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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Young Safeties Growing & Impressing

August 7, 2023
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The Notre Dame safety room doesn’t lack experience as DJ Brown, Xavier Watts and Ramon Henderson have played in just about every environment one can in college football.

Graduate transfers Thomas Harper and Antonio Carter II also bring priceless experience to the room. 

The veteran core has its benefits as O’Leary can let his players coach as they know what they’re doing, but it also gives him the opportunity to develop the younger players in the room. 

”It allows us to double down on who we are and to play really fast,” O’Leary said of the experience at safety. “Every one of us on defense and Coach Free has noted how much faster it feels like we’re playing on defense compared to last year. On top of that, you get into some nuances and coaching points you could’ve before because you were just trying to figure it out.” 

Notre Dame’s rookies have also impressed O’Leary this fall. Adon Shuler and Ben Minich arrived in January, but Shuler needed shoulder surgery before spring ball and then Minich suffered a thumb injury, which limited him over the last few weeks of the spring. 

Both are healthy and O’Leary has been pleased with how his freshmen are developing and handling the workload load of fall camp. 

“Ben was in a really good spot,” stated O’Leary. “He got hurt halfway through spring. He came back for fall camp and now he’s been hurt for 3-4 practices but when he’s out there he shows flashes with his speed and his football instincts and knowledge. He’s going to be a really good player.

“Adon has flashed, probably the most for us, whether that’s playing the post and picking the ball off or filling the alley, he’s a really good football player and he’s going to play for us really soon.”

Brown has seen several safeties come through Notre Dame as he’s entering his sixth year and Shuler has caught his eye, including an interception on Monday morning. 

“I think a lot of the playbook was a little fuzzy for him,” explained Brown. “But now, coming out, getting the reps on the field, he's starting to see the game a lot slower and make plays. He's been making a lot of plays. I like that.”

There is also another freshman on the roster as Luke Talich chose to walk-on at Notre Dame over Power Five scholarship offers from Oregon State, Utah, Washington State and Wyoming. 

“We had to recruit him pretty hard,” said O’Leary. “We talked to him every night leading up to signing day. He called us the night before signing day he was going to bet on himself because he wanted to be here and be a part of this culture and this program. He made that decision and we were fired up. We were going crazy when he told us that.” 

The Wyoming native arrived on campus in June and quickly impressed the staff and his teammates early in fall camp. 

“Bright future,” O’Leary said. “Really high ceiling. He’s a freak. He’s 6-foot-4 and about as fast as you can get back there. He’s just learning the defense and figuring it all out right now. He needs to get stronger. But what he has as a skillset, he can be as good as he wants.” 

For Talich and the other freshmen, it’s an uphill battle to get on the field as you can’t put a price on experience, but that doesn’t mean his time isn’t coming soon. 

“No doubt next year,” O’Leary. “This year potentially special teams. He needs to get stronger right now. He weighs about 200 right now. He needs to get to 210, or more. But he’ll help us next year for sure.” 

Brown echoed his O’Leary as Talich’s length and speed have stood out to him through the first two weeks of camp. 

“Luke is a great athlete,” said Brown. “He's really tall and lanky. He's also really fast. H's been getting to know the playbook but it's new. He came straight from high school. He wasn't here in the spring, but he's been doing well.” 

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