumate, and so on down the line. Farley's just the latest greenhorn to take on a larger role in Notre Dmae's plans.

"It's given me a lot of confidence just knowing I can do it and compete on this level," Farley said of the playing time he has and will receive. "It's inspired me to work even harder, especially now with the role I'm in, but even before Jamoris went down it was encouraging when the coaches had the trust in me to put me in the games and to build on that trust and continue to do well."

Best of the rest: QB, DL among Bears' targets on Day 2

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Best of the rest: QB, DL among Bears' targets on Day 2

Leftovers sometimes get a bad name. Pizza, chili, fine wine -- sometimes they're better the second day or at least after a little time to reach taste peaks. Some NFL draft picks may  be better if allowed to age overnight. The Bears, sitting at No. 10 in the second round, hope that's the case.

The selection of Georgia’s Leonard Floyd addressed Need No. 1 for the Bears: a pass rusher to get them off the field with third-down plays. But Needs No. 2-through-whatever remain to be filled with best-available’s from a draft board already picked over in some key areas.

The Bears had the chance to trade up into the first round from their spot at No. 10 in the second, but chose to keep their powder dry for day two’s second and third rounds.

  • Quarterback

Pace uncharacteristically expressed positives about the 2016 quarterback draft class: “It really is a good class of quarterbacks, and they’re all unique and they’re all a little different,” he said. “I think some guys are going to have different perspectives of different flavors, but it’s a good class. It breaks after a certain point and then there are some middle round guys that are intriguing for different reasons. It’s just up to us to analyze that and rank that correctly and I think we have.”

The Bears had private meetings with 10 different quarterbacks this offseason, indicating more than a casual interest in finding the right backup for Jay Cutler.

Already gone: Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch

Best remaining: Connor Cook, Michigan State; Kevin Hogan, Stanford; Dak Presott, Mississippi State.

  • Defensive line

The defensive tackle position is rated one of the best in draft history. The Bears used a No. 2 last year and landed starting nose tackle Eddie Goldman and hope to have Ego Ferguson (a 2014 No. 2) back from knee surgery to go on the other side of Goldman in the base 3-4. But the defense was one of the NFL’s poorest at stopping the run and even with new, veteran inside linebackers, the foundation is the front.

Already gone: Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Rankins, Shaq Lawson, Kenny Clark, Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Butler.

Best remaining: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama; Andrew Billings, Mississippi; Jarran Reed, Alabama.

  • Tight end

Pace described the tight-end class as just “OK,” and the Bears lost one of the NFL’s best in trading away Martellus Bennett. One the plus side: No team dipped into the shallow talent pool in the first round.

Already gone: None.

Best remaining: Hunter Henry, Arkansas; Austin Hooper, Stanford; Nick Vannett, Ohio State.

  • Defensive back

The Bears had myriad options to select a cornerback or safety with their first-round pick but addressed the need for pass rush instead. But seven teams went for the back-end of the defense first within the first 25 picks of the first round.

Already gone: Jalen Ramsey, Eli Apple, Vernon Hargreaves, Karl Joseph, Keanu Neal, William Jackson, Artic Burns.

Best remaining: Vonn Bell, Ohio State; MacKensie Alexander, Clemson; Maurice Canady, Virginia.

  • Other notables in Bears’ need areas

Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Bears' Leonard Floyd: 'Comfortable doing...anything' in 3-4 scheme

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Bears' Leonard Floyd: 'Comfortable doing...anything' in 3-4 scheme

Leonard Floyd was a jack of all trades as a defensive standout at Georgia. Those types of players too often don’t do any single thing well enough to make any mark at the NFL level. But the Bears, and Floyd, think he can in fact be a master of all.

“I played outside, played inside,” said Floyd on Thursday night. “And I also did a lot of three-point stance as well as two, so I’m pretty comfortable doing pretty much anything in the 3-4 scheme.”

The Bears plan to use him as an outside linebacker, rushing the passer for a team that had no rushman with more than Lamarr Houston’s eight sacks. What that bodes for Houston’s future in Chicago, as well as that of outside linebacker Willie Young, who playfully refused to use the “L” word (“linebacker”) when talking about himself, is cloudy at best.

[RELATED: How the Bears landed on Georgia's Leonard Floyd]

Neither Houston nor Young was particularly effective in pass defense but “I’m pretty good in coverage, did a lot in college, covered the tight end,” said Floyd, who was credited with three passes defensed, same as Young, in 2015. “I feel like I’ll be fine at the next level.”

The Bears have no plans to set a heavier weight target beyond the 240’s that Floyd checked in at during the NFL Scouting Combine.

“The last thing you want to do is bulk this guy up and then you’re taking away what he does best,” said Bears GM Ryan Pace. “You see some guys put on too much weight too fast and they look stiff and they lose some of that twitch that makes them a special player. We’ve got to do it the right way. I’ve got a lot of confidence in our strength and conditioning coaches, our sports science director Jen Gibson, to get Leonard at an optimal playing weight to maximize his talent.”

But “I definitely want to add more mass to my body,” Floyd said. “I know Chicago has some of the best coaches in the league, they’re going to coach me up hard, and I’m excited to learn...

“I want to add more power to my pass-rush to go with my speed. That’s a thing I need to learn and pick up in the league.”

Buckeyes nearly match NFL Draft record with five first-round selections

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Buckeyes nearly match NFL Draft record with five first-round selections

Many expected a record-breaking night for Ohio State on Thursday, but the Buckeyes will have to settle for only five first-round selections in this year's NFL Draft.

In what was a phenomenal showing for Urban Meyer's program, five Buckeyes heard their names called during the first 20 picks in Thursday night's first round.

Ohio State came one selection away from matching the NFL Draft record of six players from one school being chosen in the first round, a feat accomplished by Miami, which saw six players taken in the first round in 2004.

Defensive end Joey Bosa got things started when he was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the third pick.

Teammate Ezekiel Elliott immediately followed when the Dallas Cowboys used the No. 4 pick on the star running back.

Cornerback Eli Apple made it three Buckeyes selected in the top 10 when the New York Giants took him at No. 10, instantly earning the new nickname of Eli "Big" Apple.

Offensive lineman Taylor Decker was chosen by the Tennessee Titans six picks later at No. 16, and linebacker Darron Lee rounded it out at five in the top 20 when he was picked by the New York Jets at No. 20.

It was the fourth time Ohio State has had five players picked in the first round of the NFL Draft.

The Buckeyes still have a shot at a modern draft record. Ohio State actually holds the record for the most players chosen in a single draft, with 14 players picked in 2004. As Cleveland.com's Bill Landis explained earlier this month, the all-time record is 17, accomplished by the Texas Longhorns in 1984, though that draft had 12 rounds. The 14 players sent to the draft by Ohio State in 2004 is a record under the current seven-round format.

Days 2 and 3 still figure to feature a lot of big-name Buckeyes. Top Ohio State talent not picked in the first round includes Vonn Bell, Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller, Joshua Perry, Tyvis Powell, Michael Thomas and Adolphus Washington.