Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 32 of 63 JUNE/JULY 2017 33 aged the secondary. He finished with 45 tackles and an interception, while showing maturity beyond his years. "He's always had a lot of confi- dence in himself and I think that early on as a young player, when you have success early it does give you that confidence," defensive backs coach Todd Lyght said. "Julian can tackle in space. He can cover. Obviously we want him to get better with his man- to-man techniques and we want him to get better in his leadership role because he is a young player, but he's going to play a lot for us." It was after the Syracuse game in which Love played 46 snaps that he knew he could succeed at the college level. "I knew I was here for a reason and was given a chance before that game, but now I can excel," Love said. "I just tried to have fun and think back to why I play football. It worked out. "Early on I was still in camp mode, trying to earn my spot. I had it, but you never know. I was making mis- takes, but I was learning from them and up to a certain point you make all the mistakes you possibly can." Love impressed coaches with his ability to tackle, despite having a size disadvantage in most instances. The La Grange Park, Ill., native best showed those skills during Notre Dame's two games against option opponents Navy and Army. "These past two weeks, I feel like I've gained a lot of respect," Love said after the Army game Nov. 12. "I'm happy I can show them what I have to offer. That's huge going forward." Love started at free safety in a 44-6 win over the Black Knights, finish- ing with three tackles, one pass broken up and an interception. His effort was all the more impressive considering he was in a new posi- tion, shifting from cornerback in an Army-specific game plan. Love — along with Devin Stud- still, Donte Vaughn, Troy Pride Jr. and Jalen Elliott — all played key roles as rookies in the secondary. It's a core group with a bright future. "Yeah, I'm young and so are a lot of other guys, but we're all just building up and building that con- fidence going forward," Love said. Though he was an under-the-ra- dar performer at the preseason prac- tices open to the media, Love played 33 snaps — mainly at nickel — in the opener against Texas. "When you talk about leadership as a freshman, it's how he handles himself both on and off the field," head coach Brian Kelly said of Love after the Army game. "People will follow him, and they'll follow him because they respect him. "He's not afraid to get on his teammates if they're not doing the right thing." Where does Love's tackling prow- ess come from? Love said he's al- ways been a physical player that seeks out contact. "Honestly, when I was younger it was just a lot of messing around with my older cousins," Love said. "Just getting beat up a lot. I wrestled a little bit. I always loved contact and it was always a fun thing. "In high school I didn't play cor- ner that much, I played mostly line- backer and safety. I tackled a lot, led my team in tackles, so I just love tackling." Love's experience playing of- fense in high school — he rushed for 1,067 yards and 18 touchdowns and caught 29 passes for 662 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior — has benefitted him at Notre Dame as well. "I really think my experience on offense helps me knowing how guys are trying to make moves," Love said. "When they're running routes and what their leverage is, I feel like I know what they're trying to do so I am able to stop them. That's a huge edge." While the Irish head into the off- season and prepare for fall camp, Love continues to see time as one of the team's top two cornerbacks alongside senior Nick Watkins. But with a number of younger corners hoping to crack the starting lineup — including Vaughn, Pride Jr. and junior Shaun Crawford — Love has plenty of work to do. "The atmosphere of the room and camaraderie and chemistry is out- standing," Love said. "I really en- joy being here and having fun with them and with Coach Lyght. "It's a special thing, and it'll show going forward." ✦ "I KNEW I WAS HERE FOR A REASON AND WAS GIVEN A CHANCE BEFORE THAT [SYRACUSE] GAME, BUT NOW I CAN EXCEL. I JUST TRIED TO HAVE FUN AND THINK BACK TO WHY I PLAY FOOTBALL. IT WORKED OUT." LOVE Love gained valuable experience in 2016, posting 45 tackles and an interception while playing in all 12 games and starting eight. PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - June-July 2017