This article is a part of our 2012 Player Projections series. During the summer months Blue & Gold Illustrated will be evaluating each player on Notre Dame’s projected two-deep depth chart — reviewing their careers to this point and discussing expectations for the year to come.
Jamoris Slaughter — S
Height: 6-0. Weight: 200
Experience: 36 games, 15 starts
In a hybrid role last season, Jamoris Slaughter started 10 of 13 games and registered 45 tackles. The fifth-year senior safety enters this year as Notre Dame’s leader in the secondary and as a new father after he and his girlfriend welcomed son, Santana, into the world this past spring.
Fatherhood has had quite an affect on the physical and versatile playmaker, as expected, and Slaughter sees the new level of responsibility bleeding into football.
"I don't know if y'all have kids," Slaughter said, "but on Monday, when he was born, it's kind of like something snapped in my head. It just made me want to be better at everything I do."
And on the field, Slaughter can do a lot. But with the loss of captain and starting safety Harrison Smith to the NFL, combined with the fact that safety Austin Collinsworth will miss all of 2012 with an injury and the Irish are replacing two starters at cornerback, Slaughter will likely be asked to focus on the back line instead of bouncing around the defense like in 2011.
Safety is a position in good shape in terms of numbers. Slaughter and senior Zeke Motta form a potent starting tandem, and fifth-year senior Dan McCarthy, former walk-on Chris Salvi and youngsters such as Eilar Hardy provide depth. Notre Dame even returns Chris Badger, who has been on a two-year Mormon mission.
The 2012 recruiting class features Nick Baratti, C.J. Prosise, Elijah Shumate and John Turner. However, Slaughter and Motta are the only proven commodities at such critical spots on the field. Slaughter is clearly the leader of this group.
Slaughter has an opportunity this year to become a major impact player for the Irish defense. With an inexperienced defensive backfield expected to face a number of high-powered passing attacks this fall, he’ll have to be. Coaching on the field will be a big part of Slaughter’s role this season. He will likely spend most of his time at the strong safety position guiding the back end of the Irish defense and making sure all of inexperienced players around him know where they are going. His understanding of every position on the defense is one of Slaughter’s most underrated skills.
What’s A Good Season?
Slaughter had his best performances in some of the team’s biggest games last season. He recorded a career-high eight tackles in a loss to Southern California and ended the year with five tackles apiece versus Stanford and Florida State.
Halfway through the season, he and the Irish coaching staff learned to exploit the 200-pound safety’s ability to deliver crushing hits. Slaughter started playing the “star” position for Notre Dame — part nickel back, part outside linebacker — which suited Slaughter’s speed and physicality. There’s no doubt defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will use Slaughter again in a variety of ways, but those assets will be needed mostly at safety with the changes in personnel from last fall.
What was missing from the secondary in 2011 was the ability to force game-changing turnovers. Notre Dame came up with just eight interceptions last season, while the opposition took advantage of 17 picks. For Notre Dame to have a chance to upset a few teams on what is regarded as the toughest schedule in the country, Slaughter, who has just two career interceptions, will need to develop a lust for larceny to go with his affinity for bone-crushing hits. If he can add that to his portfolio, he’ll be an attractive player come next year’s NFL Draft.
It’s not unrealistic to think that Slaughter will double his tackle output from a year ago. Smith rattled off 93 and 90 tackles over his final two seasons and Notre Dame will need similar production from Slaughter in his final campaign. He appears up for the challenge.