FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly appears to have found the right mix he wants on defense, but the Irish’s running back situation remains a work in progress.
The No. 22 Irish changed a pair of defensive starters in their 17-14 home win over Michigan State last Saturday, and Kelly will keep those players in starting spots for Notre Dame’s home game Saturday against No. 14 Oklahoma (3-0).
Elijah Shumate, a 6-foot, 213-pound sophomore, is listed as a starting safety on the depth chart released Tuesday, and Jarrett Grace, a 6-2, 253-pound junior, will start at inside linebacker.
Shumate replaced 5-10, 204-pound junior Matthias Farley, who started the first three games this year after starting at safety last year when Jamoris Slaughter was lost to an injury after the third game.
Austin Collinsworth, a 6-foot, 205-pound senior, is the other starting safety.
Grace took over for 6-2, 245-pound Dan Fox, who started the first three games this year. Carlo Calabrese, a 6-foot, 250-pound senior, is the other starting inside linebacker.
While Farley is behind Collinsworth and Fox is behind Grace on the depth chart, Kelly said there will continue to be a rotation at both spots.
I think it’s a very similar situation with the three guys, Kelly said. You’ve got a three-person rotation that’s working out pretty good for us.
Grace and Calabrese led Notre Dame with eight tackles each against Michigan State, and Fox had three tackles with one for loss last weekend. Grace leads the team with 28 tackles, and Calabrese and Fox are second and third in tackles with 27 and 26.
Shumate had five tackles against Michigan State, and Farley had two tackles and returned an interception 29 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown drive.
Farley has 15 tackles and two pass breakups, and Shumate has 10 tackles and Collinsworth has six.
In situations, we’re moving the personnel in and out, Kelly said. So I think in both of those situations, all three of those guys are working well together.
What hasn’t worked well is Notre Dame’s running game, averaging 3.7 yards a carry.
The Irish are no longer listing a clear starter after having George Atkinson III listed as the No. 1 back for the first four weeks.
Now, juniors Atkinson, Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel along with freshman Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston are listed at running back with each player separated by or.
Kelly also said when he referred to a four-man running back rotation on Sunday, it wasn’t to imply that Bryant, who didn’t have a carry against Michigan State, is out of the mix.
We just got to four. I’d like to get to five, Kelly said. Greg certainly has a skill set that we just haven’t gotten into the game yet. But again, we’re trying to get him in on special teams. He’s on kickoff right now. We’re trying to get him involved in some of the other running teams. But we got to four, we’re trying to get to five.
Notes: Kelly said defensive end Sheldon Day, who didn’t play against the Spartans because of a sprained ankle, should play Saturday. Notre Dame will not wear green jerseys even though the university is promoting a green out to encourage fans to wear green this weekend.