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Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Bye week grades: Secondary

By Matt Fortuna

SECONDARY

Grade: B+

Summary: Notre Dame has the nation's No. 19 pass defense. Think about that. Last season it started all seniors in the defensive backfield. This year? It returned two senior safeties and two first-year starting cornerbacks. One of those cornerbacks (Lo Wood) tore his Achilles tendon in camp, leading to a freshman starter who had arrived on campus as a running back three months earlier and had never played the position in high school (KeiVarae Russell). Three weeks into the season, one of those starting safeties (Jamoris Slaughter) tore his Achilles tendon, leading to a redshirt freshman starter who played receiver a year ago and who hadn't played football at all five years ago (Matthias Farley). Five of the team's eight interceptions have come from defensive backs, and they are responsible for two of the Irish's five fumble recoveries. Yes, the front-seven is to credit for making life much easier for the secondary, and yes, Notre Dame has yet to face a lethal passing attack, but you can't ask for much more out of the secondary through the first-third of the season. Zeke Motta has grown into the kind of leader few saw him becoming, and Bennett Jackson is quickly doing the same, just two years after moving from receiver himself.

The backups: Nicky Baratti recorded his first career interception against Michigan. Former walk-on Chris Salvi is a veteran presence who now finds himself on the second team after injuries, and the Irish possess a number of talented young defensive backs among the reserves, many of whom are being thrown into the fire early due to circumstance.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive line

Offensive line

Linebackers

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends