Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 21

Our series continues with another newcomer who filled big shoes in 2012.

No. 21: Matthias Farley, S

Making the case: Flash back to Week 3. Fifth-year safety and defensive linchpin Jamoris Slaughter had just gone done with a season-ending Achilles injury, and the already seemingly vulnerable Notre Dame secondary just got dealt its third season-ending injury since the previous season. The next-man-in was a converted receiver who had not even been playing the game for four years, and who had redshirted the previous season. Instead, Farley silenced all the doubters, doing all the extra work that it took with safeties coach Bob Elliott to get up to speed and deliver a standout debut campaign. The redshirt freshman had 49 tackles, two tackles for loss, one pick and one pass defended. He broke his right thumb in an Oct. 27 win at Oklahoma, had two plates and four pins inserted afterward and never missed a game, playing with his thumb heavily wrapped. The Irish will likely get three more years of this guy, and they can be thankful for that after the promise and production seen in 2012.

Preseason ranking: NR

The countdown

No. 22 KeiVarae Russell, CB

No. 23 Robby Toma, WR

No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K

No. 25 Chris Brown, WR