Irish shuffling their secondary

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Cornerback Gary Gray was one of the surprises for Notre Dame in last week's loss to USC.

Gray made his first career start and got called for a pass interference on the first play from scrimmage. He also got burned a couple of times early in the game. But he improved as the day went on and grabbed a crucial fourth-quarter interception that helped the Fighting Irish get back into the game.

"Gary played more because he was the one guy that recently has been really competing for the ball," head coach Charlie Weis said. "We need to find more guys that are going to compete for the ball. The secondary, if you don't compete for the ball, it's going to be a long, long hard day."

The Notre Dame secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense this year. But while the cornerbacks have often been in the right position this year, they've made precious few big plays. Gray's interception was just the third by an Irish cornerback all year.

Gray, a junior, is listed as a starter again for the Boston College game ahead of Robert Blanton. And there could be more changes coming, as Weis planned on opening up the battle for jobs back there this week in practice.

"There are a couple guys we weren't really pleased with how it went (in the USC game), so we're going to give them competition in practice," he said. "Depending how it goes, we would not be afraid to move one guy ahead of another guy."

One player getting a closer look is sophomore Jamoris Slaughter, who will get opportunities at both corner and safety. Sergio Brown, who plays in nickel packages, might have a chance for increased duties as well. True freshman Zeke Motta is another possibility.

Weis would like to see more players emerge like Gray, who left the team before the Hawaii Bowl and was not enrolled during the spring for what the school termed personal reasons.

"That gave me time to mature," Gray said.

He returned in the summer and has now worked his way into a starting role.

"It's been a long time coming," he said.

Notre Dame hopes that improvement in its pass coverage arrives a little more quickly.