SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Max Redfield has finally been running with the 1s in practice, the same way he started in his most recent Notre Dame game, the same way everyone envisioned he would from Day 1, and everything seems so simple now.
Redfield has a new coordinator, a new scheme and a new opportunity. And after repeatedly feeling as if he could do no right last year, the safety has his feet under him, ready to attack a sophomore year that oozes with potential after he experienced some rookie blues.
"I was devastated," Redfield said. "I would be the first one to tell you. It was hard to stay motivated throughout the year. I felt like I was trying to do everything I could to get on the field, but continued to make some mistakes because the defense was so detailed and so in-depth. It was very frustrating. But it kind of just humbled me that whole year, just stick to my roots and keep going."
Redfield entered Notre Dame last summer as a four-star recruit, ESPN's No. 2 athlete in the nation. He struggled to see the field, though, failing to enter the Irish's Week 2 loss at Michigan and finishing with just 12 tackles on the year.
Even when he recorded more than half of those stops over a four-game stretch entering the regular-season finale at Stanford, and even as the staff told him more time would come, and even as two safeties got suspended for that Cardinal game -- well, Redfield still barely played that night, sinking into further self-evaluation.
"Coaches obviously had a reason for everything. I'm not going to second-guess what the coaches have to say. If they feel like I shouldn't be on the field, I guess I shouldn't," Redfield said. "I obviously wanted to and tried to do everything I could to change that. But I felt like I almost wasn't good enough, which is obviously a tough feeling to have."
A start against Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl re-kindled that fire, assuring Redfield he had at least been heading the right direction. A new defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, has offered Redfield a bit of a fresh start, allowing him to run and react more in the secondary.
Notre Dame loses no one from last season's safety contingent, and here the California kid is this summer with a clear head and a starting job there for the taking.
"He's made a good jump," head coach Brian Kelly said. "Max is a very gifted player. We've just got to continue on the learning curve. We have days where you miss an assignment here and you can't miss an assignment back there. We have to be vigilant in making sure that we're clean back there."
Kelly said the directing of the defense from the back end will be left primarily to fellow safety Austin Collinsworth, though Redfield has been eager to build on his enhanced role. Swimming above water is a start for now for the 6-foot-1, 198-pounder, and how far he can go from there is the intriguing part.
"I feel like I elevated my communication as well as confidence on the field," Redfield said. "Obviously being a starter and being a backup, your confidence just changes naturally. And I feel like it has to change. Being on the field, you have to have 100 percent confidence in your calls and having 100 percent knowledge of the defense to make those calls."