Despite coming to South Bend with five-star hype and an apparent opening to work onto Notre Dame's depth chart at safety, Max Redfield's impact on the 2013 Irish has been limited to special teams through 11 games.
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Instead of Redfield, it's been junior Eilar Hardy who's worked his way into a rotation with Austin Collinsworth, Matthias Farley and Elijah Shumate at safety.
Two months ago, Kelly said Redfield was beginning to push for playing time -- and while that hasn't happened, Kelly's evaluation of Redfield remained glowing when asked about him on Tuesday.
"If we were a close‑the‑middle‑of‑the‑field, cover‑one team, he would probably have been standing back there in week one if that's what we did," Kelly said. "But that's not our system. We are a two‑deep team, and there's a lot going on. He's learned a lot and he's grown a lot, and he's at a position now where he's starting to feel pretty comfortable."
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What's holding Redfield back, according to Kelly, is something safeties coach Bob Elliott cautioned could be the case prior to the season. The responsibilities of being a deep safety in Bob Diaco's defensive scheme aren't easy to pick up, and knowledge of them trumps raw talent when it comes to deciding who plays and who doesn't.
"Let's just take (running back) Tarean Folston and Max Redfield, two very gifted young men," Kelly explained. "Tarean has had to wait for his chance and he's getting more of it as the season progresses. Max has 10 times as much on his plate at that position than Tarean Folston, ten times, in terms of coverage checks and formation adjustments and communication."
Folston has had the greatest impact of any Notre Dame freshman not named Jaylon Smith this fall, though guys like Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, James Onwualu, Steve Elmer, Isaac Rochell, Cole Luke and Devin Butler have all played roles on offense or defense.
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While Redfield hasn't joined that group and likely won't this season, Kelly still expects big things from him moving forward.
"He's going to be a dynamite player for us," Kelly said. "But there's so much knowledge in our system and the way we play, because we are a two‑deep team."