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."

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

This week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fremd senior Grace Tworek. 

Tworek has led the Vikings on and off the court this season. Last week, the Harvard commit put up a career-high 29 points in a win over Wheeling. 

Learn more about Tworek's success in the video above.