SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Prior to the season, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly dismissed the notion that sophomore safety Max Redfield would have to direct and position the Irish defense from his perch at safety.
That role was supposed to fall on fifth-year senior Austin Collinsworth, who's also a team captain and a highly-skilled communicator. But with Collinsworth likely out until at least Sept. 27's date with Syracuse due to an MCL sprain, Notre Dame now has to rely more on Redfield to be the quasi-quarterback of its defense.
"The dynamics have changed, and that's why it's more important that we put more on his plate," Kelly said. "We were hoping that we wouldn't have to do that but the situation has changed and he has to pick up more of the slack."
Initially, Kelly said senior Matthias Farley would slide in next to Redfield if Collinsworth went down with an injury. But junior Elijah Shumate started in Collinsworth's place against Rice and Kelly said he and Redfield are "the two best players back there."
Talent aside, both players struggled with communication against Rice. Kelly said three of Rice's big plays against Notre Dame were directly related to poor communication, though since Collinsworth's injury occurred in Thursday's practice, neither player had much time to prepare to quarterback the defense.
Fortunately for Notre Dame, those communication errors didn't come back to bite a defense that only allowed 17 points. But with a better offense in Michigan coming to South Bend, the Irish can't afford the same back-end issues on Saturday.
"These guys are going to have to take control as if they have that same kind of ability (as Collinsworth) and they're going to have to do it right now," Kelly said. "Michigan is on them and it's going to have to happen immediately."