- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Max Redfield may be exhibit A when it comes to tempered expectations. The former four-star prospect has shown enough promise through his first spring at Notre Dame to warrant plenty of praise from the staff, though never without a caveat or two.
Take this, Wednesday from new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder:
"He's getting better and better. He's going to make mistakes. I've seen him before, I've dealt with him before, so you've got some patience, but at the same time still keep the high standards and expectations to him."
Or this, four days earlier from head coach Brian Kelly:
"I don't think there's any questioning his athletic ability. There's still a learning curve there for him in terms of what we're doing defensively. But he's such a gifted athlete that it's so hard to look past his athletic ability, even though he's chasing the No. 2 in the flat when he's got the deep middle. We're still in the learning curve with Max but he's so gifted, that's why you coach.
"You've got to get Max Redfield ready. We're going to get him ready."
A freshman season that ended with his first career start was a sign of slow but steady progress for Redfield, who couldn't even get on the field in the regular-season finale a month earlier despite the Irish entering Stanford down two safeties due to suspension.
Still, there was that New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers, a milestone Redfield referred to as his "a-ha moment," as he now knows he is good enough to eventually get things right during another transition period, this one coming with VanGorder's more aggressive scheme.
"You can't really imitate the speed of the game until you're really in it, which is cool for me to get that start under my belt in the Pinstripe Bowl," Redfield said. "I feel like knowing what the speed is like somewhat -- obviously Rutgers isn't going to be the same as Florida State, and I understand that and I know I need 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 I've been growing ever since."
The Mission Viejo, Calif., native was always forthcoming about his underwhelming rookie campaign (12 tackles in 12 games), admitting to struggling with communicating and adapting to the college game. But the confidence is certainly there from his coaches, which means it is certainly there for him, which means these next five months give the 6-foot-1, 194-pounder plenty of time to bridge the gap and adapt to another challenge.
"I wouldn't say frustrating, because it is what it is," Redfield said of the new defense. "Everybody has to do the same thing, it's not like I'm being singled out or any other defensive player is being singled out. We all have to learn the system, whatever system we're in. Obviously it was a big change but it's going well and I can't complain."