SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Max Redfield didn't sugarcoat anything as he looked back at his first year at Notre Dame.
The former five-star recruit kept being told he had a chance to crack Notre Dame's safety rotation as a freshman, but he didn't log his first significant minutes with the Irish defense until the Pinstripe Bowl. For the other 12 games, Redfield was relegated to special teams duty.
It wasn't the kind of debut he envisioned.
"I was devastated," Redfield said. "I would be the first one to tell you. It was hard to stay motivated throughout the year. I felt like I was trying to do everything I could to get on the field, but continued to make some mistakes because the defense was so detailed and so in-depth. It was very frustrating."
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Before the season, then-safeties coach Bob Elliott cautioned that learning the position would be one of the more difficult things for a freshman to do, even for a player as skilled as Redfield. As the weeks rolled on, Notre Dame stuck with its more experienced safeties, guys who understood the role well: Austin Collinsworth, Matthias Farley, Elijah Shumate and Eilar Hardy.
Redfield said the experience was humbling — "I felt like I almost wasn't good enough," Redfield added — but getting that Pinstripe Bowl start set him on the right path.
"Obviously it gave me that confirmation that I'm doing something right and to keep building off that," Redfield said. "I also think that (defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder) came in also gave us all a fresh start so we got to learn the defense together ... It was really advantageous to the whole defense as well as me."
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With the 2014 season beginning in less than three weeks, Redfield appears set to start for the Irish alongside Collinsworth, a graduate student. Collinsworth's experience and ability to direct the defense is key, given coach Brian Kelly said Redfield won't be asked to take on that role this fall.
"There's no quarterbacking with Max," Kelly said. "Austin Collinsworth will do the quarterbacking back there, and then if Austin went down, Matthias Farley would go back there and he would quarterback. We're not going to put much on Max's plate. We're going to ask him to do his job, do it fast and really not put a lot on his plate."
Redfield said that's not entirely the case — it's a collaborative effort — but it shows how far he still has to go in nailing down the nuances of the position. For all the talent Redfield has, he's still only a sophomore with one start under his belt.
While Kelly said Redfield has "made a good jump," that lack of experience means Collinsworth and Farley will have even more important roles this fall. But entering Year 2, there's not much keeping Redfield on the sidelines this fall.
"We have days where we miss an assignment here, and you can't miss an assignment back there," Kelly said. "That's where some of our inexperience — we have to be vigilant making sure we're clean back there. But (Redfield), as we all know, he's extremely gifted back there."