USA TODAY Sports
By all accounts, rising junior KeiVarae Russell had a great spring and will be slotted as the top corner.
Sophomore Cole Luke lined up opposite Russell during the spring, and senior Matthias Farley made the switch from safety to cornerback and appeared as a nickelback.
The unit will get a boost when it adds Florida transfer Cody Riggs and incoming freshman Nick Watkins in the coming weeks.
According to the coaching staff, cornerback play will be important in setting the tone for the entire defense.
“You’ve got to win out there on that perimeter. You’ve got to win,” VanGorder said bluntly in late March.
“The new system that we’re under right now is just something that we want to challenge all routes,” defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks added in early April. “We want to be on attack mode.
“And the whole philosophy is that we don’t want the offense to dictate how we play defense. So everything that we do—it doesn’t mean that we’re all pressed 80 snaps a game—but we’re aggressive, we’re competing, we’re physical and that whole mindset of challenge every route.”
Between Russell, Luke, Farley, Riggs, Watkins and sophomore Devin Butler, the Irish appear to be well set to do just that.