After a disappointing start to his collegiate career, freshman Max Redfield is hoping for a bigger impact in the second half of the season.
NOTRE DAME — From the day they step on campus, Notre Dame players are drilled to not hold any one game in higher regard than the rest.
Even up against long-time rivals like Southern California or Michigan, the most veteran players will rattle off some variation of “It's just another game.”
However, Max Redfield can't quite bring himself to file this upcoming game in with all the others.
That's because when Redfield, the one-time USC commit who defected to the Irish in January, looks across the field on Saturday, Oct. 19, he'll see three familiar faces on the other sideline.
Redfield and USC's Jahleel Pinner, Tre Madden and John Akiba are all graduates of Mission Viejo (Calif.), a high school nestled 50 miles southeast of the Los Angeles campus. At one time, all four shared the field together. Before Redfield decommitted from the Trojans in November, the four would have shared the field at Notre Dame Stadium as teammates once again.
“I want to say it's not (a big game), but obviously I have previous connections to USC, a lot of people I know on that team,” Redfield said. “But once it comes down to it, it's just another opponent. You prepare for every team the same way and it's just another game.”
Redfield's had an extra week to dwell on the upcoming clash with the Trojans, as well as additional time to refine his own game.
The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Redfield committed to Notre Dame as Rivals' No. 3 safety in the Class of 2013. Despite his high-profile recruitment and five-star pedigree, Redfield has registered just two tackles in five games he's seen action in, both of which came on special teams.
If there's a band of angry Domers grumbling that the blue-chip freshman has underwhelmed in the first half of the season, Redfield would be at the head of the pack. And he doesn't blame anyone but himself.
“I feel frustrated still,” he said. “I still don't have everything down like I obviously want to. Still making the little mistakes that you obviously need to get down to be a big contributor in the game, and that's why obviously I'm not there. And yeah, it's a process, like the coaches keep telling me, and I've tried to accept it. It's still frustrating, obviously.”
Redfield came to campus confident, feeling as if he'd work his way to the starting lineup in no time. That first week of camp, he said, was a reality check.
“You don't know everything, you don't know what you're doing,” he said. “You really have to start at ground zero and work your way up from there.”
Redfield hopes to use the week off to feed his confidence as a vocal point in Bob Diaco's defense. As safety, Redfield has to be in constant communication with the rest of the defense to point out alignment shifts for cornerbacks and linebackers.
“We just want to keep working with him, keep getting him more reps now,” head coach Brian Kelly said of Redfield. “He's getting a ton of reps right now. He's getting closer and closer. There's so many calls, so many things going on out there.
“It's a quarterback position when you're out there at that safety position. It's not just dropping into Cover 2.”
Redfield, meanwhile, will try to build the confidence to complement the talent.
“Probably just being demonstrative with the calls,” Redfield said of what he needs to work on most. “I felt like 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.”
Though he hasn't seen the field much, Redfield knows he made the right choice with Notre Dame. The “What if's” and “could be's” around USC are far from his mind.
“I'm at Notre Dame now,” he said. “I don't really think about USC as much. Notre Dame's a great school. (USC's) having their troubles. I'm sure they'll pick it back up. It's a great university and a great team.”