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Solidifying the safety spot

Notre Dame went through a lot of injuries this season, and one place hit hard by injuries but hardly noticed was the safety position.

And one reason the Irish, who play Miami in the Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. Friday, were able to survive the injuries at safety is Harrison Smith.

Smith was the only safety to play in all 12 games this season. The senior was also one of six defensive players to start in every game, and he finished with 86 tackles and four interceptions.

Smith was accompanied by different players at safety.

Jamoris Slaughter, the opening-game starter along side Smith, missed two games and started in five of the 10 games he played in. He had 43 tackles and an interception.

When Slaughter was dealing with injuries, Zeke Motta stepped in and made seven starts while playing in 12 games. He finished with 46 tackles.

Dan McCarthy was the other safety, but he only played in seven games because of injures.

"It's really just if you can play, you got to play," Smith said. "Even if you are hurt, you got to play. There were definitely some times there in start and the middle of the season when pretty much everybody in the defensive back field was hurt and playing. That is something that sometimes that is the hand you get dealt and you have to play it. I think we grew from it to. Going through that adversity and counting on that guy next to you that much more it really just brings us closer."

Smith's performance at safety helped erase a truncated season in the defensive backfield.

Last year, Smith started the first six games at safety but moved back to linebacker – where he played as a sophomore – for the last six.

"Being in one spot the whole time and getting used to it helps you get that much better and helps you make plays," Smith said of his growth this year as a safety.