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."

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

MESA, Ariz. – Addison Russell earned his manager’s trust by playing “boring” defense, always making the routine plays at shortstop with textbook fundamentals. Even Russell’s agent called him an “old soul,” already serious about his craft and driven by quiet determination and husband-and-father responsibilities.

But the Cubs also know Russell as a moonwalking showman with the freaky athleticism to do Ozzie Smith backflips and make spectacular highlight-reel plays. And you could see the vroom-vroom, fist-pumping celebrations after yet another clutch hit.

“Ever since I was a little kid,” Russell said, “I always wanted to be on the big screen.”

Now Russell will try to make the leap to superstar, as one of the many personalities on a Cubs team that can crossover nationally and live forever in Chicago, just like the ’85 Bears, the way Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have built their brands.

“We got great ballplayers, beautiful faces on this team,” Russell said. “Just talent galore in this clubhouse, and that’s really cool to see, because these guys handle themselves like real, true professionals.”

The start of spring training is a reminder that Russell has still only spent one wire-to-wire season in The Show. He turned 23 last month and has already become a World Series champion, the youngest player in franchise history to start an All-Star Game and the first Cub shortstop to reach 95 RBI since Ernie Banks in 1960.

Russell’s World Series grand slam helped him accumulate the most postseason RBI (14) in club history – after putting up 11 game-winning RBI for a 103-win team. FanGraphs also had Russell tying San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford for the major-league lead with 19 defensive runs saved at shortstop.

“Really, the sky’s the limit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy is scratching the surface. He is that good. Know thyself – I think that’s what’s happening with a lot of our young guys. They’re understanding themselves better. And as they do, their game’s going to continue to improve.

“So with Addie, listen, he could be an annual All-Star, there’s no question. Beyond that, he’s just such a gifted athlete, so quick, and he cares so much. And he’s really turned out to be a good self-evaluator, so all those are components to creating a superstar.”

Russell said he’s working with Boras Corp. on potential endorsements with Pepsi and Audi. He visited a Nike headquarters in Oregon to help design his custom cleats and custom glove. He also posted images from the White House on his social-media accounts, which have nearly 549,000 followers combined between Twitter and Instagram.

“The opportunities are coming, which is great,” Russell said. “It’s a whole new playing field. I’m glad that I’m getting to see a different side of baseball, where I can actually find a couple talents off the baseball field. It’s all interesting stuff.”

It’s also taken some getting used to, as he almost had trouble remembering how many “Addison Russell Days” there were in Florida, between events at Pace High School and with the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners.

“This whole fame thing is really new to me,” Russell said. “Walking everywhere, people want autographs and stuff. Different airports, different cities, it’s very humbling. It’s a great blessing. I’m just a small-town guy, so it hit me pretty hard.”

Like the moment Russell realized what the Cubs just did, after the whirlwind of riding in the championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, standing on stage in front of millions at the Grant Park rally and going to Disney World.

“I remember this past offseason, going into my mom’s room and laying down on her bed,” Russell said. “That’s when all the memories of this past year – all the way from spring training (to) the All-Star Game and then the World Series run – it all hit me at once. It was overbearing, kind of, and I started crying.

“That’s when it sunk in. It was just a magical moment.”

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”