Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Safety School | by Pat

The last few seats in the recruiting class of 2008 are just about filled up. On Monday, Ohio safety Dan McCarthy became the 18th (18th, already?) and latest member of this year's recruiting class. In a class filled with excellent football bloodlines, McCarthy's commitment is truly a family affair:

"I couldn't be more excited to announce that I'll take the field with my brother Kyle at the University of Notre Dame."
The 6'2", 195-pound McCarthy plays quarterback and safety for Cardinal Mooney High School, just like his brother, current Irish safety Kyle McCarthy, did. And come 2008, he'll be competing against his brother, and many others, for a shot at playing time. More on the burgeoning depth chart in a bit, but first, the scoop on McCarthy.

For starters, you can watch McCarthy's announcement here. His choices for college came down to Notre Dame and Ohio State, and he also had offers from Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan, Stanford, and many others. On Rivals he's a 4-star recruit, a member of the Rivals Top 250, and the #12 overall safety. Over on Scout he's a 4-star guy and the #9 overall safety. lists him on the Top 150 Watch List (actually, every single ND recruit so far is a member of the Top 150 Watch List, save John Goodman, who hasn't been evaluated yet).

For a look at the speed and running ability that made McCarthy First Team All-Ohio and the Co-Offensive State Player of the Year last year, here's a free highlight video of him. Although I've said time and again that high school stats don't mean much with regards to college production, it's still impressive to read that Dan racked up over 1000 yards rushing, 21 rushing TDs, nearly 800 yards passing and 8 passing TDs, to go with 112 tackles on defense with 7 sacks and 2 interceptions.

A little bit on how the depth chart at safety is shaping up. McCarthy is the third defensive back in this year's class, but unlike Robert Blanton and Jamoris Slaughter, McCarthy isn't going to try and work in at cornerback -- he's slotted as a safety all the way. Will he be a strong safety, or a free safety? Tough to tell right now; part of the reason is that we don't exactly know the kind of player our esteemed defensive coordinator is looking at either spot.

Traditionally, the strong safety lines up on the strong side of the offense and plays closer to the line of scrimmage, looking to support the run, cover tight ends, and so forth. The free safety usually plays deeper and is the last line of defense for deep routes. The SS hits a little harder, but the FS runs a little faster; those are the typical stereotypes. To be sure, Corwin Brown has his own ingrained concept of safety play, having been one himself, and how the safeties are deployed in this defense is going to be something interesting to keep an eye on this Fall.

By '08, Zibby will be graduated, and Bruton and Herring wll be seniors. Kyle McCarthy will be a senior with a potential for a fifth year; Jashaad Gaines and Sergio Brown will be true juniors, Harrison Smith will be a sophomore. (Leonard Gordon, a former safety, is now working at cornerback). While Gaines seems more like a strong safety, and Kyle McCarthy a free safety, it appears that Dan McCarthy, as with Harrison Smith and Sergio Brown, could play either role, in run support or watching out for the deep pass.

It's gotta be fun for the brothers McCarthy to be on the same team; they'll definitely will be together for one year, and could play together for two if Kyle returns for a fifth year. And even beyond the sibling connection, Dan seems most content with his college choice.
"I've said it before, I was going to go to the place that I felt was the best fit for me, whether Kyle was there or not," said McCarthy. "I feel like this is the place. It was a difficult decision, but everything led me back to Notre Dame."