SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Before the season, Notre Dame safeties coach Bob Elliott passed on an analogy applying to freshmen he learned from longtime Iowa coach Hayden Fry: "We're baking a big pie in training camp, but we're only gonna serve one slice per game."
For Max Redfield, who entered Notre Dame as a much-hyped freshman this fall, that's been the learning curve. He picked up as much as he could in training camp and has then had to apply that to week-by-week game preparation. It hasn't been easy, seeing as the five-star recruit hasn't played much outside special teams.
"I walked in (confident) at first, until about the first week — it's kind of a wake-up call, it's like you don't know everything," Redfield said last week. "You don't know what we're doing, you're going to really have to start at ground zero and work your way up from there."
Redfield has all the natural athletic ability and tools to be a star safety, but it's not an easy position to learn. Elliott figured playing safety in Notre Dame's system is about as difficult to pick up as a freshman as playing quarterback, so Redfield's playmaking skill has been pushed to the side at least for now.
In high school, Redfield said he was always confident deciphering opposing offenses and getting his teammates into the right looks. It's been a completely different animal at the college level, and one Redfield said he's struggled with the most.
"If you don't know a certain formation and how that defense goes with that formation, then you can't make that call," he said. "I felt I was a pretty demonstrative person in high school, and obviously it's harder to be that in college if you don't know what's going on fully."
Redfield has wriggled his way into Notre Dame's two-deep at safety, though he hasn't played much behind Austin Collinsworth, Matthias Farley or Elijah Shumate. But coach Brian Kelly said a few weeks ago he's seen plenty of improvement out of Redfield, and expects him to push for playing time at some point this fall.
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After six weeks of in-season practice, Redfield feels he has a decent grasp on Notre Dame's defense, though he feels he's still making too many little mistakes. He's itching for a chance to do more, even if he's only sporadically running with the No. 1 defense.
Like plenty of freshmen who come to college with a five-star rating in tow, Redfield hoped to see the field as soon as he set foot on campus. That hasn't happened, and it's led to some frustration — but it's the kind of frustration Redfield hopes to channel into improving his game.
"I don't have everything down like I obviously want to," Redfield said. "Still making the little mistakes that you need to get down to be a big contributor in the game, and that's obviously why I'm not there. It's a process, like the coaches keep telling me. I've tried to accept it, but it's still frustrating, obviously."