Notre Dame's Max Redfield motivated to match physical talent with football IQ

Max Redfield got his first start in the Pinstripe Bowl. Can he earn a permanent spot in the lineup?

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.

NOTRE DAME — Through the first 10 practices of the spring, reviews for Notre Dame's Max Redfield echo across the coaching staff.

From head coach Brian Kelly to defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to defensive back coach Kerry Cooks, the spring assessment of the sophomore safety boils down to two points — incredible talent and still a lot to learn.

"Crazy, crazy, crazy ability," Kelly said. "He can make a mistake and get himself out of it. ... We’re still in the learning curve with Max, but he’s so gifted. You’ve gotta get Max Redfield ready. We’re going to get him ready.”

"He's going to be a heckuva player," Cooks added. "He's just got a lot to learn. Very talented kid."

Unlike classmates Tarean Folston and Jaylon Smith, Redfield spent the majority of an otherwise underwhelming freshman campaign studying the college game from the sidelines.

Coaches said he was close all season, but Redfield could never quite break through until the Dec. 28 Pinstripe Bowl in New York. It was there Redfield took the field for the first time as a starter.

"It was finally this 'ahh' moment," Redfield said. "I finally broke through the barrier and got the start under my belt. I had a lot of fun in the game, a lot of fun the entire week."

Redfield has a chance to burgeon this spring under the direction of VanGorder, whose new three-down defensive scheme will challenge safeties in a whole new way. Cooks said safeties will be tasked with more freedom to make snap decisions and adjustments for what best fits that formation.

Cooks wants Redfield to learn his own assignment first before turning him loose to conduct the entire defense.

"It's hard for a young guy to really understand and grasp all the things we're asking him to do," Cooks said. "But as long as he's showing improvement on a day-to-day basis, which he is, he's making an improvement in my eyes. My goal for Max at the end of the spring is to have a solid base and foundation for what his assignment is. And then in summer and in camp, we'll progress to him helping everyone else."

With VanGorder's new scheme, everyone is on a level playing field. And in a safety lineup loaded with the talents of Austin Collinsworth, Elijah Shumate, Nicky Baratti, Eliar Hardy and the new addition of James Onwualu, Redfield has separated himself from the pack to earn first-team reps during practice.

While he learns the new defense, Redfield will build off that bit starting experience he tasted in game No. 13 last season.

"You can't really imitate the speed of the game until you're really in it, which was cool for me to get that start in the Pinstripe Bowl," he said. "I feel like knowing what the speed is like somewhat helps."

But that start isn't a guarantee of his future. With the secondary depth nipping at his heels, Redfield knows the pressure is on.

"Rutgers isn’t the same as Florida State. I understand that,” he said. “I know I have to make tons of improvements from there until we get into the next season, but it was great to get that start under my belt. I was really thankful for that and I feel like I’ve been growing ever since."



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