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Notre Dame Football

Mike Mickens Notebook | April 3rd

April 4, 2024

Notre Dame defensive backs coach Mike Mickens spoke following Wednesday's practice. 

On who’s helping him coach the secondary:
“I've got plenty of help. Coach Biagi is helping out as well back there, and then you got our GA and our analysts, Casey McHugh and Bryce Dempsey, as well. So, we've got a lot back there. A lot of eyes on them, so there's nowhere to hide, I tell them.”

On Al Golden helping with the defensive backs: 
“AG (Al Golden) is back there as well. So, he's coming over. He helps out, too. He sees the whole thing, but he's helping out too there, but there's nowhere to hide.”

On the positives of having the corners and safeties in one room:
“I look at it as an advantage, right? The advantage of it is you hear one voice. Everybody's hearing the same thing, and the communication is always going to be there with it. So, everybody does that. Also, it grows the knowledge of everybody, right? So, now the safeties understand truly what that corner is doing and how he's playing his technique based off of what he's doing.

“And the same thing the corner is playing his technique off of what the safety is doing. So, it grows the knowledge as a football players as well, just being able to hear the whole philosophy, the whole backend, the system of it, not just only position-specific work.”

On Benjamin Morrison’s injury and Clarence Lewis entering the Transfer Portal:
“Ben, maybe he can't do it physically, but he can do it mentally. It's an opportunity for him to grow in, one, leadership, but also grow his mental game with it. It'll also helped (him) be a coach with it. So, yes, we'd love to have him out there. We don't want anybody to get injured, but he's gonna be able to grow and take another step in another way with the mental part of it. 

“And yeah, you don't want to lose a C-Lew, but guys gotta step up and we gotta go.”

On the nickel position outside of Jordan Clark: 

“Micah Bell. We’ve got Devyn Ford that’s learning it as well. So, you got those guys right there. But my philosophy is guys gotta understand multiple positions. As you saw Christian Gray in the bowl game play nickel. You've seen Jaden Mickey before play Nickel. So, guys know it. Just because they don't rep it maybe in practice, they understand what they gotta do.”

On Devyn Ford as a defensive back: 
“He's learning. He's getting better every day. It's different for him, but he's getting better every day with it. And he's up there every day learning the position.”

On if Ford played defensive back in high school player:
“He played safety in high school a little bit as well. So, he has some defensive philosophy with him, but at this level, he hasn't. But he's doing a great job.”

On cornerback Christian Gray: 
“He's getting stronger. He's working hard with that. You can tell the game is slowing down for him now. So, now it's just going out there to play fast, make plays, do what he's naturally gifted to do.”

On how he’s growing as a coach by coaching both positions:
“It's great. You're in the run game, you're in the pass game, so you see the whole picture of it right there. Between the fits and, in the pass game, where we need to be at with it. So, that's the great part about it. You talk all of that, you teach all that and then, now, some of those corners that may not have known all of that, now they hear what the safeties gotta do. And the same thing with the safeties hearing what the corners gotta do.”

On how evaluating coaching jobs at other programs:
“Well, the first thing is I love it here. I love working for Coach Freeman, I love his culture. I love everything that he represents. I love Notre Dame. I love what Notre Dame represents. I love the kids that come here and the mentality that they have. So, that's a big piece of if anybody comes after me, I still always think about pros that are here that (inaudible).

“I tell guys I'm recruiting all the time. I'm not just jumping to jump to (another) job. I'm not that type of guy. It has to be the right fit, the right place for me to ever think about (inaudible).”

On what makes receiver Jaden Greathouse a tough guard: 
“He's really, really good with his body control. It makes a lot of routes look the same, and he's savvy with it and he's got a quick-area burst with it. And then he's strong with his hands. So, he's a really, really good player. So, he causes a lot of problems for people.”

On if Greathouse is quicker than last year:
“Well, you could tell that, year two, he's taking on even more this spring. He's a good player.”

On if Rod Heard II will play nickel or safety and his potential role:
“He's going to be required to know both? So, he'll be able to know... his main is still safety, but then Nickel will be something that he learns as well with it. So, it's kind of in the same mode as B-MO, right? He can't practice this spring, but he can grow his mind.”

On safety Adon Shuler:
“He's being intentional about everything, mentality wise, how he approaches it. He comes to meet every day, just one on one. But I mean, just his mentality with it. He's going to be really, really good for us.”

On the differences between what he looks for when recruiting a corner versus a safety:
“To me, it's a lot of the same stuff. Obviously, you want them to be a little bit bulkier and be ready to fit a little bit more, but I still want them athletic. I still want them long. I still want them to be able to run. To me, those are the things right there. And also, can they process fast, right? Can they process mentally fast because they are running the back end of the checks and things of that nature? So, some of that comes into play. Do they understand football, but, those things also can be taught a lot, too. But trait-wise: athletic, long, can run and physical.”

On if there are challenges with coaching the entire secondary:
“No, because I've got great support, right? You got Coach Biagi, you've got Coach Golden, you've got Bryce Dempsey and you've got Casey McHugh and they help. So, it's like a little team back there that you have to help. So, the challenges that you would have, on the field, trying to do two groups, you don't really have as much because everybody's on the same page and we've gotta get our own little unit. So, that's been good.”

On safety Luke Talich:
“Just continue to grow and understand it is year two for him now. So, just play fast. He's very athletic. I'm just excited to see him continue to grow through these next seven practices or eight practices or whatever we've got left and just continue to go.”

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