The career of a tenured Notre Dame defender skidded to an unfortunate halt Thursday morning.
Jamoris Slaughter, a fifth-year senior during the 2012 season, had his appeal for a sixth season of eligibility denied by the NCAA, which wasn't exactly a heartwarming Valentine's Day gift for the Stone Mountain, Ga., native.
The NCAA's ruling, which arrived after months of deliberation by the monolithic entity headquartered in Indianapolis, has officially jump-started Slaughter's journey to the professional ranks.
Yet the loss of Slaughter isn't the gut-punch those who don't pay close attention to the program would assume.
Prior to the 2012 season, the college football pundits and talking heads picked apart Notre Dame's one, supposed glaring weakness: its defensive secondary.
Surely, the Irish simply couldn't afford to lose a veteran leader in the secondary such as Slaughter or Zeke Motta, lest the Irish's hopes of transforming their BCS aspirations into a reality would be dashed.
Well, Notre Dame played 10 of 13 games of the 2012 season without Slaughter's services, after the 6 foot, 200-pound safety tore his Achilles' tendon during a 20–3 victory at Michigan State on Sept. 15.
No slight to Slaughter, but the Irish secondary didn't even skip a beat during his absence.
In the 10 games that Slaughter was inactive, the Irish compiled a 9–1 record, during which the passing defense only allowed one opponent to eclipse 300 passing yards—Oklahoma's Landry Jones racked up 364 passing yards on 51 attempts, though he didn't pass for a single touchdown.
Now, credit Notre Dame's superb front seven for relieving the pressure on, what was at the time, an inexperienced secondary.
However, opposing teams, understanding the extreme difficulty to establish an effective rushing attack against the Irish, attacked Notre Dame's perceived weakness. Jones' 51 pass attempts during an eventual 30–13 Notre Dame victory in Norman, Okla., are a prime example.
Don't be quick to assume that Jones' high volume of throws were a result of the Sooners trailing Notre Dame, either; the teams were deadlocked at 13 with 9:10 remaining in regulation.
The victory against Oklahoma is simply a micro-level example.
Let's consider the Irish's full body of work.
Once the dust had settled on the Irish's 42–14 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, the final season statistics from the NCAA were readily available.
And despite the ugly result, the Irish passing defense remained ranked 25th nationally, allowing an average of 199.8 yards per game.
That's not too shabby for a group deemed a dangerous liability during the preseason, and a group that was without Slaughter for more than 75 percent of the season.
And with three returning starters in the 2013 secondary—Bennett Jackson, KeiVarae Russell and Matthias Farley, along with the addition of incoming freshman Max Redfield—sustained success will be a trait the Irish will enjoy reaping the benefits of.
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