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Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame’s defense may have reached the breaking point when it comes to injuries, with Irish coach Brian Kelly referring to the unit as “devastated.”The latest downer:

Returning Notre Dame safeties find their roles expanded


– Notre Dame safeties Matthias Farley and Austin Collinsworth are experiencing new things during this year’s spring practice.

Farley was just learning his position last year at this time after moving from receiver, and Collinsworth is getting back into the flow of things after missing last season with shoulder and back injuries.

“I was a little lost (last spring), but I took advice and coaching from (cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks, safeties coach Bob Elliott and former Irish safeties Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta),” Farley said Wednesday after the Irish’s sixth spring practice. “I’m not worried about some of things that I was worried about last spring when I was just learning everything. I know where I need to be. I know what I need to do. It’s just seeing and reacting.”

Farley, a 5-foot-10, 204-pound junior, was thrust into the starting lineup last season when the Irish lost Slaughter to a torn Achilles tendon in a 20-3 win over Michigan State on Sept. 15.

Farley started 11 games, making 49 tackles and intercepting a pass.

Farley is being counted on to help lead the safeties after Motta, who started 13 games at the other safety spot, graduated and Slaughter was not granted a sixth year of eligibility

“Last year, I was trying to learn every thing and not say too much. This year, it is being vocal and communicating and being a leader verbally, not just playing well,” said Farley, who was paired with sophomore Elijah Shumate on the first team defense Wednesday.

“I knew coming back with Zeke and the whole Jamoris thing, we didn’t know if he was coming back or not then finding out he was gone, I had to focus and lock in and be on my business every play.”

Collinsworth is happy to have the chance to be in on every play. He was lost last season after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in June. He also had to deal with a back injury in October.

Collinsworth, a 6-foot, 194-pound senior, said it took him the first two practices to start feeling comfortable on the field, and while he is not 100 percent, he feels he is getting close to being where he was before the injuries.

“I would say probably 98 percent or some thing like that,” he said. “I will be 100 percent by the end of spring.”

Farley said having Collinsworth, who was paired with junior Eilar Hardy at safety with the second team Wednesday, back has been a boost for the secondary.

“You wouldn’t know it by looking at him that he’s been out for a year, that he had a shoulder and a back injury,” Farley said. “Last year at this time, he was helping me a ton with all the knowledge that he had acquired. To have him back, it is having a person who has more experience than I do in the grand scheme of things, because he was in the mix before I even got here.

“It’s a huge asset for everybody to have him back.”